Social Media Influences on Young People
Social media has revolutionized the way the youth communicate. Young people are more active and try to keep up to date with trends. The youth tends to share more of their personal lives in the form of videos, photos, and instant messages. Social media development can be explored from several theories including the symbolic interactionism theory. Symbolic interactionism perspective holds that the youth uses social media to connect for various reasons. The reasons are grow relationships, continue relationships, make friends, respond to information or even career development. These activities are possible through a variety of sharing methods such as photos, text, movies, and videos. Social media influence on the society has both positive and negative impacts. Social media facilitates communication or information sharing which allows young people to achieve various needs but at the same time, the open platform exposes them to risks.
Research by the Pew Research Center in 2015 found that 65% of people in the United States use social media. Young adults aged between 18 to 29 years are the heaviest users at 90% mainly using a smartphone. Estimated 85% of persons aged 18-29 years in the United States own a smartphone. Estimated 72% of Americans use Facebook, 28% use Instagram and 20% of the entire population use Twitter. Data released in 2012 showed that Facebook had 1.31 billion monthly users making the company the biggest social media network in the world. Estimated 15% of young adults in the United States are heavily dependent on smartphones for online access. The data reinforces the Symbolic interactionism theory the youth have a high social media usage because it allows them to be part of their environments different cultures and create relationships.
Sociologists have conducted numerous studies to explain the evolution and explosion of social media use. One major the force is technology development. Young people are more tech savvy compared to adults and hence have a high adoption rate of social media. The development of the Internet and the World Wide Web has facilitated more people to access social media. At the same time, development of mobile devices technologies including phones, tablets, and computers have facilitated the social media evolution. Estimated 83% of persons aged 18-45 in the United States use smartphones to access social media.
Second, human nature is responsible for social media explosion. People are inherently social with social interactions being responsible for the diverse modern societies. The growth of social media can also be explained using the symbolic interaction perspective. The theory states that society is as a result of everyday interactions of individuals. Symbolic interaction perspective explores social interactions as a result of the human need to satisfy certain needs. Through the interaction process, people learn and increase communication. Therefore, social media growth is as a result of human interaction and inbuilt desire to expand or build social relations beyond their geographical limitations. Example, young people in social media share fashion styles, personal life experiences, and common challenges. Social media facilitate diverse feedbacks for information posted by amplifying the range of social interactions.
Social media has numerous benefits for young people. First, social media has revolutionized social interactions enabling users to take different forms of communication such as upload pictures, videos, online chat and video chat. Young people benefit from instant messengers such as Whatsapp enabling them to send any form of data in a moment. Social media applications such as Instagram have gained substantial following because they allow young people to share their photo memories. Therefore, social media has a symbolic meaning for users as platforms to share.
Second, social media has facilitated the breakdown of hierarchy and bureaucratic structures in organizations including political movements. Social media opens up communication channels and increases pressure on bureaucratic leaders to share and provide feedback to subordinates, public and followers. Opening up and down communication in bureaucratic organizations challenges the bureaucratic structure. Thereby, increasing participation by young people. Social media has made communications more interactive and self-configurable increasing involvement in movements and organizations less hierarchical. Illustrating from a symbolic interaction perspective social media facilitates unity and participation and serves the members desire to break down bureaucracy.
Third, social media provides a platform for young people to post information freely and receive judgments or views. In social media persons post information which is subject to numerous judgments. Example, young people build fashion sense by looking at fashion comments on websites such as Facebook.
Social media also has some negative effects mainly for the youth. From a symbolic perspective social media facilitates relationships and sharing. However, there is a downside to this advantage. Social media has made human beings less social according to an article by Dr. Hamptons posted in the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Hamptons notes that with the growth of mobile technology more young people prefer to keep in touch online. He states that the users spend too much time maintaining superficial connections and relationships. The users mainly young people lose an opportunity to cultivate deeper, better, long-term and real relationships. Second, social media has been utilized by bullies to victimize young users. Several cases of suicide and social isolation have been reported among young teens after bullying by cyber stalkers and users. For example, the death of Amanda Todd, a teen who committed suicide and left a Youtube video quoting social media bullying as a reason behind the decision.
Third, exposure to pornographic materials through social media has a negative impact mainly on teen users. Majority end up experimenting or becoming addicted to pornography. The content shared in social media is largely unregulated which allows criminals such as sex predators to expose young children to offensive content. The unregulated and uncensored content makes social media a dangerous place mainly for young teens unaware of sex predators looking for victims. Finally, pests such as pedophiles use social media to prey on their victim’s especially young children or people with no idea of the danger that they face. Social media is open and largely unregulated when it comes to the type of friends a person makes. Therefore, the responsibility of filtering friendship request and the type of information uploaded to social media websites is regulated by users. Sex offenders use social media to approach their victims which make social media a dangerous platform for young people.
Symbolic interactionism explains social media growth as an outcome of young people desire to connect for various reasons including form relationships, fame, share information and grow talents. Therefore, social media has numerous benefits for young people by overcoming geographical limits to socialization. Social media allows for unlimited and unrestricted communication and sharing of information. Social media has, therefore, made it possible for the youth to express ideas in a new and unique way. Young people use social media for a variety of reasons such as to share images, videos and also text. Social media has, therefore, made young people more expressive, intelligent and appreciative. However, criminals also take advantage of the free sharing platforms to cause physiological harm to young users. Personal and sensitive information including sexual images or videos should not be shared on social media. Sharing confidential information in social media allows criminals such as bullies and sexual predators to victimize and exploit users. Online and social media form of bullying and sexual exploitation is one of the fasted growing crimes.