Juliana LoGiudice English 12 Honors Ms.Bedell 10 January 2018Social Media is the Internet’s Parasite Each generation has been affected by social media either mentally or physically. Social networking has become its own world of news, trends and everyone’s everyday activities. Some social media users update themselves on what is happening in the world and will check their social media only once in a while. However, a majority of users are addicted by the powerful pull of the unknown possibilities when looking at their likes, followers and other people’s posts for almost more than two hours each day. Because of social media, daily users have developed many cases of mental illnesses. This includes depression, anxiety, loneliness and even at times thoughts or acts of suicide. Social networking is mentally and physically damaging to its users/viewers. Everything that is considered inappropriate or disturbing can easily be read, watched or seen from the tips of any child or adults fingertips because of the weak restrictions. Is social media really a place of opportunity and empowerment, or is it slowly making the world a place of depression and suicide? Communication between one or more people originally started with writing written letters. In 550 B.C. the first forms of postal service started to erupt and later on evolve into the use of the telegraph, that was then created in 1792. The telegraph was designed to have messages sent and delivered over a long distance in a faster time. This was only a small step to a future of possibilities, when it comes to technology, that is known in our world today. The most life changing inventions that changed the way an individual communicates, was the telephone in 1890 and the radio in 1891. These two inventions are used constantly in today’s society, that have been updated to more complex modern versions, more so than ever. As history writes itself, technology has grown and evolved into more intense designs. In the 1940s, technology began to truly become more intelligent and people were being introduced to new technological advantages. This included the invention of the supercomputer and the “…scientists and engineers began to develop ways to create networks between those computers, and this would later lead to the birth of the internet” (“Social Media in the 20th Century”). In the 1980s “…home computers were becoming more common and social media was becoming more sophisticated” (Hendricks). In 1997 the first known social media site was called “Six Degrees” and now we would consider it to be an older model of what today’s society knows as Facebook. Compared to the history of technology, social media can be considered as a “baby” in the technology world, because it has only been around for twenty-one years. In today’s world, there is a large majority of social networking sites that have evolved and controlled the internet system and its users. Looking into the future it is unpredictable when it comes to the internet because of the endless possibilities of what can change overtime. But since the boom of social media, it seems that social networking is a service that the world will see for many years to come. Social media networks affect the brain and the personality of its many users. A study from the University of Pennsylvania shows that social media use is “significantly associated with increased depression amongst adults aged between nineteen and thirty two” (“Social Networking”). Not only is social media affecting adults mentally, it is affecting the younger generations as well. One study from the UK Government found that, “…41% of children who spend over three hours on social media on a normal school day… suffer from mental health difficulties compared with 21% who spend no time on the sites” (“Social Networking”). There are many different types of social media sites throughout the internet, however, they all have the ability to be damaging to one’s mental health. For example, one social media network, Facebook, started as a way to “feel connected” and to “feel competent” (Hoh). A man named Sam Shead from “Business Insider”, ranked Facebook third out of five when comparing it to other social media’s, to show the ranking of mental damage it has to its users. It is hard to imagine how many people social media is slowly effecting and that are struggling with depression and other mental illnesses because of social media. According to “Science Direct”, a website that focuses on health studies, the longer someone spends on Facebook everyday, the more negative that individual will become. “Science Direct” has taken three studies to prove how damaging social media is to an individual’s emotional and mental state. Because of their research it shows that, “…the longer people are active on Facebook, the more negative their mood is afterwards…Facebook activity leads to a deterioration of mood compared to two different control conditions…and that they expect to feel better after using Facebook, whereas…they feel worse”. (“ScienceDirect”). Wouldn’t the answer for stopping social media’s mental effects on the brain be to just simply delete the app or not go on the website? Social media has been proven to be addictive to most users, making it almost impossible for them to delete the app or stop going on the website (Ramasubbu). Social media networks are created to make the user feel a short burst of excitement and happiness (Ramasubbu). People become addicted to the feeling of escaping reality and then knowing that they will get guaranteed happiness on social media, hence the reason why it becomes addicting. Neuroimaging studies have shown that specifically three parts of the brain are involved while engaging in social media that lead to addiction. The three parts of the brain that cause addiction to social media is the “mentalizing network”, the “self-referential cognition network” and the “reward network” (Ramasubbu). When individuals use social media those three parts of the brain kick into action and it leaves the user wanting more and more. As stated by a psychologist named Julia Hormes, “Facebook was found to have especially addictive properties. The respondents spent an average of one-third of their online browsing time on Facebook, and 67 percent received Facebook push notifications on their phones” (Gregoire). This example shows that even when users are not directly on a social media app, they still want to be notified right away instead of just waiting to look at it later. Even though social media is heavily portrayed as negative and perceptive when it comes to the emotions of a user, it also carries many positives as well. When individuals use social media it starts to relieve social isolation and loneliness because it allows the user to express themselves without revealing their identity (Naruse) and lets them connect to so many people that they have never met before. Another benefit of social media is that it opens up a doorway for expressing ones beliefs, especially in politics. The news is easily spread through social media and it helps the users, mostly teenagers, connect and communicate their political beliefs with others (Naruse). But, even though fast and direct news can be seen as believable it’s usually not. Apparently, sixty four percent of users that go on Twitter have read and believed something that later on ended up to be not true (“Social Networking”). Social media is mentally manipulating and taking advantage of users beliefs because people are absorbing everything they see on social media and believing it. Mental abuse and addiction from social media is taking a toll for all users and sadly some individuals let the negative effects get to them in a physical manner. Social media is affecting users by giving them depression, anxiety and a feeling of loneliness, but in some cases, some individuals start physically harming themselves because of social media. The group that is most strongly affected by social media is teenagers. Many teens are dealing with either cyberbullying, constantly seeing famous or fellow classmates living such “perfect lives” through their posts, or the feeling to be wanted by others. This is heavily impacting teens when it comes to their mental and physical health. Mentioned in a journal entry written by “Clinical Psychological Science”, “Teens’ use of electronic devices including smartphones for at least five hours daily more than doubled, from eight percent in 2009 to nineteen percent in 2015. These teens were seventy percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those who reported one hour of daily use” (“Rise in Teen Suicide Connected to Social Media Popularity”). The teens that are staying on social media for more than an hour are creating negative opinions about themselves by comparing their lives to someone else’s. Another psychologist named, Jean Twenge, wrote in the journal “Clinical Psychological Science”, that “From 2010 to 2015, a record number of teenagers were reporting depressive symptoms and overloading mental health clinics, while suicide rates climbed for the first time in decades” (Kelly). One small example of the average amount of cyberbullying that happens to children in only one year shows that from “2010-2011 alone, one million children reported being harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook” (“Cyberbullying and Social Media”). Cyberbullying is constantly seen throughout every social media site on the internet because of the “…social freedoms that the sites allow everyone to have” (Russell). Focusing on teen girls especially, they suffer more when it comes to social media because of the “…pressure for teen girls to get a lot of likes and a lot of followers on social media” (Twenge). When using social media, teen girls are more likely to suffer from depression if they use it every day. Teen girls suffer from thoughts or attempt of suicide more so than all teens combined. According to CPS (“Clinical Psychological Science”), “In 2015, thirty-six percent of all teens reported…thinking about, planning or attempting suicide from thirty-two percent in 2009. For girls, the rates were higher – forty-five percent in 2015 versus forty percent in 2009” (“Social Media Blamed for Increase in Teen Suicides in the US”). Not only are teens suffering from being bullied online because of the access to social media, they are also physically harming themselves. When looking at research and the growth of teen suicide over the years because of social media, one should think that it needs to be stopped or at least prevented before it keeps on ascending. Social networking has created an unfiltered process that allows anyone to post anything they want at anytime. The top social media networks do have limitations to what people post but, it is after the user uploads their post, this is when the network can step in and ban the post. In most occasions it takes a while for that specific social media to take down inappropriate posts in time before users see it. It is difficult to prevent a user, either an adult or teenager, from getting ideas from social media and using their new knowledge and applying it to their life in a harmful way. It is proven by San Diego researchers that the recent increase in suicide-related searches on Google was sparked by the show “13 Reasons Why” (“Social media blamed for increase in teen suicides in the US”). This shows how easy it is for someone to look up “How to commit suicide?” online without being restricted from that social media network, in this instance Google, and receive all of the knowledge that they need to impact their life in a negative manner. The number one social media network is called YouTube. It has “…one billion active users each month” (YouTube Stats). Because YouTube is known for the freedom to post videos, it has become a popular website to go on. The user can post whatever video they want and in return, watch anything they want. The only way that video gets taken down, if it goes against YouTube’s code is if there are enough viewers that report the inappropriate video content. Some people are lucky enough to be able to grow and become popular on social media and one example of a social media star is a man named Logan Paul. He is a twenty two year old, that has over sixteen million followers on YouTube and most of them are young viewers. Just recently he posted a “…video then segues into a lighthearted introduction to Mt. Fuji and the forest. But almost as soon as the guide takes Paul and his friends into the forest, they encounter a dead man’s body” (Meyer). The man that Paul found in this forest committed suicide and Paul clearly recorded the victims body, but only blurring out the face and nothing else in the process. Logan Paul continued to post the video until “People were rightly outraged that he essentially made a joke out of depression and suicide, and made “content” out of a tragedy, especially considering his young, vulnerable audience” (Shiffman). The day he posted the graphic video was on December 31st and it was finally taken down on January 2nd, which gave the young viewers two full days to be watching and experiencing what suicide looks like. Children and young teens are viewing these non age appropriate posts and some may not understand what they are viewing. Not only are young viewers getting ahold of social media and are to young to be visiting those sites, “Thirteen to fifty-two percent of eight to sixteen year olds admit they ignore Facebook’s age restriction …kids easily make up fake birthdays and use their parents iTunes account to download Instagram to their own devices” (Graber). In today’s society the restrictions to social media websites do not have strong restrictions, they are obviously weak enough for an eight year old to figure out how to bypass the restrictions. This makes younger viewers vulnerable to things they should not be seeing at their age. A doctor named Dan Nelson of the Cincinnati Children Hospital Medical Center stated that, “The media that children are exposed to gets more and more sophisticated and more and more graphic and so kids get exposed to more and more things” (Korte). Social media is proven to be a dangerous environment for some viewers because of the limitless possibilities one can stumbleupon when logging on and seeing unrestricted posts. Many people view social media as a way to connect to the rest of the world in a fast manner without having to wait for updates in the papers or by the regular news on television. But, as social networking keeps growing, the effects that it has on people is getting more and more intense. It is affecting not only the adults, but teens and even children as well. Social media has a strong negative power mentally and physically on its users and the progression of negativity seems to be getting worse because of the weak restrictions placed on these networks. Suicide should not be even a thought when it comes to teenagers. Should peaceful users be thinking of committing suicidal acts because of the corrupt users on the internet? 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