By Akinsanya OLAWUNMI
A lot of people who talk about “social media” today think that the phenomenon started with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like.
No, the term social media evolved when a website called “Six Degrees” was launched in 1997. The site allowed users to create their profiles and befriend other users.
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Instant messaging and blogging have since then caused an explosion in the world of interconnection among people using the Internet.
With this has also come a lot of disruptions in human behaviour.
According to researchers, social media is causing more harm than good in societies; especially in the lives of young adults and teenagers who are becoming insecure, intimidated, oppressed and easily influenced by unrealistic ideas portrayed daily on it by people, particularly celebrities.
There is so much pressure lately as people want to keep up with what they see online.
In May 2017, the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement published a report on the impact of the social media on young people’s health. The study found that Instagram and Snapchat (the platforms of choice for teenagers) “as the most detrimental to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.” These platforms, amongst others, all led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness. Young adults and teenagers are seen battling with identity issues because of unrealistic beauty standards; making them strive hard to live up to the social media standards and they become what they are not. They forget that social media creates image of perfection which may not exist. The imitation of people on social media can negatively affect their self-respect and dignity, causing low self-esteem.
Cyberbullying has become the order of the day, with teenagers flocking the social media to tease, threaten, humiliate or taunt other teenagers. They often pose as other people online spreading lies or rumours about other people, posting private photos or information without the victim’s consent and blackmailing them with a huge sum of money or other material things. The effect of cyberbullying can be traumatic for victims as it reaches their safest place which is their home. This can lead to emotional depression and suicide.
Social media is seen as a form of distraction in the lives of teenagers. They tend to spend more time on social media rather than doing school work; so they perform poorly in academics.
According to Common Sense Media, a non-profit in the United States of America, which promotes safe technology and media for children, teenagers in that country spend an average of nine hours a day on social media.
As with everything else, social media brings both good and bad things into the lives of teenagers. If a teenager cannot imagine a life without social media, that is a sign that he has fallen a victim to the evil power and impact of social networking. It also means that he has experienced one or more of the negative effects of social media on society.
It is left for parents to take up the responsibility to help their teenagers battling with social media addiction. Parents should sit down as a family and discuss the pros and cons of social media. They should encourage their teens to express their feelings about various platforms and media outlets. Helping teenagers to differentiate between reality and fantasy is very important especially for those battling with low self-esteem.
Parents should limit the time of teenagers on social media to 2-3 hours everyday so they can spend quality time participating in family activities.
Social media will not go away, therefore, parents just have to take the good it has to offer and avoid the ugly. A stitch in time saves nine.