Not-So-Social Media

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In this article, Label’s Head of Social Media, Leah Langely, explores the ‘Not-So Social’ aspects of social media in our current technological climate.

Of the approximate 7.7 billion people in the world, it is estimated that 3.5 billion of us are internet users. Research has shown that social media is used by one-in-three people in the world, with people averaging two or more hours a day on social media alone.

MySpace was the first social media site of its kind to reach a million active users (monthly) in 2004, this marking the start of social media as we now know it. Facebook is the largest of the many social media platforms that we have access to, with 2.4 billion users; however, even ‘smaller’ sites such as YouTube and WhatsApp still have more than 1 million users each. Over the years, the prevalence of social media has become more obvious and the rate at which it reaches individuals has perpetuated rapidly. TikTok was launched in 2016 and by mid-2018 it had already bypassed half a billion users, which means more than 20 million people subscribed to the platform each month over this time period. The emergence of new social media sites has seen those once-dominant platforms eradicated. MySpace used to be one of Facebook’s closest competitors, but by 2012 it had virtually no share of the social media market.

The argument surrounding social media is one of the most apparent in today’s world. Problematic social media use has become more palpable, with experts linking social media platforms to psychological and behavioural dependence on the sites. The compulsive use of such platforms has been shown to have prolonged impairment effects on an individual’s function in their day-to-day life. The use of social media has been associated with negative mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, in youngsters. The research into the effects of social media on users with mental illnesses has shown that they frequently remove themselves from face-to-face communication and opt to continue such communication online, as they can express themselves without being judged at first glance.

The rise of social media is also seen to have contributed to discrimination and cyberbullying, with trolls and bullies being able to hide behind an alias and remain anonymous to their victims. Social media has seen a spike in internet trolling over the years, with the Cyberbullying Research Centre stating that, in 2016, 33.8% of students between the ages of 12 and 17 had been victims of cyberbullying in their lifetime.

The way in which we begin, maintain, and end relationships has also shifted with the development of social media. It is now the norm to meet someone and start a relationship online, through dating apps or social media, rather than choosing to meet someone in person first. Although this eradicates the social challenges that people may face, it has ruined the dating courtship process and it decreases the incentive to make a commitment to one another.

The rise of social media has also seen a breakdown in family communications, as the use of technology in the home can rob families of communication, attention, and a feeling of safety within the family unit. Research has suggested that many children feel their parents have become addicted to their phones and computers and they wish for their parents to spend more quality time interacting with them. Although social media has been shown to have potential benefits for the family when it comes to keeping them connected when they are not physically together, increasing a sense of security in that anyone can reached immediately, it has been shown that there is now increasingly negative interactions between siblings, couples, and parent-child relationships. It has also been shown that children who spend more time in front of a screen find it more difficult to understand emotions, develop relationships, and are more dependable on others.

There is no denying that social media has allowed for the world to connect in a way it was never able to before, and there are clear benefits to this, but it seems that virtual conversations are taking priority over face-to-face conversations, with people preferring to spend more of their time looking at a screen than interacting with the world around them. How social is social media if the world has stopped socialising without technology in front of them?

Article written by Leah Langely

Header designed by Sofia Azcona

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Label Culture Editor 19-20

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