Friday, 14 November 2014

The Unseen Side Of Social Media

With children generally starting to join and have an active presence on social networking sites from the age of 8, there is no doubt that social media has a major impact on young people's lives. There are obviously good impacts such as: meeting new friends and gaining confidence and a sense of place. However, there are also many negative impacts on young people and these are what i shall now explore.

Recently MPs have released a report saying that the increase of mental health illnesses in young people are connected with the internet and social media. They say that mental health illnesses in young people such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety etc. are related to the amount of cyber bullying that goes on in social media.


Cyber bullying is a major problem with 43% of young people saying that they have been bullied online and 53% of young people having admitted that they themselves had said something hurtful online. The report by MPs is sadly true with proof that cyberbullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide. 

The sad truth about cyberbullying is you probably know someone who is a victim of cyberbullying but is too scared to tell anyone. This is even more true for parent's with only 1 in 6 knowing that their children are being bullied online. This is because it's easy for the bully and the victim to hide the evidence of the bullying because it's online. Many of the victims of cyber bullying hide the bullying from people out of embarrassment and fear. This means the victim goes through this serious bullying without support and help and like DR. Sarah Wollaston chairman of commons health has said they can "never get away from it". Young people live on social networking sites. They use it everywhere they go so people being cyberbullied are always followed by their bullies compared to being physical bullied where once they are home they're safe. The constant harassment and bullying nonstop and not being able to talk to anyone is  therefore why many young victims of cyberbullying end up developing mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety. In severe cases. this can lead to self-harm and even suicide.

I myself was a victim of cyberbullying by my peers in secondary school. I dealt with it in silence through the majority of my last year because I was too scared and embarrassed to speak up like many other victims are. Looking back on my own experience I wish I had been brave enough to speak to someone about the situation so it could have been stopped. However, I didn't and this is the same for many victims so how can we help stop cyber bullying? If the victims are often too scared to talk about it then it's the job of the rest of us to keep an eye out on social networking sites for any signs of bullying. If we see any cases of cyberbullying instead of being bystanders we must do something about it whether it's confronting the bullying, supporting the victim or most importantly telling someone else. If you just watch the bullying going on and don't do anything then you're as bad as the bully. You could stop the victim developing mental health illnesses and help them have a happier and safer time online. So make sure to stand up to cyberbullying!

Cyberbullying, however, one of then main problems of social media for young people isn't the only one. Young people's mental health can be affected by low self-esteem which can come from seeing celebrities and models online who have the "perfect" appearance and body image.

Photoshop is being used more and more on models and celebrities in order to get them to the "perfection" standard. Young people often look up to these people and therefore compare themselves to them. This is an awful thing to do because even the celebrities themselves don't look like what they do in magazines. They are edited to the highest impossible standard. So young people believing that they must look like this is tragic, As no natural person could look that "flawless". The image of your body is beautiful and the imperfections that you may not like actually make you unique and beautifully different from everyone else, Naturally no two people look the same (besides twins) and this is beautiful so why is our culture in media now trying to tell us we all must look the same eg. unnaturally clear skinned, stick thin for women and bulky and muscular for men? 

Young people generally have low self-esteem anyway because they're going through puberty and everything is changing so to have their idols looking "flawless" and so unobtainable it makes their self-esteem lower and can lead to mental health illnesses such as depression and eating disorders.

Whenever you compare yourself to a cover model remember that even the person on the cover didn't look like they do before the photoshop team and makeup artists started on them. Also remember that everyone is unique and unique is beautiful so never change your appearance to fit in because you're beautiful as you're.

Model before and after photoshop

Another main problem with Social Media is peer pressure when it comes to taking sexual pictures. More and more often on social media children are being pressured to have their photo taken doing sexual acts which are then shared around. This has happened to children as young as 11 years old. Social Media isn't a safe way to share private photos as the person receiving it then has the option to share it to any social networking site or person they want. This can leave the young person embarrassed and scared. This can cross over into cyber bullying. Social Networking sites are slowly trying to prevent this from happening with Snapchat just recently updating their app so it lets the users know if a person has saved their picture. This is a good step forward because it means the user will instantly know the other user has a copy and can take immediate action before they can share it around.

The final problem with social media is it gives people a platform to share their opinions on groups of people such as certain religions, races, heterosexual or homosexuals etc. Although in the past 10 years the world has started to become slowly more accepting of diversity there are still people stuck in their ways who disagree with anything different. And social networking sites sadly give these the platform to state their opinion. People feel more confident on social networking sites because no one can hurt them because they're behind a screen. So therefore although some people wouldn't share their opinions against diversity in public because of their fear of the reaction they will share it over social networking sites because they have more confidence as no one can touch them. Thankfully the positive comments about diversity on social networking sites heavily out way the negative comments it can still be quite upsetting for people from that group to see negative comments.

I can definitely say that social media has taken over young people's lives. So much so that i think you can say that it is addictive for young people. I think most people if asked would struggle to give up social media even for a day. It's a force of habit for most people and generally it can have a positive impact, but just make sure when living your life online that you're careful and stay safe!

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