Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

It’s time to change the way we interact with social media

Social media doesn’t have to be a negative experience
Daily Collegian

I was first introduced to social media apps like Instagram and Twitter at age 11, and I found social media to be an incredibly toxic place from the outset. I saw rampant cyberbullying online. Nobody had anything nice to say on social media.

A friend of mine at the time made a fat-shaming hate account of singer Demi Lovato on Instagram. I also noticed that my peers liked to start drama online because saying something nasty online is easier than saying it to someone’s face. Online harassment and cyberbullying remain epidemics.

To this day, social media is an overwhelmingly negative influence. It facilitates comparing ourselves to others and floods us with images of “successful” and “beautiful” people. On a personal level, it feels as though unattainable standards of success and beauty are bombarded on me when I’m on social media. Standards involving what my mental health should be, what my social life should be, how I should look and many other aspects of my life. These messages are conveyed by social media sites through who they put at the center of the spotlight. Television works like this too, although recently, diversity has been given more attention in today’s culture.

Many students have had some contact with social media, and it invites speculation on how this phenomenon affects us. Some studies have shown that high social media usage is linked with an increase in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

I imagine this especially hurts Generation Z, which is generally attached to social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok and more. A study published by the National Library of Medicine says, “social media use was significantly associated with increased depression.” The survey questioned 1,787 people aged 18-to-32 regarding their mental health and social media use. Its findings are consistent with other studies that found a link between social media use and mood dysregulation.

Considering the negative impact that social media can have on young people, I asked students around campus about their experiences with social media.

“Sometimes I feel left out when people post about parties because I don’t go to parties very often,” junior Robert Stark, a sustainable agriculture major said.

Many people relate to this statement. Before social media, if people went to a party and you weren’t invited, you didn’t know about it. In today’s world, it’s right in front of your face. Stark also described himself as a “nerd,” suggesting his comment indicates some truth that certain cliques and peer groups are going to be impacted differently by social media.

Wilson Neira, a senior mechanical engineering major, has also had negative experiences with social media. “Just being exposed to not the best information … information that could be false or a news story making something sound more important than it really is … false information about mental health, too,” he said.

News stories on social media can have a negative impact on one’s mental health, especially since the vast majority of what’s on the news is negative and heartbreaking content. Social media sites skyrocketed in promulgating views of white supremacy in recent years, too. The promotion of false information like this can be especially harmful for the mental health of BIPOC and the LGBTQ community.

Sabrina Bensley, a sophomore English major, told me that social media affects them both positively and negatively. Sabrina said that for queer people like themselves, social media has allowed them to make connections online with people with similar interests or identities. For Sabrina, social media has proven to be beneficial socially, and he made many friends as a freshman through Instagram.

But not everything on social media has been positive for him. Sabrina said there are “disagreements between individuals becoming so public, when the problem could be handled elsewhere.” This resonated with me. I remember a plethora of disagreements on social media platforms taking place when I was in middle school. Sabrina’s experience shows that social media can be helpful for people in protected groups. Even if there are white supremacists peddling hate on social media platforms, there are communities and resources on these networking apps that minorities can join and grow from.

Senior biology major Paul Barrett said “social media is more of an escape” for him, calling it “addictive.”

“I often don’t want to do work because of it,” Barrett said. Social media usage leans more towards the negative side for him. I’d argue, however, that having social media as an escape isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With everyday life stressors and the trauma that some carry around, I don’t blame anyone for needing an escape from life. We probably all need an escape from life sometimes.

I would recommend to the reader to use everything in moderation. Too much of anything is bad. This rule especially applies to your time spent on social media. I would challenge the reader to at least go one day without any form of social media. No Snapchat, no Instagram, no TikTok, no YouTube, nothing.

I admit I do spend time on social media too, but it doesn’t consume me the way I see it consumes many of my peers. Perhaps my generation is the product of social media, but social media should be the product of us. It should reflect our own image, rather than it telling us how we should be.

Richard Gill can be reached at [email protected]

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  • P

    PamelaNov 4, 2022 at 8:24 am

    Great thoughts on social media and the problems that can arise from it.

  • L

    LainiNov 3, 2022 at 9:27 am

    Insightful! Well written and sound advice.👍