Abstract by manipulating people to join them in online


The aim of this research paper is to elaborate on how
social media users can unwittingly fall victim to various online platforms such
as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It is certainly a great portal to
entertainment and allows people to interact. However, since social media has
only been in our live for only a little more than a decade, many do not fully
understand how some of the ways it can negatively influence us in daily life or
in the future. For example, social media can damage our self-image as more and
more users constantly use software such as Photoshop to edit pictures, thus,
making delusions for the social media viewers. Social media usage exposes people
to cyberbullying, and can cause depression especially in those who spent more
than five hours a day on social media. Procrastination is another unfavorable
consequence of engagement in social media. Social media can also create the
facility for people to unite and cause movements by manipulating people to join
them in online platforms, and then start ill-willed movements such as political
one. In the following paper, I will support my arguments with statistics and
that come from reputable sources such as the news portals like BBC, CNN, The
Guardian etc, I will also refer to some research and studies conducted by noted
universities. This paper is mainly informative, giving some background why
people should be more careful when using social media as it can be dangerous.

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Anelya Kadyrova

Ph. D Stephon Delbos

Composition I

6 December 2017

                                             Social Media: An Underestimated Trap


            As of 2017, there are 3.028 billion are active users who
at least have one account on popular social networking sites such as Facebook,
Instagram and Snapchat. It is noteworthy that this staggering number has
increased threefold only in past seven years (Social Media Statistics and Facts).
Social media’s wide scope is a great source of entertainment that allows people
to share any information. However, users should be careful with their usage of
social media as it can be dangerous. Social networking sites can pose mental, academic
and political threats on its users. To fully understand the scope of social
media, it is beneficial to know some of its background.

            With a 66% increase of active users from 2006 to 2017,
social networking sites, namely Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are arguably one
of the most prominent features of the decade (Social Media Statistics and
Facts). In social networking sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Mysapce, each
registered user has a profile page where he can share personal information
ranging from age to contacts to occupation. It also can be a playground for one
to express his or her religious or political views, succinctly, users are
allowed to share any information they deem appropriate. The characteristics
that make it so appealing include high accessibility at economical prices, and
quick interaction as its vast usage among people provides a high likelihood
that many might see the information that a user shares online. One of the most
noted features of social media sites is the users’ ability to upload pictures
on their accounts, which in turn, is infamous for creating illusions of one’s
physical appearance.

It has been
twenty-seven years since the first photo editing software, Photoshop, has been
released, which allows anyone to alter his or her appearance to suit his or her
standards of beauty (Photoshop: Born from two brothers). After the launch of
Photoshop, the introduction of myriad editing applications have made it
effortless for social media users to edit their imperfections by eliminating
blemishes, elongating legs and thinning waists. One does not need to be a
computer genius since the editing applications have simplified the whole
editing process. Thus, many users find it challenging to abstain from
perfecting their flaws especially when one can flaunt his body in an easily
edited picture without even visiting a gym. However, televisions and magazines,
which fill their pages with processed pictures, such as images of a model with
enlarged eyes and narrowed hips are facing double standards. It is because
people are very critical of such magazines are criticized as they portray an
ideal body image that arises self-doubt, but when it comes to users who edit
their pictures on their accounts, everyone is silent (Freya Noble).

 A research conducted by Dove, a body care
brand which primarily targets women, suggests that 78 percent felt that the processed
images in magazines set unrealistic body goals, and culminates in girls having
low self-esteem as they compare themselves with pictures of the retouched
models. However, a recent research by Beauty Haven, a popular beauty blog
showed two-thirds of all women frown on media’s tendency to process pictures, and
57% of which admit they use editing software themselves (Freya Noble). Meaning
the people, who are strong opponents of media’s use of Photoshop, self-actualize
by receiving likes on an edited picture themselves even if they realize that it
is self-deception. Thus, instead of trying to dispel the illusion of the
unattainable perfect body that media is trying to bind on us, users who edit
their pictures on social media work in conjunction with the media’s industry,
such as fashion journals or TV commercials. They promote the idea that people
should add filters and edit their pictures in order to make them look perfect. The
dangerous consequence of the social media’s pressure of users to have a perfect
body is appearance-related bullying for those who do not use editing software
or do not suit the requirements of physical appearance- calling them “fat” or

Bullying has existed
long before the creation of social media. However, the anonymity of their
tormentors have made social media a favorable platform to demonstrate a user’s dissatisfaction
with someone’s appearance, as they stay fearless behind the keyboard (Patrick Sawer).
Social networking sites have started to pay extra close attention to solving
this problem, for example, by filtering out abusive texts. However, even though
the safety laws were toughened after a spate of suicides linked to social media
in 2013, that does not mean that the issue is completely eradicated, as it is
not always easy to trace a bully (Stephanie Pappas). Shirley Cramer, chief
executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, said, “It is interesting
to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and
well-being – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be
driving feelings of anxiety in young people.” This means people’s
appearance is the most important factor is the image-based social platforms, and
one can be victimized if his weight, height or facial structure does not
satisfy a bully’s notion of beauty. However, calling out on physical attributes
is not the only form of bullying that exists.

Other forms
of cyberbullying include spreading rumors on social media, or dissemination of
private pictures or videos on the web (“Types of Cyberbullying”). Despite no
direct contact with the bully, cyberbullying can even be more dangerous than
the traditional bullying in schools since one’s photos or footage is exposed to
a higher number of people via social media platforms. Some might be so ashamed
to see embarrassing videos of themselves online that they can even take their
own lives. A recent example of “bullycide” , a relatively new term which means to
commit suicide because of being bullied, was committed by 10-year-old Ashwanty
Davis (Ellen Lake). On November 30th 
2017, a distraught child who found a video of her fighting with a
classmate circulating on one of the popular social media platforms – Musical.ly
 and committed suicide. According to
Michele Hamm, a researcher in pediatrics at University of Alberta bullying
during teenage years may be double the risk of depression in adulthood and
bullying’ effect can be as bad as child abuse. Evidently, not all bullying
experience culminates in deaths, but most of them lead to mental health
problems such as depression (8 Tips for Parents of Teens With Depression).

Rosenthal, Ph.D, a research associate in Department of Epidemiology at Brown
University School of Public Health, said that social media interaction, such as
bullying, is a significant factor for mental health outcomes. It means
cyberbullying has direct link to depression. However, cyberbullying is not the
sole factor that can lead to depression. Social media can elicit depressive
responses when users compare themselves to the picture-perfect life of their friends
on Facebook (Clarissa Silva). Depression that comes from seeing picture-perfect
lives of others can be correlated to the third paragraph of the essay dedicated
to the concept of illusion that social media creates. It is not the illusion of
digitally manipulated pictures that display the unrealistic perfect looks, but
the illusion of a perfect life that someone appears to  be leading. It is important to know that
people on Instagram choose what they want to share and for the most part, they
only share the good parts of their lives. Therefore, it is not smart to compare
one’s life with someone else’s solely based on social media.

            Several years ago, psychologists termed Facebook’s potent
risk as “FOMO” or fear of missing out. It is when users feel they are not
living the best version of themselves. In a recent research 51% of Facebook
users have confessed that social media has made them self-conscious when they
see they compare lives of others. According to Jean Twenge, a psychology
Professor at San Diego University, teens who spend more than five hours a day
online are seventy-one percent more likely to commit a suicide or become
depressed. In addition, research conducted by University of
Pittsburg Medicine School has concluded that the longer time teens use social
media, the more likely they are to become depressed (Amid Chowhdry). This means
that social media causes envy which in turn leads to depression, especially
when its usage is excessive. With so many hours spent on social media, it can
be the causative factor of procrastination.

            Professor Tim Pychyl, a psychologist at Carleton
University in Canada, member of the Procrastination Research Group calls
procrastination, “the biggest problem in education today”.

Procrastination, can influence
grades, drop-out rates and physical and mental health. With internet being
easily accessible, procrastination is a greater problem than ever. We spent time on social media watching cat videos on
Facebook or waiting for retweets on Twitter, while needlessly delaying other things.
Short-term reward, long-term costs. In a research carried out by StudyMode, 87%
of students are self-proclaimed procrastinators, and 67% of them would spend
time on social media instead of studying, thus, hindering student success. (“Eighty-seven
percent of high school and college students are self-proclaimed procrastinators”).
Social Media can also contribute to bigger events like political upheavals in
the Arab Spring.

            The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government upheavals
and demonstrations starting in Tunisia and spreading throughout Arabic countries.
Even though social media did not cause the Arab Spring, it was a catalyst that
aided protestors to establish better democracy and justice. According to the
second edition of the Arab Social Media Reports, 9 out of 10 Arabs used social
media to start protests on specified days to display their discontent with the
government. In addition, Facebook usage doubled from January to April of 2011, and
88% of Egyptians and 94% of Tunisians that the main source of information of political
situation in their countries was from social networking platforms (“Arab Social
Media Report”). Such numbers reflect the high level of activity in social
media. The way it can be dangerous for the future (not only in the Middle East,
but for any part of the world) is when people, like the opponents of the
government, spread incorrect information and even manipulate others by trying
to galvanize people against the government by blaming all of their personal
troubles and crises on the state (Robert Montenegro). However, despite all of
the disadvantages social media has, it is fair to say that there are also some excellent
sides to social media.

            Social Media is a great place to seek inspiration of the
healthy lifestyles of others with many different fitness-themed accounts. It is
also a good, if not the best way to disseminate information to as many people
as possible due to its enormous user base. For example, the Rohingya execution
in Myanmar became a big movement in social media platforms this year. Users
were actively urging each other to repost this information in hopes to spread
awareness as much as possible (Georgina Rannard). Most importantly, social
media helps old friendships to remain intact by seeing each other’s pictures,
but this social media’s function can be a double-edged sword as it can be
deceptive by causing illusions. Disadvantages of social such cyberbullying,
depression, procrastination and potential coups seem to outweigh the positives
of social media.

            It is in the hands of an individual to break free from
the chains that social media binds on us. It is important to remember that it
contains digitally manipulated content setting unrealistic body goals,
consequently, engendering self-doubt in people or cause users to have distorted
image of themselves. These illusions can in turn cause to two more unfavorable
factors – bullying and depression. One of the reasons why people are
cyberbullied is because of not being pretty or thin enough, an illusions made
by those who constantly edit their photos. Being bullied alongside with
comparing happy lives of friends in social media can then lead to depression as
people begin to question the meaning of their lives. Social media can also
unite people with bad intentions from different towns to start coups or make
attempts to destabilize the government. Even though at first glance social
media might appear inoffensive, users should not underestimate the harm and
avoid being self-indulgent in overusing social networking as they can be
negatively affected by it.