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As the world of social media continues to grow, so do the concerns about safety and effects of it. Many researchers have studied the effects of social media on the well-being of people in different age groups and genders, however the results among researchers have not been consistent. Therefore, the effects of social media on well-being are still unclear. The generation of young adults has been exposed to more social media than any generation preceding them. Overuse of social media can be distracting, interrupt sleep, change the way that people meet, and disrupt in-person conversation (O’reilly, Dogra, Whiteman, Hughes, Eruyar, and Reilly, 2018). Social media can have negative and positive impacts on people’s lives, depending on how it is used.
Social media has grown and developed exponentially over the past twenty years. It is no surprise that people today act differently than they did when they were not exposed to technology or social networking, since their lives are so different today. As young children are exposed to technology, it can change the way that they develop social skills. Speaking from first-hand experience, it seems that some children don’t understand how to have a conversation. Overuse and reliance of social media to develop connections can likely lead to some problems in terms of communication.
Some positive things can also come out of communicating through social media. For instance, creating new business relationships worldwide is now possible through sites such as LinkedIn. In addition to this, it is much easier for people with family, friends, or significant others across the world to communicate with each other through networks like Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp on a daily basis and provide a support system for each other. But how much social media is too much? When do things begin to take a turn for the worst for young adults? Apparently, the ability to pick up a phone and be connected to anyone in the world is a big cause for workplace disturbances (Brooks, 2015).
Frequent usage of social media can become a habit and can cause users to ignore their responsibilities. An example of this is in a classroom setting when students are supposed to be paying attention to the lecturer, but instead they are using their devices to go on social media. Studies examining undergraduate students’ usage of social media showed that students who use Facebook more frequently than others have a lower GPA (Brooks, 2015). Having a low GPA could cause students to have low self-esteem, which plays a role on their well-being. Another study (Alkan and Doğan, 2018) found that there was no relationship between high school students’ well-being and Facebook usage. This goes to show that there are likely other predictors of well-being, not just social media.
When used for the wrong purpose, social media can be detrimental to young people. For instance, a study (Best, Manktelow, and Taylor, 2014) found that bloggers tend to have low self-esteem and youths tend to be gloomy if they rely on technology to meet people. Another study (Berryman, Ferguson, and Negy, 2018) discovered that when people create worrying posts with the intention of being noticed by others, they are probably suicidal. This also appears to mean that they are searching for validation from others, and therefore do not have a healthy self-image. When these types of people do not receive the validation that they are seeking, they are down and discouraged (Brooks, 2015). Ultimately, it was established (Berryman et al., 2018) that the frequency people used social media and significance of social media to people did not have any relation to their well-being. Researchers concluded that well-being of individuals could not be determined by usage of social media.
A problem that could, and does, arise out of social media is cyberbullying. Social media has provided anonymity for people who choose to take their rage out on others. In a study (O’reilly et al., 2018) that asked children (ages 11-18) for their thoughts on social media as a danger to well-being, they spoke about the things they knew about cyberbullying, rather than their first-hand experiences with it. They viewed social media as a threat to confidence and therefore, well-being, because of the terrible things cyberbullies say to hurt others.
Although social media can cause the negative consequences previously mentioned, there are also many positive effects that it can produce. For instance, in a study (Best, et al., 2014) people who, in general, have healthy relationships (on or offline) have better well-being than those who do not. In this same study, people who communicated with others (individuals they already know or otherwise) proved to have better self-confidence. These researchers noticed that conversing online aids young adults in self-discovery and helps people feel less isolated. Another study (Berryman, et al., 2018) had similar results which showed that people who have good self-image and already have support of family and friends are not negatively affected by social media.
Overall, researchers (O’reilly, et al., 2018) concluded that eliminating children’s use of social media will not necessarily cause them to be better off than others. They suggested that social media should be used in more constructive ways than used in destructive ways. This means that instead of using it to bully anonymously or to compare quality of life to others, it should be used for self-discovery and knowledge.
Researchers have studied many young adults to come to roughly the same conclusions: social media can be harmful when used wrongfully or enriching when used for positive purposes. Initially, I would have thought that no matter which way it is used, it would be harmful because of common overuse. However, social media seems to be a bad predictor for well-being. There can be many other reasons for poor well-being, such as poor nutrition, bad self-esteem, lack of a support system, loneliness, trauma, or mental illness. Based on these data previously presented, social media can be worse for people who have pre-existing issues in terms of poor well-being, which ultimately seems to be the cause for their misuse of it.
The goal of this particular study is to understand how social media use affects the students of Loyola University Chicago. It seems that most students are avid users of social media, meaning that these results will show the effects of social media when it is used very often. After analyzing previous studies of effects of social media on people roughly in the undergraduate age group, I still hypothesize that social media will be a good predictor of well-being. I hypothesize that students will generally be stressed or have poor well-being due to other possible causes such as exams, living on a student budget, and lack of a good sleep schedule. Most students, from what I have seen at Loyola University Chicago, are constantly on social media during class or in between classes. These same students probably tend to put off tasks, such as studying or paying attention in class, to use social media.
It is tough to say whether or not social media will be the true cause of poor well-being in students. Due to the other possible stressors in students’ lives, I believe that our results will still show that social media usage has negative effects on well-being. It is possible that because of the age of our participants, and the society that they live in, they could compare themselves to people that they see online and therefore have a poor self-image, leading to poor well-being. Many factors must be taken into consideration when conducting this type of study.
- Alkan, H. & Doğan, B. (2018). A Research of The Relationship Between High School Students’ Social Media Usage and Their Well-Being. International Journal of Educational Research Review, 3, 97-102. doi: 10.24331/ijere.453889
- Berryman, C., Ferguson, C., & Negy, J. (2018). Social Media Use and Mental Health among Young Adults. Psychiatric Quarterly, 89, 307-314. doi: 10.1007/s11126-017-9535-6
- Best, P., Manktelow, R., & Taylor, B. (2014). Online communication, social media and adolescent wellbeing: A systematic narrative review. Children and Youth Services Review, 41, 27-36. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.03.001
- Brooks, S. (2015). Does personal social media usage affect efficiency and well-being? Computers in Human Behavior, 46, 26-37. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.053
- O’reilly, M., Dogra, N., Whiteman, N., Hughes, J., Eruyar, S., & Reilly, P. (2018). Is social media bad for mental health and wellbeing? Exploring the perspectives of adolescents. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 23, 601-613. doi: 10.1177/1359104518775154
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