Social media is a new phenomenon in today’s society. While our parents had to pick up corded phones and turn a dial to contact their friends at home, we can now pick up our mobile phones and get in contact with friends all the way across the world through Facebook. People can now post pictures online through Instagram, putting filters on it to make it seem “artsy.” Twitter allows people to tell us little snippets of their lives without using almost any of their precious cellular data. Have these new technologies had an adverse side effect on the youth of our age? How has being glued to our phones and laptops affected how we react and interact with each other and the world around us? Based on my extensive research, there shows to be an overwhelming bias that there has been a negative effect on youth, but I would like to argue the contrary. I believe that the youth of today grow and learn through social media.
There has been a lot of talk about how Facebook affects young people. Where the concern mostly lies is in cyberbullying and a lack of self esteem brought on by social media and by Facebook specifically. Jenn Anderson says in her article, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, that cyberbullying is especially dangerous because “perpetrators can use a broad range of platforms, including Web sites, cell phones, e-mail, and instant messaging” (Anderson 2014, pg. 281). This can be a big problem for youth because they simply cannot get away from the bullying due to its permeation through our lives. This flooding of social media can prove distressing for young people because they cannot just run home and hide in there room. This is in stark contrast to people from generations before who only had to deal with bullying at their school. However, social learning is a very necessary part of growing up. As Paul A. Kirschner describes: “[s]ocializing via the Internet has become an increasingly important part of young adult life” (Kirschner 2010, pg. 1237). Just as kids play on the playground and hierarchies are formulated within the classrooms, kids learn social norms and stigmatisms nowadays through use of websites such as Facebook. If a high school or college student does not make a Facebook account like so many of their fellow students, they miss out on a lot of socializing and learning opportunities that comes along with the site. Children and young adults alike have had to deal with social obstacles for millenniums, whether it takes place in a classroom or on a computer screen. As Ruth Sterner states in her essay The History of Hazing in American Higher Education, “The origins of hazing can be traced back to the founding of Plato’s academy in 387 B.C.” (Sterner n.d.). This observation shows that bullying is not a new phenomenon in human history, it is simply happening in cyberspace now. In conclusion, I noted that a lot of the articles I found seem to have an extreme bias toward the negativity of social media, specifically Facebook. This bias may be due to the generational gap between youths and the authors of the articles.
Now to look at social media in general, specifically the negative aspects of social media and the harm they may have on the youth of today. There is, of course, a lot of controversy about social media. A big debate that has arisen is over the exposure of violence and sexual situations and content to young people. There is no real way to monitor how people will act on these social media sites and that is what makes them have such a negative impact. Many of the older generations believe that this generation is being desensitized by all of the media that they view. As Roger Collier says in his article called Social Media and Mental Health, children are experiencing “exposure to unsuitable violent and sexual material and the decline of real social interaction” (Collier 2012, pg. 577). This article is about a declaration from Parliament in Ireland in an attempt to justify regulating the content of social media. This article says that the Irish Parliament believes that social interaction on the Internet is not social interaction at all and instead, it is shrewd information intended to poison the minds of their young. Of course there is a lot of harmful information on the Internet, in fact, pornographic websites have the most traffic of any genre of site on the Internet. However, social media is a place to go and socialize, to learn social boundaries. Paul A. Krischner says in his article that “Homo Zappiens,” referring to the digital generation, “learn in a considerably different way…,” than their predecessors. Due to the introduction of communicative technologies such as social media, kids have grown up interacting and learning differently from their parents, learning skills such as problem solving and organization with no instruction (Kirschner 2010, pg. 1240). This difference is not a bad thing, rather a simple shift in culture and the way we live. This shift in culture brings on other issues; this youtube video I found talks about how children’s values nowadays differ from that of earlier generations. It claims that this change in values is due to social media and that the youth of today are obsessed with “likes” and “follows” and fame (The National 2014). Acceptance in life nowadays may seem shallow to those who are not fully engulfed in social media like the younger generation is, however it’s really no different than their sense of acceptance, it just happens to be more tangible. Because so much time is spent on these sites, friends interact over social media just as kids used to hang out after school. Sites like YouTube allow young people to gain views, likes, and subscribers that add to their popularity not just locally, but sometimes even internationally. This popularity, some could not even dream of at their schools. As for the shift in values, it has started an uprising in entrepreneurship as we have learned in this very class. Creativity and drive to create something new and hip seems to be more prevalent amongst this younger generation.
Social media has been a place of learning for the younger generation that provided them with skills that are developed very early in life. Social media allows the young people to organize their thoughts and time the way their interests suits them as shown in the article Youth Media Lifestyle: “youth differ in the ways they structure their leisure time, balance options and put together meaningful combinations of activities to suit specific interests… Each young person weaves together a huge diversity of activities in a unique way” (Claudia van Kruistum, Paul PM Leseman, Mariëtte de Haan 2014, pg. 510). This observation goes along with the self teaching abilities of this new generation. Kids tend to learn from what they see in their peers and this takes place on social media. They learn to organize their profiles and adapt to how people react to, and like, their posts. These skills of organization are important because they are happening simultaneously with academics, sports, leisure time, dinner, and even sleep. According to Marjorie J. Hogan in her article Prosocial Effects of Media, young people spend “[o]n average, 7 hours 38 minutes daily are devoted to media use” (Hogan 2012, pg. 236). Most of this time taking place while engaging in other things such as school and extracurricular activities. Both Kirschner and Hogan dub this ability to navigate social media and other life activities “multitasking” and note that this generation is notably skilled at it. Kirschner goes on to say that “children now have acquired specific new multitasking skills that they are able to apply in a learning setting…” (Kirschner 2010, pg. 1240). Clearly kids are learning and teaching themselves skills and abilities that are applicable to everyday life and how to become a successful member of society, all from their ability to manage and dedicate time to social media.
Though there seems to be a bias against social media and its affect on young people, there is hope that empirical evidence will sway this bias caused by older generations. There is a great quote that comes to mind about this very topic: “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” This quote is attributed to Socrates. Social media may seem to be harmful but that may be because it is different from the traditional style of learning and interacting that the older generations are used to. Technology is moving forward and thus, society will change. Social media is an outlet of expression and a relief from boredom, while teaching kids how to effectively act and behave around each other and, potentially, with others around the world. Clearly there are no real harms to be dealt from it.
Hogan, Marjorie J.. (2012). Prosocial Effect of Media. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 59 (3), 635-645.
van Kruistum, Claudia., Leseman., Paul PM, de Haan, Mariëtte. (2014). Youth Media Lifestyles. Human Communication Research. 40 (4), 508-529.
Collier, Roger. (2013). Social Media and Mental Health. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 185 (12), 577.
Anderson Jenn, Bresnahan Mary, and Musatics Catherine. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. May 2014, 17(5): 281-286. doi:10.1089/cyber.2013.0370.
Kirschner, Paul A.. (2010). Facebook and Academic Performance.Computers in Human Behavior. 26 (6), 1237-1245.
Sterner, Ruth. (Unknown). The History of Hazing in American Higher Education. History of Hazing. 1 (1), 1-19. ruthsterner.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/histpdf.pdf
YouTube – Broadcast yourself/The National. 2014. How Social Media is Affecting Teens. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QWoP6jJG3k. [Accessed 25 September 14].
Rather, Aftab Ahmad. (2013). Facebook and Youth: Depression and Other Health Issues are the Offshoots of Over Use of Facebook. Asian Journal of Research in Social Sciences and Humanities. 3 (8), 157-165.
GoodReads/Socrates. 2014. GoodReads. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/63219-our-youth-now-love-luxury-they-have-bad-manners-contempt. [Accessed 25 September 14].