Social Media: The Pros and Cons of the World’s Highlight Reel

About 40% of the world’s population using social media and the average daily usage time being around 2 hours per day being spent liking, tweeting, retweeting, and sharing videos and memes it is safe to say that social media has had a huge impact on lives globally (Brown, 2018). However, we need to ask the question is what are the long-term impacts that it will have on us as a society. It is no surprise that 2020 was a very challenging year for everyone with early 2021, bringing about its own challenges out the gate. With a very trying and stressful election wrapped in lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories, we had to deal with civil unrest of the outcry from police brutality, racial tension, not to mention a global pandemic that has crippled the economy, saw over $2 million deaths, 400,000 in the United States alone, and unemployment rates reaching an all time high. Social media timelines were and still are flooded with videos of BLM protestors being attacked by police and domestic terrorist groups. We even saw then President Trump give orders to gas a group of peaceful protestors outside the White House to take a picture in front of a church with an upside-down bible. The escape, watching Tic Tok video challenges, sharing memes, getting involved in political and civil rights organizations, and as a country most of us did a lot of self-reflection.

Social media has provided us an outlet for venting, many of us over the past 4 years, have been surprised by the political and racial viewpoints of our friends and co-workers due to postings on Facebook or Twitter. For many this is looked at as a coping mechanism, as for many it tends to be a journaling or therapy session. However, many can find themselves having extremely heated arguments with people they have never seen or met which can lead to increases in stress levels. In a 2014 Austrian study, found that after participants had been on Facebook for 20 minutes, they saw a downward sift in their mood. Some of this was attributed to participants seeing it as a waste of time compared to those that were actively looking for something online. However, one must question if indeed that was the case or if it was seeing the “highlight reels” of other people’s lives shifted their mood to think about what they may be dealing with.  We often find ourselves suffering from a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and actively sleep deprive ourselves which also attributes to mood swings, anxiety, and depression (Brown,2018).

With the recent release of Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, it opens the question of what the long-term effects of social media on society are? With Insta-celebrities like the Kardashian- Jenner clan. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, Kylie Jenner, ranks the 4th highest paid celebrity on Instagram, makes anywhere from $375,224 to $625,374 per post, we have not yet realized the long-term effects or repercussions of social media (. There are many pros and cons to social media. The pros include finding long -lost family members, being able to keep up with loved ones, and reconnect with school mates to name a few. However, as we look at younger users of social media, the opportunity to connect with your favorite celebrity and the products and images that they push on social media can bring about self- reflection that may lead some to feel insecure, incompetent, and over all depressed.

When we look at the lives of celebrities and they are promoting a detox tea or a mascara, it can give a young minded social media user the idea that they too can look like that. It doesn’t always dawn on them that not only is the celebrity being paid to speak on a product that they may or may not use, but they also have a personal chef, personal trainer, glam squad, and have their picture through 10 different filters.  For young social media users, girls especially, this can bring about body dysmorphia, an unrealistic beauty standard, eating disorder, and plastic surgery obsession. Malcolm X asked the question “Who taught you to hate yourself”? Although, he was speaking during a different time to a different group of people, that question is still very valid today.

Watching your favorite celebrity walk out of luxury stores full of bags, the latest limited edition luxury vehicle, on private jets and yachts with your other favorite celebrities in an exotic location, it is natural to begin to compare. After all, most of your favorite celebrities are your age and, in some cases, younger so why would it not be normal to begin to compare yourself? Only a few months ago, Cardi B, came under fire my asking if she should spend an abhorrent amount of money on a Birken Bag. A handbag with the average retail price of $10,000. The bag Cardi was asking fans to co-sign on retailed for about $85,000. Although $85,000 is obviously not a lot of money to Cardi B, for someone who brags about being self-made and in the know regarding social issues, the question to fans who are losing their jobs due to a pandemic, came across tone deaf, insincere, and hurtful. By no means has Cardi B been the only culprit of pushing luxury and extravagance, but it also shows you many times how far removed from reality even the “realist” celebrities can be to the struggle of the everyday working professional.

With already rich or wealthy celebrities showing off a lifestyle that most people will never reach, it ties very much into the capitalism that we have grown to envy. During a time when people are feeling the most vulnerable, due to lack of touch because of quarantine and isolation, we are seeing an increase in suicide and depression, especially amongst younger people. Although, we cannot completely blame this on social media, we cannot overlook what the long-term effects of these images maybe doing to young minds.  We must be aware of the challenges that face young social media users when social media users and content creators are not responsible. Celebrities and influencers should be proud of their accomplishments and feel excited to share it with the world but reading the room is something that celebrities and influencers need to be mindful of.

Social media is addictive, I don’t think too many people will argue with that and when used responsibly it is a wonderful tool that can help reach the masses in a positive way. Rarely, do we want to speak on the negatives that come from uploading our lives to the web. Since we are still very much in the height of social media popularity, it is hard to know 100 % what impact these images will have on future generations, our hope much like those who helped build social media platforms is that it will help open lines of communication and not continue damage the way we communicate.    

Sources:

Brown, Jessica. 2018. Is Social Media Bad for You? The Evidence and the Unknowns. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180104-is-social-media-bad-for-you-the-evidence-and-the-unknowns

20 of the Highest -Earning Instagrammers. https://influencermarketinghub.com/instagram-highest-paid/

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