The dark side of social media: Individuals

Social media is making life become a matter of visibility and narcissism.

Following the sequence of The dark side of social media, we pass from the negaive effects they can have on people's political attitudes to the effects it can have on the individual itself. 

Social media is becoming a matter of visibility to the outer world. People's life is practically online, but they don't realize the implications this can bring.

An immediate effect it has on people's  personal life is the loss of their intimacy. Whether they like it or not, social profiles leave a trail to their identity, what people like, what views do they have on certain topics, where they live/study/work and who their friends are.

Yes, there are security options to limit what others can see, but one way or another people can get information and pictures of others.

Andrew Keen in a video for Bigthink says the internet is based on a fundamental lie, we're told that it's social but the reality is completely different.

"This social networks aren't really social, they're platforms for the self. They're platform for us to build brands".

He says the clearest example is the obsession with the Selfie. It has become the cultural form of the internet.

According to the book Political Turbulence, "social media environments allow other people to know what we ourselves are doing by making us visible. Visibility has great appeal to many."

Selfies express how people have returned to a pre-Copernican time where humans were the center of the universe. But posts in general are also making people feel bad about themselves.

A study conducted by two German universities in 2013 referenced in Time showed that from the 600 individuals studied, 1 in 3 felt worse after visiting sites such as Facebook. They experienced loneliness, frustration and anger.

This happens mostly because people compare themselves to their peers and the lack of attention showed by the few comments and likes compared to their friends.

Rates of suicide related to social media are also troubling for public health. Nearly 1 million suicide deaths worldwide occur every year according to WHO. Cyberbullying is one of the main causes, although the available topic related content  is also important.

According to the a US cyberbully hotline, 42% of teens with access to technology have been cyberbullied in the last year, and the a Mexican study showed that among their teenagers cyberbullying was the fifth cause of dead.

Another implication related to social media especially in women are the body challenges and "perfect life" profiles. Thinspiration challenges, social media trends where people post pictures of their bodies showing tiny measurements, are damaging beauty and health standards, making extra thin bodies be the ideal.

And profiles showing an apparent perfect life hide behind hundreds of trials and attempt to reach the "it photo" and maintain a scheme that puts impossible standards to follow.

Social media have make life easier by allowing contact with people in the other side of the world, but their making people less social and more narcissistic. Basing approval on the number of likes, followers and activity isn't the healthiest nor the most fulfilling way to live life.

As Andrew Keen says "the internet is alienating, isolating, fragmenting, its weakening community."


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