As technology continues to evolve and society pushes onward toward the next big trend in popular culture, humanity finds itself plagued by the near cancerous presence that is social media.
Those born between 1997 and 2012 are likely familiar with social media addiction, as the allure of peering into the lives of influencers and having a voice in global conversations leads many to spend hours at a time glued to their screens. I count myself fortunate that my tendency to avoid nearly every social trend imaginable means I’ve never experienced the societal psychosis social media has given much of my generation. Instead, I have to watch as friends sit right across from one another and engage in Twitter conversations instead of actually talking, as people stress about how many likes their post got, and as people do stupid things for clout.
The “challenges” popular on social media have only continued to grow more and more dangerous with time, most noticeably when hundreds upon thousands were encouraged to eat pods of laundry detergent. The popularity of TikTok has seen a new wave of similar challenges. From the “cereal” challenge in which one person is made to eat cereal from the mouth of another person acting as a “bowl,” to the “sleepy chicken” challenge where participants cook chicken breasts in liquid cold medicine — with some influencers promoting it as an alternative remedy for the cold and flu.
If these all sound like ridiculous and terrible ideas, that’s because they are, and they’re the direct result of the bizarre pull social media has on its users, driving them to do things that defy all common sense, even at the risk of their health.
Furthermore, social media has had detrimental effects on society, essentially converting the internet from the information superhighway to the misinformation superhighway. America’s previous two elections show how social media plays a vital role in spreading complete misinformation to both ends of the political spectrum, with the people being forced to either follow popular beliefs like sheep or arduously sift through every source, with the hopes of finding some shred of truth.
As if the aforementioned traits contributing to social media’s status as an informational sewer weren’t severe enough, there exist studies revealing that social media sites have a psychologically debilitating effect on users who spend excessive amounts of time on them. Effects range from increased rates of severe depression to increased risk of suicide.
Social media’s power is so great that it can even break apart the bond of matrimony; there is evidence that disagreements resulting from social media use contribute to higher divorce rates.
It would be unfair to say that social media hasn’t contributed to positive aspects of society. Influencers like Mr. Beast, who has performed countless acts of charity, and social movements that bring down powerful, corrupt individuals, as the #metoo movement did with Harvey Weinstein, both originated on social media.
I’d also be lying if I said social media wasn’t tremendously convenient for talking with friends and family around the world, as its accessibility has allowed me personally to keep up with acquaintances in other states and friends in other countries.
One could argue that social media’s negative aspects only appear more severe than its positive ones because of the human tendency to seek out the negative, and there is some legitimacy to that sentiment.However, it can’t be denied that social media has made strangers out of family and friends, just as it has brought many together. Social media possesses an uncanny ability to alienate humans from one another, spawning dissent, contempt, and hatred among millions, while instilling resentment within those who are incapable of pulling away from its allure.
Unlike radio or television, where one eventually has to go out to satisfy their social needs, the constant interaction social media provides has effectively imprisoned the minds of millions — forcing them to always be thinking about their follower count, what will get them the most viewers, or some other frivolity.
Social media’s propensity for instilling negativity in society has surpassed all forms of communication that came before, and its constant presence in the lives of millions has created a cultural sickness where one’s own life is second to clicks.