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Technological improvements have been a positive step forward for humans and society. Computers and mobile phones are now commonplace in people's lives. The growing popularity of the internet is another aspect of technology that many people in society have come to value. Essentially, in today's times and ages, the internet is the driving force behind practically everything in the globe, including education, socialization, and commerce, to name a few. People can use the internet to access various social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram, and emails, among others. These internet-based social media platforms have expanded the opportunities for people all over the world to interact. However, everything comes with benefits and disadvantages. The advancement and creation of social media, especially on the internet have come up with consequences, which has affected the teenagers and adolescents in the society. The youth generations has adopted and have taken on the access of social media to levels, which if not restricted and monitored can cause some effects on their daily well-being (Shabir et al., 2014).
More than ninety percent of youths in the current generation have access to social media in various ways, especially the internet which allows them to use social networking sites. Many youths spend a lot of time on the internet-based social sites, which exposes them to several effects. There is increasing research on the pros and cons of using social media among the youths. These studies identify whether the use of social media such as social networking sites as well as social networking technologies have positive or negative consequences among the young generation. There is an association between adolescents' psychological behaviors and online communication, which can be beneficial and harmful (Shabir et al., 2014).
As mentioned earlier, social media also has positive effects among the youths. Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe (2007) indicate that the use of social media under controlled environments and in a responsibly way can help the youths in their daily lives in several ways. One of the benefits of using social media includes enhancing their ability to socialize with peers from diverse areas or classes. The enhancement of ability to socialize allows the youths to learn how to live, understand and tolerate the origins, diversity or situations of other people. It helps them to build good social ties in the community. Additionally, social media can enable the youths to have diverse learning opportunities and increased access to wellbeing promoting information. Through social media, youths can share vital information that gives them information on daily life skills and also how to solve problems.
Moreover, social networking sites and social networking technologies may help the youths in raising their self-esteem as well as raise the sense of belonging, which have a positive impact on their psychological well-being. Besides, online social media use can also widen the youths' social networks, develop and strengthen their social relations with others. In addition, the use of social media assists them to channel more of their energy to social support activities. Socializing through online platforms can also reduce the feelings of loneliness among the young generation, which in turn contributes to their subjective well-being. Furthermore, the social media websites and networking sites can function effectively to compensate for the user's weak social skills, via allowing them to meet their desires for social activities and interaction, creating friends and displaying their identity. Such contributes to their increment in self-esteem and feeling of belonging.
Although many studies have shown that youths who spend most of their time on online social media platforms are likely to get exposed to negative psychological effects, some users can also reap benefits. Individuals who suffer from psychological problems such as loneliness or have difficulty interacting with others in real time can use the internet-based social networks to find friends who can chat with them and provide company. These individuals will always have sense of being loved, appreciated and cared for by other people. Besides, through these online interactions they build their self-esteem and confidence to have real time interactions (Ellison et. al., 2007).
Moreover, according to Ellison et. al. (2007), it is worth to acknowledge the way the online social media networking sites can provide significant benefits to an individual's psychological status. Sites such as Facebook provide chances for high social interaction with peers, raised social capital and development of identity among the youths. Regarding social capital, research conducted on college campuses as indicated by Ellison et. al. (2007) have made conclusions, which suggest that certain ways using Facebook enables many students to have a better integration into the campus community. The use of Facebook provided a channel for acquiring a lot of information concerning social events as well as assisted them in creating and strengthening social connections with newly enrolled classmates. Furthermore, Facebook also provide the users with ability to maintain pre-existing relationships and even build and strengthen close friendships and familial connections via psychological expressions of intimacy. For example, via sharing of photographs and video clips, the user strengthened their relationship with the peer.
Regarding the psychological aspect of identity development and improving psychological status, the work of Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten (2006) suggests that the teenage users of social networks have improved self-esteem as well as general well-being. The positive impact occurs due to instances of getting positive feedback for posts placed on social networking sites. Besides, to confirm literature by Valenzuela, Park, & Kee (2009), shows that results of a survey of campus students done in 2009 indicated that the individuals who were heavy users of Facebook had the most satisfaction within their lives as well as exhibited higher social and political activeness as compared to low users. Additionally, some studies even demonstrate that individuals develop high levels of self-esteem even just a few minutes after looking at own online social media profile.
Moreover, online social sites such as Facebook and other related social platforms allow the users to browse selectively through their feeds and reflect on the best moments, which may promote a feeling own value to others. All these findings therefore, shows that social media networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram among others promote self-expression and emphasis on social connections with family and friends and family as well as fostering the preservation of self-worthiness (Valenzuela, et. al., 2009).
Another positive impact of social media on the youth generation involves creation of awareness. Many teenagers live in controlled and enclosed lives, since parents and guardians determine their decisions. Hence the exposure to various social media helps to them to have awareness about the happenings of their society and even the world. The awareness created by social media assist the youth in developing cultural and good societal behaviors thus grooming them to be socially and psychologically responsible citizens. Besides, the social media provide them with news and activities of other people in the world hence helping them to realize and appreciate the real environment outside their community.
In as much as the social media avenues are taken to be great social networking tools, their negative impacts on the youthful individuals cannot be ignored. The adolescents and teenage population have high susceptibility to potential harm posed by the high levels use of social media. These negative effects if not identified and dealt with on time can have risks to the psychological well-being of these young individuals. Some of these negative psychological impacts of using social media among the youths are identified in the following paragraphs.
According to Mental Health Foundation (2016), social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram allows people to post several things such as their achievements, clothing and material belongings to show off to friends and other peers. These posts can make some individuals to critically compare his or her life with other person's by using these social media posts as measures for failures or successes in their own lives. The consequences of this comparison can be catastrophic development of feelings of low self-esteem. Besides, such views can make the individual to hate that successful or unsuccessful individual as well as can see themselves as having inability to achieve what the others have acquired.
Additionally, high level social media use can lead to imbalance between virtual relations and real-time relationships. Individuals can have otherwise good opposite sex relationships, which in reality exist. Such virtual relationships do not thrive and usually lead to depression among the users (Ramasubbu, 2015). Another instance where online social media users can develop depression is body dysmorphia. Spending a lot of time on online social platforms may make, especially female users, may make them to develop body image insecurity. They view other people's images and may feel theirs are unappealing, which lead to depression and low self-esteem (Mental Health Foundation, 2016).
Furthermore, depriving some enough time for sleep affects their psychological function. According to Ehmke, spending a lot of time on online social media then deprives the user adequate time for sleep. Social media has been shown to be the leading cause of sleep deprivation among the teenage population. These individuals can stay active on online social networking platforms for long durations if not advised to stop. The behavior causes a disruption in their sleep pattern and hence affecting the functioning of their minds. Moreover, an uncontrolled use of internet social media among the youths leads to addiction to internet use. The more time they spend in these social media platforms, the more they find new information, which they would want to find out more about. The habit then eventually becomes addiction and when not handled early may lead to poor performance in other activities.
In addition, Amedie (2015) adds that the high levels use of internet social media, especially Facebook among the youths causes what is known as Facebook depression. It is an emotional disturbance that is linked to use of social media. In this case, when a young individual is made to feel inferior among his or her counterparts in the social media, they may become depressed. The urge to fit in, stand out or become recognized by their friends on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram among others is what gears these users towards such emotional disturbance.
Furthermore, Amedie (2015) states that individuals who have excessive use of Facebook and other social sites to discuss their issues with friend have high chances of developing anxiety or this Facebook depression. The instant messaging on social media makes the youth users anxious and thus increases the events of depression. Also, discussing their problems make the users to get obsessed with the issue and constantly tries to seek solutions through social media, which in turn makes this person to remain stuck in life and personal development. An example is where an individual posts something on an online social media such as Facebook and later realizes that friend and other users disliked or commented negatively about the post. Such an individual would want to withdraw the post, and although it can be removed, the individual will remain in fear that his or her friend could have taken a screenshot of the post, which may cause depression.
Additionally, social media can cause stress. The stress is developed through constant try to exhibit an unachievable or unrealistic feeling of perfection on the social media. People, especially the youths attempt to post feeds on social media that they think will portray a perfect image about themselves including things like clothing, marriages, jobs among others. The constant urge to post things on their social media networking sites and get recognized causes stress, which in turn can lead to depression (O'Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011).
The advancement of media technology, especially internet social media, has also led to emergence of serious antisocial behaviors and actions such as cyber bullying. Exposure to this can put a youth to a tempting behavior of emulating the same behaviors and use to perpetrate such among others. Besides, increased spending of time on online social platforms raises the chances of a young person being cyber bullied by others, which in turn leads to the negative self-perception. Also, the use of social media on the internet increases these chances of cyber bullying, where some users communicate false, embarrassing or unpleasant information about another person. The victims of frequent cyber bullying usually end up developing psychological issues. These include depression, loneliness, anxiety, isolation, low self-esteem, stress and even can cause them to have thoughts of suicide (O'Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011).
According to Bartholow & Anderson (2002), social media content can affect the youths by shaping their actions via imitation and adaptation. For example, through such online social networking sites, they can view and share videos that exhibit and encourage violent behaviors. Through constant exposure and viewing of such content can produce long-term and short-term psychological arousal as well as aggressive behaviors and thoughts. Also, this exposure to violent video content shared by peers significantly promotes antisocial attitudes and aggression among the youths. In addition, interaction with friends via the social networking sites can also expose some young people developing undesired outcomes such as negative self-perception.
According to the paragraphs above, it is clear that the use of social media, especially the online ones have an impact on the youths. These impacts can be positive or negative. The positive effects such improvement social interaction, increased self-esteem among others promotes positive psychological values and status of an individual. Besides, providing positive benefits, the social media has a lot of negative impacts that can cause deterioration of psychological status of a young person. Therefore, there is need to advise the youths on the level to use such social media platforms in order to maximize the positive psychological impacts.
Amedie, J. (2015). The Impact of Social Media on Society. Retrieved from http://scholarcommons.scu.edu/engl_176/2/?utm_source=santaclara.bepress.com%2Fengl_176%2F2&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
Bartholow, B. D., & Anderson, C. A. (2002). Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior: Potential Sex Differences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38(3), 283-290. https://doi.org/10.1006/jesp.2001.1502
Ehmke, R. (2016, March 2). How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from https://childmind.org/article/how-using-social-media-affects-teenagers/
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Shabir, G., Hameed, Y. M. Y., Safdar, G., & Gilani, S. M. F. S. (2014). The Impact of Social Media on Youth: A Case Study of Bahawalpur City. Asian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 3(4), 132-151.
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