Social media is often seen as the villain in today’s society, but could it actually be the secret hero of the Pandemic?
Whether it be posting their thoughts on Twitter, scrolling through memes on Reddit, liking a friend’s photos on Instagram, or watching videos on Tiktok, most people consume social media on a regular basis. With so many people using these sites, it is no wonder that the effects of social media have been so thoroughly studies. The results of this research have often not been kind to the prospect of social media being beneficial. Many of these studies have shown how social media can become addictive, how seeing edited and perfected photos can lead to self esteem issues, and how seeing “influencers” living extravagant lifestyles can cause a person to be depressed about their own life. Recently, however, the overwhelming number of negatives social media has might finally be outweighed by the positives it can provide.
For the better part of the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has made social lives next to impossible. People have been forced to isolate themselves from their friends, family, and coworkers in order to avoid catching or spreading the virus. This means working remotely, attending their classes over zoom, only leaving their homes to grab groceries and other essentials, and generally only spending time with the people in your own household. All this isolation has taken its toll on everyone’s mental health, with feelings of loneliness and depression becoming rampant in people of all age groups. In these dire times people need a saving grace, something that can help boost their mental health by once again making them feel connected to their friends and loved ones. Luckily for them, the very social media sites that many have claimed has been poisoning the minds of teens and young adults might just be the unlikely hero they needed. Yes there are many potential downsides to social media use, but it is called ‘social’ media for a reason. It is a tool that allows you to interact with your friends and family without having to occupy the same space as them and therefore can help you digitally keep connected with the world around you without having to leave your home.
Research seems to support social media playing this beneficial role as well. One study published in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that social media use has a negative relationship with both existential isolation and social loneliness, meaning that the more social media a person uses, the less isolated and lonely they feel. Another study from Youth and Society suggests that receiving positive feedback online can aid mental well being and can actually help a person alleviate some of the symptoms of depression they could feel. Although social support over the internet may not be quite as impactful as support given face to face, it is still much better than nothing and helps keep the a feeling of community alive. Social media has also played an essential role in the mental development of adolescents. During this time in a person’s life, social connection and relationships are important. Not having any social interaction during this time can leave an adolescent stunted socially, as they have not had a chance to develop the skills needed for everyday interactions. These adolescents are nearly completely reliant upon social media in order to learn the social skills they need and form relationships with their peers though video chats, calls, or simple text based messaging. All of these benefits listed show how important social media has been in maintaining and developing social interactions during the pandemic, however social media’s positive uses doesn’t stop there. Social media is also a great place for self expression for people of all ages and has also been one of the main platforms that utilized by the CDC to spread information about COVID, such as safety guidelines and new developments, because of its ability to spread news throughout the entire country quickly.
Although there are so many positive aspects of social media being highlighted during the pandemic, it is important to remember that the negatives still exist. People can still have their self esteems and mental heath damaged by it. They can still become addicted to the social connectedness and feel anxiety when offline. Social media is still a place where misinformation is being spread. Therefore, even though using social media may beneficial, people still need to be wary and mindful of the downsides when they use it. Like most things in this world, there is a limit for when too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. It is important for us as individuals to decide for ourselves where the cutoff needs to be in order to maximize the good we can get from social media and minimize the adverse effects.
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