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Cyberbullying as a Harmful Side Effect of Social Media

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

In 2019, 79 percent of the population in the United States had a social networking profile which is 4.388 billion people. Most kids, teens, and even some adults are using social media all the time. Social media and social networking seem to play an important role in people’s lives around the world in this generation. “Social media websites allow individuals to construct profiles in which they can maintain and create social networks, circulate details about their daily lives and respond to posts written by others”. “The daily life of an adolescent is enhanced with the thoughtful use of social media”. Social media was created to reconnect people through a form of communication but it has evolved into a dangerous addiction. People being on their phones and social media networks all day long is not just disappointing but also damaging. “Social media use is an important interactive tool for youth and young adults and, unlike more traditional media, users play an active role in creating and shaping the experience”. Social media use among teenagers and young adults have many less positive consequences. These include cyberbullying and social anxiety, negative self-image and body image, mental health, social media addiction, and less time spent doing more healthy activities such as exercising or gathering with friends and family. Social media has seemed to become a part of the lives of our generation and is gradually taking considerably powerful control over us.

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Firstly, with the rise of social media and it’s expanded reach around the globe, the rates of cyberbullying have increased drastically amongst teens. “Over the past few decades, there has been a surge in the use of media by the younger generations and concern has been raised about the impact of media on children because of research reports of long term harmful effects”. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have brought communication across the world to a whole new level. “Cyberbullying is the use of electronic forms of contact to inflict willful and repeated harm to others. Most young people and teens are experiencing this because of their immoderate use of social media networks. Cyberbullying has created an atmosphere where internet-abuse is easier than physical bullying. Cyberbullying can have a much greater effect than a real-life aggravation; it can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Comments and posts on social media can have a detrimental effect on someone’s self-esteem and mental health. These issues are not discussed enough and become very overwhelming for young people in this generation. Social anxiety is the most common effect of cyberbullying. The overuse of social media makes teens want to interact less in person; which in return causes a lack of social skills leading to stronger-rooted social anxiety. Social anxiety can put children and teens in fear of the real world which causes them to become socially isolated. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is not stopping and this has caused social media to be viewed rather inadequate.

Additionally, teens are exceptionally vulnerable to the impact that social media can have on their body image as they develop an outlook on their bodies and accept the developmental changes that have occurred. As a matter of fact, “around 40% of adolescent girls are dissatisfied with their bodies”. “Body dissatisfaction is associated with negative self-perception, depressed mood, and disordered eating”. On social media, people compare their bodies to images they see in the media and in a way that’s practically on par with makeup and other beauty products. These photos can lead to a false sense of control where users feel as if they can alter their bodies to get more positive attention. This disconnect between reality and perception increases the distance between what users feel about themselves in real life and what they think about their online profiles. Social media users need to be aware of the negative effects of social media on body image. The consequences can be devastating to the mental health of users. Many young teens are obsessing over the number of likes they get, feared not looking beautiful in their photos, and thought individuals would think they looked different on social media than in real life. Teens receive messages about what their bodies should look like from different sources, such as their parents, peers, and the media. These messages can, for example, say that it is important to be thin or muscular. If adolescents internalize these appearance ideals as the standards for their own body, they will compare their body against these ideals, and when their appearance does not match the internalized ideals this will result in body dissatisfaction. Moreover, adolescent boys and girls who spend more time on social media receive more feedback about their appearance. The pressure to have the perfect profile pics, the comparisons teens make, and the dangers of the constant scrutiny of their bodies and other bodies are damaging to today’s society and generation.

Moreover, social media can have a detrimental effect on someone’s mental health. “Despite some evidence for the potential therapeutic benefits of social media use, social media engagement may also be harmful to an individual’s mental health and wellbeing”. Mental health refers to our emotional, behavioral, and cognative well-being. Social media causes many mental effects such as self-esteem, human connection, memory, sleep, and attention span. Also, an extreme amount of social media use can cause depression due to jealousy and cyberbullying over the internet. “These latter variables will include suicidal ideation, social anxiety, loneliness, and decreased empathy”. Social media can affect one’s self-esteem by increasing your feelings of self-doubt. Becoming more conscious of the amount of time spent on social media networks can help focus more on yourself and boosting your self-esteem and confidence. When people are glued to their phone screens, they become more acquainted with their friend’s online profiles and not their real-life personas. Social media can be great for looking back fondly on memories, but it can distort the way in which you remember certain memories from your life. Having enough sleep is important, however, using your phone too soon before hitting the hay can make it harder to doze off. Also, the light from our phones being just inches from our faces can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that allows us to feel tired. The extent to which your brain can fully concentrate when you’re awake can be easily distracted by the use of social media. The amount of information readily available at our fingertips means that people have become far more easily distracted, decreasing one’s attention span. Not only has social media been proven to cause unhappiness, but it can also lead to the development of mental health issues which are all preventable with less usage of social media.

In conclusion, social media is, and will continue to be, harmful, unless the effects start to get noticed and something is done about it. “The average American youngster spends one-third of each day with some form of electronic media”. Nobody is immune to the harmful side effects of social media including cyberbullying and social anxiety, negative self-image and body image, mental health, social media addiction, and less time spent doing more healthy activities. As long as users log on to their social media profiles, they are being removed away from the real world and increasing their chances of cyberbullying, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. When social media came into the lives of many, it nearly depleted the use of face to face interaction and instead created a more isolated world. In order to fix these patterns, people need to change the destructive patterns of social media use before it destroys society. 

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