Social Media #HandleWithCare

Social media

A product of the digital world and thanks to it time, distance and physical presence are no longer obstacles in what may be considered a prime basic human instinct of being social.

Social Media icons. [Social Media Mix 3D Icons by Blogtrepreneur, CC BY 2.0]

Social Media and Mental Health

Social media provides us with a platform to design and promote the most perfect, desirable versions of our, let’s be honest not that exciting, lives. It provides us with the opportunity to be completely self-obsessed. Although, it also creates pressures: pressure to be constantly online, pressure to look good, pressure to eat healthily, pressure to fit in. Social media provides us with self-doubt, lessens our self- worth and increases the gap between the ideal self portrayed online and the actual self portrayed in reality.

“If you practice being a false self eight hours a day, it gets harder to accept the less-than-perfect being you really are”.

So, undoubtedly a significant concern of living in the digital society is the adverse impact it is having on our mental health .Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh explored the fine line between ‘positive use and problematic use’ and found that frequent use of social media was significantly linked to ‘high’ indicators of depression.

But…

As a relatively new phenomenon, more exploration into the subject is necessary as if you’re evaluating with a statistical mind, it could be equally plausible to suggest people who are depressed are more avid users of social media.

Thankfully, it is not all negative, as social media is also an extremely powerful tool with great implications. If used correctly it can provide a hugely positive way to instead facilitate mental health. Social media is an easily accessible platform for people to receive support from friends and family in times of distress. It can aid people who may suffer from isolation as it enables relationships to be made online and keep connected with friends and deepen relationships. Social media allows more voices to be heard, it can be used widely and powerfully.

#WhatYouDontSee

We see inspiring cases of health campaigns across social media which raise awareness and reduces stigma of mental health issues. The #WhatYouDontSee campaign was launched by The Blurt Foundation to raise awareness and educate the public of what people don’t see when someone is suffering from depression. This is just one, of many great examples where social media has been used to reach an extremely wide audience resulting in great impacts.

Cyberbullying

Unfortunately, the victimisation of young people online, AKA, cyber bullying is another largely concerning phenomenon. This is a bi-product of social media and in turn the digital society. Social media has increased the ease for individuals to hide behind screens and engage in harmful behaviours, thousands of teenagers have reported cyberbullying to be worse than face to face bullying and is considered a worse issue than drug abuse amongst the ones effected. Cyberbullying and depression go hand-in-hand and there have been too many cases where suicide has been an end result.

[Cyber Bullied by Wen Tong Neo, CC BY 2.0]

But…

it should be noted social media has not, as such, created cyber bullying, it is in fact just provided bullies, who have real world, psychological issues with an easy and anonymous accessible platform to do so. It is also the case that victims of cyber bullying may be too afraid to tell their parents. Social media and the internet can be used beneficially to find help pages and necessary support for those affected individuals, which could be lifesaving.


Social Media and Privacy

[Facebook- The privacy saga continues by Ruth Suehle CC BY 2.0]

On the topic of social media, it is perhaps of important to realise it is not a coincidence the summer holiday you were googling yesterday, is now plastered all over your Facebook news feed. We, our interests and our data is tracked and analysed, on and off the site, via cookies, which is then utilised by Facebook to adhere to us in a more personalised way.

A step too far?

A more disturbing incidence of this, which really questions whether the personal — data line had been blurred was reported in 2015. A patient who used Facebook to inform friends of his cancer diagnosis then sadly was receiving advertisements from funeral directors across his news feed.

So, perhaps an also concerning implication of the rapid advances in technology is the breach of our privacy, which certainly raises personal ethical issues and questions our rights as digital citizens. But, what may be more concerning, is the lack of knowledge by most of us that this is in fact the case, me included.

FarmVille — Not so innocent after all

It has been revealed that Facebook is also sending far more information to these third-party platform applications (API) we interact with than you or I may be comfortable with. The developers of the apps, such as FarmVille, can easily access our personal details, our photos, our interests and our addresses. This information can then, quite frankly, be used in anyway they want, such as identity theft.

[Apisssss by Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0]

Who is to blame?

But, the overarching issue is who may be held responsible? A question seemingly unanswerable — but if to be resolved, David Evans, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Virginia, suggests it would “require Facebook to break a lot of applications”. This would of course have a detrimental impact on the vast sums of money the companies make from them.


So, the amount of information we automatically pour into our social media accounts, without having to be asked twice could place us at great risk. Unfortunately, the concept and reality of a breach free social networking site may not be possible. As such, it is both in our responsibility as digital citizens, and in our best interests to control what we post and who and what we interact with on social media. However much of a pain, it remains our responsibility to read the privacy policies and control our privacy settings and by doing so, it may not come as quite shock what Facebook might be doing.

The digital age is still growing at a fast pace and the effects it may have on us, as individuals, is only one point of exploration. We can’t beat it, so we may as well join it. Use it correctly and take advantage of all the things it does have to offer us, such as that fab holiday deal!

If the negative implications are having effects on you, attachments are linked throughout to help address the issues raised.


Reflection:

The digital society was always something I had an interest in, but not much practical knowledge of, and studying for a Psychology, BSc degree I want to broaden my options and challenge myself. So having grown up in the digital age and being aware of its great advances, I wanted to become more involved in this area, its impacts and what the foreseeable future may hold — which is what I hoped this course would have provided.

The first assignment is one I really enjoyed, as it enabled me to explore a favourite brand of mine in terms of their online presence. However, my grade reflected a poor use of images and referencing which highlighted my understanding of this. Taking note of the feedback, and reading the helpful articles posted on Medium about correctly referencing and attributing images, I now have confidence in my abilities to do so and have hopefully showed this in Digisoc 2 and Digisoc 3.

Digisoc 3 presented me with an opportunity to explore both ideas, which through my course, I had previous knowledge of and to explore the area of the digital society I had the least knowledge about. From the session ‘The Individual’ and through my own reading and researching, it became apparent how unaware I was of the breaching of privacy which is now prevalent in digital society. I am extremely guilty of not taking any precautions to check my personal settings, or in fact give any thought to, the amount of personal details I provide to sites such as Facebook. I am however now conscious of this and will encourage others to be the same.

I felt most challenged in the Digisoc 2 assignment, where we had to present a PechaKucha style presentation to the class. Honestly, I was contemplating whether to go to the session as it was something I felt very nervous about doing. However, I am grateful I did not miss out on the opportunity as it is a format that is becoming increasingly more popular. Although my presentation was not perfect, I will value it as practice and the gaining of important skills including confidence, time management and communication.

The session I most enjoyed, and really opened my imagination to the endless opportunities the digital society may have to offer in the future, was ‘Smart Cities’. We were encouraged to think way-way out side of the box — ideas which seem almost impossible. However, I’m sure that ‘impossible’ was once a word used when considering the self-driving car.

If I were to do anything differently, it would be to take more advantage of the resources and discussions provided. Whilst I had read the material provided, composing vague answers in my head, I wish I had taken the time to write them in the comments. This, i’m sure, would have been more beneficial for both my peers and myself.

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