Social Media: the Double Edge Sword

Written by: Sandra Z.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve always had conflicted emotions pertaining to social media. Have you ever had that feeling that you should cut someone or something out of your life because you worry that it might have a bad influence on you? That’s currently the situation I find myself in, I’ve always wanted to know how social media affects people, and does it have a negative or positive influence on people?

Before I begin, I would like you guys to watch this video, to put you guys in the same mindset as I, when I first began my research. I included a hyperlink in the description below. Here

On this podcast episode of inQuery, I will be looking at what extent does social media influence us?

According to a study done in 2014, named “Exploring the Effects of Social Media on the Mental Health of Young Adults” by Amelia Strickland, what motivates people to use social media is self-disclosure. Strickland explains that social media acts like a reward in our brain, it satisfies our need for self-representation and our need to bond with others.

I conducted a survey to help me understand why people use social media. The results confirmed Strickland's study, it showed that people used social media either as a source of entertainment or to connect/ keep in touch with family and friends. One of the questions on the survey asked if social media affected their self-esteem in a positive or negative manner. To my surprise, it was split evenly in the middle, 50% said it affected them in a positive way and the other half in a negative manner. I also asked them, in a multiple choice question, how they would feel if they were suddenly cut off from social media, they had 4 options to choose from Loneliness, Happiness, Anger, and Anxiousness. Most said they would feel Lonely if they were to be cut off from social media, followed by happiness, anxiousness and anger.

The study, “When your Second Life comes Knocking: Effect of Personality Traits on Changes to Real Life from Virtual World Experiences”, has concluded that virtual life identity is basically a reflection of your real life identity. Who your are online is who you are in real life. If you’re an extrovert in real life, you will be an extrovert online. But with the exception of introverts they tend to be shyer in real life but tend to be more extroverted online. Thinking they can get away with it, there are people who think they can go online, insult people who don't share the same perspective on things, then proceed to log off the internet, and pretend they are a kind hearted individual; this just reveals the true ugliness within people.   

I was reading this story on Huffington post, the other day, about a guy who felt the need to leave racist transphobic comments on a youtuber’s Facebook page. She sent to his boss pictures of the comments he left on her page, consequently he got fired. I'm surprised that people honestly believe that their online life has no effect on their real life.

According to the study “The Relationship Between Personality Traits and Social Media Use” personality traits such as the Big-Five factor model; extroversion, agreeableness (definition according to the study:  people who are reliable, sympathetic, and cooperative), neuroticism (they are define as the people who have a negative tendency and expect bad things to happen to them), and gender has no correlation with social media use. Which I find odd because I always thought that introvert would have a higher tendency to use social media than extroverts because it would be easier for them to connect with people online rather than in real life. They found that conscientious people (to clarify these are people who have an ability to plan ahead, are diligent, and fair), people open to experience, life satisfaction and those who have a higher education tend to have a higher use of social media.

In 2013, Gwendolyn Seidman did a study, named “Self-Presentation and Belonging on Facebook: How Personality Influences Social Media Use and Motivations”, to see if personality traits affected social media use and their motivations on Facebook. He determined that extroverts use social media to communicate and express who they are, but they have a tendency to hide personal information about themselves, such as emotions. Agreeable individuals don't use social media as a means to seek information about other or for attention-seeking but as a means to express themselves, to connect with other people and seek acceptance from others. People who are open to others and to new experiences, don't care to use social media to communicate with others or seek to know new information about people or to disclose general and emotional information about themselves. Neurotic people use social media to communicate, seek information, disclose general and emotional information about themselves, and to express the actual, ideal, hidden aspect of themselves. Conscientious people don't use social media to communicate, seek information, to connect/care about others, to share general or emotional aspect of themselves, and don't express hidden or ideal aspect of themselves.

Based on the study “Psychological Stress and Social Media Use” done in January of this year, the most use social networking site is Facebook. The average person has 329 Facebook friends. They determined the average amount of texts messages someone receives in a day is 32. After looking at these numbers, it made me realise that I am really unpopular; I am lucky if I receive four texts messages in a day. I give you the permission to laugh to how pathetic that is; in my defense, I really enjoy time to myself. Unlike women, in men there is no correlation between the frequency of social media use and stress. For women, the use of some technologies is tied to lower stress. For woman the more picture shared, received and sent emails, the frequency they use Twitter; equals to 21% less stress in their lives, than women who don’t. Unfortunately, they were not able to determine why that is but according to their research the emotional well-being of a woman is related to their social sharing of both positive and negative events in their lives. Stress is contagious according to the study: woman can have their stress level increase from 5 to 14% higher by knowing that someone close to them experienced a negative event. For men it ranges from 9 to 11%. The most interesting part of the study, for me, is that results showed that women experience a 6% decrease in stress levels when they discovered that someone they hardly know on Facebook went through a stressful event. They describe this as, I quote, “the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others”. Yup you heard that right, women feel a little better about themselves, acquiring the knowledge that someone is going through a worse situation than they are.

According to Strickland’s study, social media anxiety is linked to compulsive disorders. I quote, “study has found that 45% of British people indicated they feel worried or uncomfortable when they cannot access their emails or social networking sites” end quote. She states that the people who frequently check their phones and social media are at higher risk of experiencing phantom vibration. Phantom vibration is when you think you felt your phone vibrate in your pocket when it hasn’t. Social media can affect relationships because of “the fear of missing out”, it changes the way people view their relationship with others. The reason for this is because of the obsessive checking of social media makes people compare themselves to their friends; in their eye, it will seems as though their friends has it better than they do.

This reminds me of an article I read about an Instagram star, who decided to quit Instagram because she didn’t like the way her social media fame took over her life. Her story makes me weary of how social media can easily take over your life but we can’t ignore the good that social media can do for people.

The study, named “The Perceived Influence of Social Media on Young Adult Health”, wanted to know what teenagers thought of social media's influence on health. Results showed that 47% of teens believe that social media was a barrier preventing them from exercise. 32% of those teens said that they believe social media was a distraction during meal time because it would cause disconnection with their families while eating and lead them to make poor food decisions. But on the other hand, 50% of young adults believe that social media can motivate them and their friends to exercise and 38% view social media as a way to expand their palette with healthy food choices.

“Paradoxes and Strategies of Social Media Consumption Among Adolescents” is a study that determined that social media helps with face to face conversation and that it brings people together; however, social media can lead to detachment due to having to maintain contact only through social media. It reduces social presence, lack of social presence makes people feel less real and makes it seem as though their real life presence is fading.

I found a blog post that talks about measuring different types of social media influencers, if you are interested the link is here

Social media has a lot of positive, as well as, negative influence on people. What I have learned from all this research is that it would seem that I can’t determine the extent in which social media influences people because it really depends on you and who you are as a person. So, I urge you to ask yourselves, to what extent does social media influence you?

Work cited:

Hampton, Keith, Lee Rainie, Inyoung Shin, Weixu Lu, and Kristen Purcell. "Psychological Stress and Social Media Use." Pew Research Center Internet Science Tech RSS. N.p., 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/15/psychological-stress-and-social-media-use-2/

Strickland, Amelia C. "Exploring the Effect of Social Media Use on the Mental Health of Young Adults." (2014): 1-59. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. http://etd.fcla.edu/CF/CFH0004704/Strickland_Amelia_C_1412_BA.pdf

Vaterlaus, Mitchell J., Emely V. Patten, Cesia Roche, and Jimmy A. Young. "The Perceived Influence of Social Media on Young Adult Health Behaviors." Proquest. Elsevier Science, Apr. 2015. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. http://search.proquest.com/psycinfo/docview/1661987583/DAC5DC33BD7C4ABEPQ/2?accountid=15182

Hübner Barcelos, Renato, and Vargas Rossi Alberto. "Paradoxes and Strategies of Social Media Consumption among Adolescents." Young Consumers 15.4 (2014): 275. ProQuest. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.   http://search.proquest.com/psycinfo/docview/1633970735/abstract?accountid=15182

McLeod, Poppy Lauretta, Yi-Ching Liu, and Jill Elizabeth Axline. "When Your Second Life Comes Knocking: Effects of Personality on Changes to Real Life from Virtual World Experiences." Computers in Human Behavior 39 (2014): 59-70. ProQuest. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. http://search.proquest.com/psycinfo/docview/1709217619/128459F6FC8C491APQ/25?accountid=15182

Özgüven, Nihan, and Burcu Mucan. "The Relationship between Personality Traits and Social Media use." Social Behavior and Personality 41.3 (2013): 517-28. ProQuest. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. http://search.proquest.com/psycinfo/docview/1368591711/25CEC2F7CC14032PQ/2?accountid=15182

Seidman, Gwendolyn. Self-presentation and Belonging on Facebook: How Personality Influences Social Media Use and Motivations. Elsevier Science, Feb. 2013. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886912004916

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