Essay on Social Media and the Impact on American Culture
The over used, predictable narrative in movies of two stressed people on their phones, accidently bumping into each other, and spilling a coffee has been laughed at for decades. Most Americans have had a similarly awkward experience involving a phone and lack of awareness. But phones today are filled with much more than just distractions. It is no secret that social media apps have people's constant attention. But with that attention comes caution and scrutiny. So, it is no wonder why so many Americans revolted against social media when violations on Facebook were made public. A bond of trust was broken. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social apps have concerned citizens about the type of impact social media really has on people. Nevertheless, social media continues to thrive because of the fast connections that everyone benefits from. Although social media has been used in a negative way, it has also caused creativity to rise, brought communities together, helped businesses flourish, and even continues to improve through helping end security threats, ultimately placing a positive effect on the people in America.
Social media had a slow start in the beginning. The first social media platforms were mostly blog posts. MySpace started introducing people to sharing videos and thoughts. This way of communication is how people began to develop a self-brand and made the use of social media skyrocket. "By 2006, Facebook and Twitter both became available to users throughout the world. These sites remain some of the most popular social networks on the Internet" (Hendricks). Since social media was still new territory, many people used it harmlessly. Having "followers and "likes" became the new trend amongst many celebrities and people online. Individuals were able to showcase creativity without traveling or spending money. Businesses quickly got involved with social media as well. Most of the privacy concerns started with hackers breaking into accounts and pranking celebrities or high-profile people. But this led to more serious online crimes that eventually started to target innocent American people. Once privacy concerns started rising in America, there was no chance of feeling any other way about the scandal other than angry.
Social Media Steals Privacy
People started to claim that lack of privacy on social media platforms reflected a negative impact on the American people. This stemmed from the most recent and public scandal involving the most popular social media platform. Facebook had recently endured a scandal with Cambridge Analytica influencing people on Facebook with propaganda that was involuntary (Rainie). Cambridge Analytica is an advertising political firm that takes in data from different sources. But when the data collected from America was exposed as illegal, the U.S government stepped in to publicly investigate the CEO of Facebook, and others that were involved. This sparked massive distrust between major social networking sites, and the American people, which led to people to only see the negative impact of social media. However, people are responsible for what content is shared and what information is taken in as fact. Also, people are unaware that social media platforms have since made changes. Each person can delete an account or report content that may be perceived as harmful or is propaganda. Another issue that is important for people to understand is that youth can avoid being targets or privacy issues and propaganda by proper parental controls on the computers and other devices. Brown University editor, Gregory Fritz published an article about parents' responsibility over a child's social media accounts: "Better understanding how and why adolescents interact with social media, as well as the associated risks and benefits, can help parents and caregivers engage in productive conversation and create strategies for responsible use" (1). Most importantly social media is only one aspect of many on the internet, so it cannot be blamed as a reason for the decline in American culture, if any.
Social media unites and brings people together in ways that never would be possible with face-to-face communication (Sharma). Providing a voice to people who have never had one brings motivation and hope to the people in America. Community groups have a voice on social media platforms to show progress that is made while also bringing awareness to certain issues. For example, animal activists have built an online community through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook that spread news about cruelty, and alert people when positive changes have been made (Croswell). PETA recently did a study to find out if people were against or for animal testing through surveys. The researchers found that "opposition to animal testing has risen in all demographic groups, but the largest increase is among 18 – 29-year olds" (Croswell). With a lot of young people on social media, communities can make people aware of traditional and harmful habits that need to stop. Social media has also influenced education positively and the environment bringing technology and awareness. But a big issue that is being reached is the mental health crisis. Citizens can voice true concerns or feelings online, without the embarrassment of saying anything out loud to an actual person. This opens the door for anyone to recognize the struggle someone is going through, and help. This also forces an opening to discuss mental health with youth more often. With social media discussions, a person going through a situation, can find a loving support group that is trustworthy and encouraging to the person (Heath).
The Positive Impact of Social Media on Economy
The way in which social media is used, has helped the economy grow, and sparked a new wave of careers with millennials. Businesses have prospered since social media became available for use in promotion (Sharma). For so long the traditional way of recruiting people for a job was to put up a sign up and wait for calls. But social media changed the way people work together. Now, a person in California can send reports to someone in New York in seconds. A great benefit in social media is that it does not discriminate. Social media advertising has benefited companies because it "reaches all ages and demographics" (Sharma). All people of all colors can create a brand and show off talents. In fact, social media has shown massive inclusion of diversity and praises people for being unique. Millennials often have the reputation of someone who is unable to get a well-paying job, or whose job may not seem like a real job (Tanap). This reputation was partly due to the poor economy. When social media apps were still new, they were mostly used by millennials, and it opened the door for individuals to showcase artistry or connect with people who had similar interests. Thus, businesses were created, and personal brands helped the careers of many youth. The positive influence that developed quickly gave many people hope to rise from the bottom to the top.
The positive impacts that social media continues to have on people are not stopping anytime soon. According to recent statistics, "the region with the highest penetration of social media use is currently North America, with 66 percent... In the United States, an estimated 196 million people used social media in 2016..." ("U.S."). As people on social media grow and change, so will social media, creating a more secure environment for people. Privacy issues will slow down when people act against those specific issues, and not social media. Social media is not just a way for people to connect but can be used to prevent other negative impacts in America from happening again.
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