Write articles in minutes
Write faster with 70+ templates
Do your work 3x faster
Make images with AI
Support & live chat with customers
Build better customer relationships
Give 24/7 self-service support
Write content fluently in 30+ languages
10 Feature Writing Examples: How to Write in 2024
1. Introduction: The Importance of Feature Writing in 2024
Feature writing has always been a powerful tool for journalists and writers to engage readers and provide in-depth information on a particular topic. In 2024, with the ever-increasing demand for high-quality content , feature writing has become even more crucial. It allows writers to explore various angles, delve into personal stories, and provide a unique perspective on a subject.
1.1 Why is feature writing important in 2024?
Feature writing is important in 2024 because it offers readers a deeper understanding of a topic. It goes beyond the surface-level information and provides in-depth analysis , personal narratives, and expert opinions. This type of writing helps readers connect emotionally and intellectually with the subject matter, making it more memorable and impactful.
1.2 How can feature writing benefit writers in 2024?
Feature writing allows writers to showcase their storytelling skills and creativity. It provides an opportunity to explore different writing styles , experiment with narrative techniques , and captivate readers with compelling stories . In 2024, feature writing can help writers stand out in a crowded digital landscape and establish themselves as authorities in their respective fields.
2. The Elements of Effective Feature Writing
Effective feature writing requires a combination of various elements that work together to create a captivating and informative piece. These elements include:
2.1 Strong Opening
A strong opening is crucial to grab the reader's attention from the start. It can be a compelling anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a surprising fact. The opening should set the tone for the rest of the article and entice the reader to continue reading.
2.2 Engaging Narrative
An engaging narrative is the backbone of feature writing. It involves telling a story that captivates the reader and keeps them engaged throughout the article. This can be achieved through vivid descriptions, character development , and a well-paced plot.
2.3 In-depth Research
In-depth research is essential to provide accurate and reliable information in a feature article . It involves gathering data, conducting interviews, and consulting credible sources. The research should be thorough and comprehensive to ensure the article is well-informed and credible.
2.4 Expert Opinions
Including expert opinions adds credibility and depth to a feature article . It involves interviewing professionals or individuals with expertise in the subject matter. Their insights and perspectives provide valuable context and enhance the overall quality of the article.
2.5 Personal Stories
Personal stories add a human element to feature writing. They help readers connect emotionally with the subject matter and make the article more relatable. Including personal anecdotes or interviews with individuals who have firsthand experience can make the article more compelling and memorable.
2.6 Balanced Perspective
A balanced perspective is crucial in feature writing to present different viewpoints and avoid bias. It involves considering multiple perspectives and presenting them in a fair and objective manner. This helps readers form their own opinions and encourages critical thinking
2.7 Clear Structure
A clear structure is essential to guide the reader through the article. It involves organizing the information in a logical and coherent manner. This can be achieved through the use of subheadings, bullet points, and transitions between paragraphs.
2.8 Compelling Conclusion
A compelling conclusion wraps up the article and leaves a lasting impression on the reader. It can summarize the main points, offer a call to action, or provide a thought-provoking ending. The conclusion should leave the reader with a sense of closure and a desire to further explore the topic.
3. 10 Feature Writing Examples: How to Write in 2024
3.1 example 1: the rise of sustainable fashion.
In this feature article, the writer explores the growing trend of sustainable fashion in 2024. The article begins with a strong opening that highlights the environmental impact of the fashion industry . It then delves into the history of sustainable fashion, provides in-depth research on eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes, and includes interviews with fashion designers and experts in the field. The article concludes with a call to action, encouraging readers to support sustainable fashion brands and make conscious choices when it comes to their wardrobe.
3.2 Example 2: The Power of Mindfulness in the Digital Age
This feature article focuses on the importance of mindfulness in an increasingly digital world. The writer starts with a thought-provoking question about the impact of technology on mental health . The article then explores the benefits of mindfulness practices , such as meditation and mindful eating, backed by scientific research . It includes personal stories of individuals who have experienced the positive effects of mindfulness and provides practical tips for incorporating mindfulness into daily life. The article ends with a compelling conclusion that emphasizes the need for balance between technology and mindfulness.
3.3 Example 3: Exploring the Future of Artificial Intelligence
This feature article delves into the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential impact on various industries. The writer starts with a surprising fact about the rapid advancements in AI technology. The article then provides an overview of AI, its current applications, and future possibilities. It includes interviews with AI experts and explores the ethical implications of AI. The article concludes with a discussion on the importance of responsible AI development and the need for human oversight.
3.4 Example 4: The Changing Landscape of Remote Work
This feature article examines the rise of remote work and its impact on the traditional office environment. The writer begins with a personal anecdote about the benefits of remote work. The article then explores the advantages and challenges of remote work, backed by statistics and expert opinions. It includes tips for successful remote work and highlights the importance of work-life balance . The article concludes with a call to embrace the changing landscape of work and adapt to the new realities of remote work.
3.5 Example 5: The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare
This feature article focuses on the role of artificial intelligence in revolutionizing healthcare. The writer starts with a captivating opening that highlights the potential of AI to improve patient outcomes. The article then explores various applications of AI in healthcare, such as diagnosis, treatment, and personalized medicine. It includes interviews with healthcare professionals and showcases real- life examples of AI in action. The article concludes with a discussion on the ethical considerations of AI in healthcare and the importance of maintaining a human touch in patient care.
3.6 Example 6: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health
This feature article examines the impact of social media on mental health in 2024. The writer begins with a thought-provoking question about the addictive nature of social media. The article then explores the negative effects of excessive social media use, such as anxiety, depression, and body image issues. It includes interviews with psychologists and individuals who have experienced the negative effects of social media. The article concludes with practical tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with social media and prioritizing mental well-being.
3.7 Example 7: The Future of Electric Vehicles
This feature article explores the future of electric vehicles (EVs) and their potential to transform the automotive industry . The writer starts with a surprising fact about the increasing popularity of EVs. The article then provides an overview of EV technology, including advancements in battery technology and charging infrastructure. It includes interviews with EV manufacturers and experts in the field. The article concludes with a discussion on the environmental benefits of EVs and the need for continued investment in sustainable transportation.
3.8 Example 8: The Rise of Plant-Based Diets
This feature article focuses on the rise of plant-based diets and their impact on personal health and the environment. The writer begins with a personal story about the decision to adopt a plant-based diet. The article then explores the health benefits of plant-based eating, backed by scientific research. It includes interviews with nutritionists and individuals who have experienced the positive effects of a plant-based diet. The article concludes with a call to action, encouraging readers to consider incorporating more plant-based foods into their diet for a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.
3.9 Example 9: The Future of Space Exploration
This feature article delves into the future of space exploration and the possibilities of human colonization on other planets. The writer starts with a captivating opening that highlights recent advancements in space technology. The article then explores ongoing space missions, such as Mars exploration, and discusses the challenges and potential benefits of human colonization. It includes interviews with astronauts and experts in the field. The article concludes with a discussion on the importance of space exploration for scientific discovery and the future of humanity.
Feature writing in 2024 offers writers a unique opportunity to engage readers, provide in-depth information, and showcase their storytelling skills. By incorporating strong openings, engaging narratives, in-depth research, expert opinions, personal stories, balanced perspectives, clear structures, and compelling conclusions, writers can create impactful feature articles that resonate with readers. Whether it's exploring the future of technology, addressing social issues, or highlighting emerging trends, feature writing in 2024 plays a vital role in informing and inspiring readers.
Over 15,763 SEO agencies and brands are using AtOnce to rank higher on Google.
It lets you write hundreds of articles on any topic, giving you more clicks to your site.
Get more traffic and sales — without wasting months of your time.
What is feature writing?
Feature writing is a form of journalism that focuses on in-depth storytelling and human interest stories. It goes beyond reporting the facts and aims to engage and captivate the readers through narrative techniques and personal anecdotes.
What are some examples of feature writing?
Some examples of feature writing include profile articles, travel stories, lifestyle pieces, and investigative reports. These types of articles often delve into the lives of individuals, explore unique places or experiences, and provide a deeper understanding of various topics.
How do you write a feature article?
To write a feature article, start by choosing a compelling topic that will resonate with your audience. Conduct thorough research, interview relevant sources, and gather all the necessary information. Structure your article with a catchy headline, an engaging introduction, a well-organized body, and a memorable conclusion. Use descriptive language, storytelling techniques, and quotes to bring your article to life.
Asim is the CEO & founder of AtOnce. After 5 years of marketing & customer service experience, he's now using Artificial Intelligence to save people time.
Social Media's Impact on Society
This article was updated on: 11/19/2021
Social media is an undeniable force in modern society. With over half the global population using social platforms, and the average person spending at least two hours scrolling through them every day , it can’t be overstated that our digital spaces have altered our lives as we knew them. From giving us new ways to come together and stay connected with the world around us, to providing outlets for self-expression, social media has fundamentally changed the way we initiate, build and maintain our relationships.
But while these digital communities have become commonplace in our daily lives, researchers are only beginning to understand the consequences of social media use on future generations. Social media models are changing every day, with major platforms like Meta and Instagram evolving into primary digital advertising spaces as much as social ones. A critical responsibility falls on marketers to spread messages that inform, rather than contribute to the sea of misinformation that thrives on social media.
Read on to see what’s on marketers’ minds when it comes to the impact of social media on society:
You’ve likely heard about the negative impacts that social media can have on mental health. Experts are weighing in on the role that the algorithms and design of social platforms play in exasperating these concerns.
At SXSW 2019 , Aza Raskin, co-founder of the Center for Human Technology, talked about the “digital loneliness epidemic,” which focused on the rise of depression and loneliness as it relates to social media use. During the panel, Raskin spoke about the “infinite scroll,” the design principle that enables users to continuously scroll through their feeds, without ever having to decide whether to keep going—it’s hard to imagine what the bottom of a TikTok feed would look like, and that’s intentional. But with the knowledge that mental health concerns are undeniably linked to social media use, the dilemma we’re now facing is when does good design become inhumane design?
Arguably, Rankin’s term for social media use could now be renamed the “digital loneliness pandemic ” as the world faces unprecedented isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2020 the Ad Council released a study exploring factors that cause loneliness, and what can be done to alleviate it. Interestingly, our research found that while social isolation is one factor that can cause loneliness, 73% of respondents typically maintain interpersonal relationships via technology, including engaging with others on social media. Simply put, social media use can both contribute to and help mitigate feelings of isolation. So how do we address this Catch-22? We should ask ourselves how we can use social media as a platform to foster positive digital communities as young adults rely on it more and more to cope with isolation.
Findings like these have been useful as we reexamine the focuses of Ad Council campaigns. In May 2020, our iconic Seize the Awkward campaign launched new creative highlighting ways young people could use digital communications tools to stay connected and check in on one another’s mental health while practicing physical distancing. A year later, we launched another mental health initiative, Sound It Out , which harnesses the power of music to speak to 10-14-year-olds’ emotional wellbeing. Ad Council has seen the importance of spreading awareness around mental health concerns as they relate to social media consumption in young adults—who will become the next generation of marketers.
EXTREMISM & HATE
Another trend on experts’ minds is how the algorithms behind these massively influential social media platforms may contribute to the rise of extremism and online radicalization.
Major social networking sites have faced criticism over how their advanced algorithms can lead users to increasingly fringe content. These platforms are central to discussions around online extremism, as social forums have become spaces for extreme communities to form and build influence digitally. However, these platforms are responding to concerns and troubleshooting functionalities that have the potential to result in dangerous outcomes. Meta, for example, announced test prompts to provide anti-extremism resources and support for users it believes have been exposed to extremist content on their feeds.
But as extremist groups continue to turn to fringe chatrooms and the “dark web” that begin on social media, combing through the underbelly of the internet and stopping the spread of hateful narratives is a daunting task. Promoting public service messages around Racial Justice and Diversity & Inclusion are just some of the ways that Ad Council and other marketers are using these platforms to move the needle away from hateful messaging and use these platforms to change mindsets in a positive way.
PUBLIC HEALTH CRISES
Social media can be both a space to enlighten and spread messages of doubt. The information age we’re all living in has enabled marketers to intervene as educators and providers of informative messaging to all facets of the American public. And no time has this been more urgent than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public health efforts around mask mandates and vaccine rollouts have now become increasingly polarized issues. Social media platforms have turned into breeding grounds for spreading disinformation around vaccinations, and as a result, has contributed to vaccine hesitancy among the American public. Meta, Instagram, and other platforms have begun to flag certain messages as false, but the work of regulating misinformation, especially during a pandemic, will be an enduring problem. To combat this, Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative have put a particular emphasis on our historic COVID-19 Vaccine Education initiative, which has connected trusted messengers with the “uncommitted” American public who feel the most uncertainty around getting the vaccine.
Living during a global pandemic has only solidified a societal need for social media as a way to stay connected to the world at large. During the pandemic, these platforms have been used to promote hopeful and educational messages, like #AloneTogether , and ensures that social media marketing can act as a public service.
Beyond serving as an educational resource, social media has been the space for digital activism across a myriad of social justice issues. Movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have gone viral thanks to the power of social media. What starts as a simple hashtag has resulted in real change, from passing sexual harassment legislation in response to #MeToo, to pushing for criminal justice reform because of BLM activists. In these cases, social media empowered likeminded people to organize around a specific cause in a way not possible before.
It’s impossible to separate the role of social media from the scalable impact that these movements have had on society. #MeToo and BLM are just two examples of movements that have sparked national attention due in large part to conversations that began on social media.
SO, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MARKETERS?
Social media is a great equalizer that allows for large-scale discourse and an endless, unfiltered stream of content. Looking beyond the repercussions for a generation born on social media, these platforms remain an essential way for marketers to reach their audiences.
Whether you argue there are more benefits or disadvantages to a world run on social media, we can all agree that social media has fundamentally shifted how society communicates. With every scroll, view, like, comment and share, we’re taught something new about the impact of social media on the way we think and see the world.
But until we find a way to hold platforms more accountable for the global consequences of social media use, it’s up to marketers to use these digital resources as engines of progressive messaging. We can’t control the adverse effects of the Internet, but as marketers, we can do our part in ensuring that the right messages are being spread and that social media remains a force for social good.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTERS
Want to stay up to date on industry news, insights, and all our latest work? Subscribe to our email newsletters!
A business journal from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
The Impact of Social Media: Is it Irreplaceable?
July 26, 2019 • 15 min read.
Social media as we know it has barely reached its 20th birthday, but it’s changed the fabric of everyday life. What does the future hold for the sector and the players currently at the top?
- Public Policy
In little more than a decade, the impact of social media has gone from being an entertaining extra to a fully integrated part of nearly every aspect of daily life for many.
Recently in the realm of commerce, Facebook faced skepticism in its testimony to the Senate Banking Committee on Libra, its proposed cryptocurrency and alternative financial system . In politics, heartthrob Justin Bieber tweeted the President of the United States, imploring him to “let those kids out of cages.” In law enforcement, the Philadelphia police department moved to terminate more than a dozen police officers after their racist comments on social media were revealed.
And in the ultimate meshing of the digital and physical worlds, Elon Musk raised the specter of essentially removing the space between social and media through the invention — at some future time — of a brain implant that connects human tissue to computer chips.
All this, in the span of about a week.
As quickly as social media has insinuated itself into politics, the workplace, home life, and elsewhere, it continues to evolve at lightning speed, making it tricky to predict which way it will morph next. It’s hard to recall now, but SixDegrees.com, Friendster, and Makeoutclub.com were each once the next big thing, while one survivor has continued to grow in astonishing ways. In 2006, Facebook had 7.3 million registered users and reportedly turned down a $750 million buyout offer. In the first quarter of 2019, the company could claim 2.38 billion active users, with a market capitalization hovering around half a trillion dollars.
“In 2007 I argued that Facebook might not be around in 15 years. I’m clearly wrong, but it is interesting to see how things have changed,” says Jonah Berger, Wharton marketing professor and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On . The challenge going forward is not just having the best features, but staying relevant, he says. “Social media isn’t a utility. It’s not like power or water where all people care about is whether it works. Young people care about what using one platform or another says about them. It’s not cool to use the same site as your parents and grandparents, so they’re always looking for the hot new thing.”
Just a dozen years ago, everyone was talking about a different set of social networking services, “and I don’t think anyone quite expected Facebook to become so huge and so dominant,” says Kevin Werbach, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics. “At that point, this was an interesting discussion about tech start-ups.
“Today, Facebook is one of the most valuable companies on earth and front and center in a whole range of public policy debates, so the scope of issues we’re thinking about with social media are broader than then,” Werbach adds.
Cambridge Analytica , the impact of social media on the last presidential election and other issues may have eroded public trust, Werbach said, but “social media has become really fundamental to the way that billions of people get information about the world and connect with each other, which raises the stakes enormously.”
Just Say No
“Facebook is dangerous,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) at July’s hearing of the Senate Banking Committee. “Facebook has said, ‘just trust us.’ And every time Americans trust you, they seem to get burned.”
Social media has plenty of detractors, but by and large, do Americans agree with Brown’s sentiment? In 2018, 42% of those surveyed in a Pew Research Center survey said they had taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while 26% said they had deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone.
A year later, though, despite the reputational beating social media had taken, the 2019 iteration of the same Pew survey found social media use unchanged from 2018.
Facebook has its critics, says Wharton marketing professor Pinar Yildirim, and they are mainly concerned about two things: mishandling consumer data and poorly managing access to it by third-party providers; and the level of disinformation spreading on Facebook.
“Social media isn’t a utility. It’s not like power or water where all people care about is whether it works. Young people care about what using one platform or another says about them.” –Jonah Berger
“The question is, are we at a point where the social media organizations and their activities should be regulated for the benefit of the consumer? I do not think more regulation will necessarily help, but certainly this is what is on the table,” says Yildirim. “In the period leading to the [2020 U.S. presidential] elections, we will hear a range of discussions about regulation on the tech industry.”
Some proposals relate to stricter regulation on collection and use of consumer data, Yildirim adds, noting that the European Union already moved to stricter regulations last year by adopting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) . “A number of companies in the U.S. and around the world adopted the GDPR protocol for all of their customers, not just for the residents of EU,” she says. “We will likely hear more discussions on regulation of such data, and we will likely see stricter regulation of this data.”
The other discussion bound to intensify is around the separation of Big Tech into smaller, easier to regulate units. “Most of us academics do not think that dividing organizations into smaller units is sufficient to improve their compliance with regulation. It also does not necessarily mean they will be less competitive,” says Yildirim. “For instance, in the discussion of Facebook, it is not even clear yet how breaking up the company would work, given that it does not have very clear boundaries between different business units.”
Even if such regulations never come to pass, the discussions “may nevertheless hurt Big Tech financially, given that most companies are publicly traded and it adds to the uncertainty,” Yildirim notes.
One prominent commentator about the negative impact of social media is Jaron Lanier, whose fervent opposition makes itself apparent in the plainspoken title of his 2018 book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now . He cites loss of free will, social media’s erosion of the truth and destruction of empathy, its tendency to make people unhappy, and the way in which it is “making politics impossible.” The title of the last chapter: “Social Media Hates Your Soul.”
Lanier is no tech troglodyte. A polymath who bridges the digital and analog realms, he is a musician and writer, has worked as a scientist for Microsoft, and was co-founder of pioneering virtual reality company VPL Research. The nastiness that online existence brings out in users “turned out to be like crude oil for the social media companies and other behavior manipulation empires that quickly came to dominate the internet, because it fuelled negative behavioral feedback,” he writes.
“Social media has become really fundamental to the way that billions of people get information about the world and connect with each other, which raises the stakes enormously.” –Kevin Werbach
Worse, there is an addictive quality to social media, and that is a big issue, says Berger. “Social media is like a drug, but what makes it particularly addictive is that it is adaptive. It adjusts based on your preferences and behaviors,” he says, “which makes it both more useful and engaging and interesting, and more addictive.”
The effect of that drug on mental health is only beginning to be examined, but a recent University of Pennsylvania study makes the case that limiting use of social media can be a good thing. Researchers looked at a group of 143 Penn undergraduates, using baseline monitoring and randomly assigning each to either a group limiting Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat use to 10 minutes per platform per day, or to one told to use social media as usual for three weeks. The results, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology , showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks in the group limiting use compared to the control group.
However, “both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring,” wrote the authors of “ No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression .”
Monetizing a League (and a Reality) All Their Own
No one, though, is predicting that social media is a fad that will pass like its analog antecedent of the 1970s, citizens band radio. It will, however, evolve. The idea of social media as just a way to reconnect with high school friends seems quaint now. The impact of social media today is a big tent, including not only networks like Facebook, but also forums like Reddit and video-sharing platforms.
“The question is, are we at a point where the social media organizations and their activities should be regulated for the benefit of the consumer?” –Pinar Yildirim
Virtual worlds and gaming have become a major part of the sector, too. Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader says gamers are creating their own user-generated content through virtual worlds — and the revenue to go with it. He points to one group of gamers that use Grand Theft Auto as a kind of stage or departure point “to have their own virtual show.” In NoPixel, the Grand Theft Auto roleplaying server, “not much really happens and millions are tuning in to watch them. Just watching, not even participating, and it’s either live-streamed or recorded. And people are making donations to support this thing. The gamers are making hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Now imagine having a 30-person reality show all filmed live and you can take the perspective of one person and then watch it again from another person’s perspective,” he continues. “Along the way, they can have a tip jar or talk about things they endorse. That kind of immersive media starts to build the bridge to what we like to get out of TV, but even better. Those things are on the periphery right now, but I think they are going to take over.”
Big players have noticed the potential of virtual sports and are getting into the act. In a striking example of the physical world imitating the digital one, media companies are putting up real-life stadiums where teams compete in video games. Comcast Spectator in March announced that it is building a new $50 million stadium in South Philadelphia that will be the home of the Philadelphia Fusion, the city’s e-sports team in the Overwatch League.
E-sports is serious business, with revenues globally — including advertising, sponsorships, and media rights — expected to reach $1.1 billion in 2019, according to gaming industry analytics company Newzoo.
“E-sports is absolutely here to stay,” says Fader, “and I think it’s a safe bet to say that e-sports will dominate most traditional sports, managing far more revenue and having more impact on our consciousness than baseball.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Facebook has begun making deals to carry e-sports content. In fact, it is diversification like this that may keep Facebook from ending up like its failed upstart peers. One thing that Facebook has managed to do that MySpace, Friendster, and others didn’t, is “a very good job of creating functional integration with the value they are delivering, as opposed to being a place to just share photos or send messages, it serves a lot of diversified functions,” says Keith E. Niedermeier, director of Wharton’s undergraduate marketing program and an adjunct professor of marketing. “They are creating groups and group connections, but you see them moving into lots of other services like streaming entertainment, mobile payments, and customer-to-customer buying and selling.”
“[WeChat] has really instantiated itself as a day-to-day tool in China, and it’s clear to me that Facebook would like to emulate that sort of thing.” –Keith Niedermeier
In China, WeChat has become the biggest mobile payment platform in the world and it is the platform for many third-party apps for things like bike sharing and ordering airplane tickets. “It has really instantiated itself as a day-to-day tool in China, and it’s clear to me that Facebook would like to emulate that sort of thing,” says Niedermeier.
Among nascent social media platforms that are particularly promising right now, Yildirim says that “social media platforms which are directed at achieving some objectives with smaller scale and more homogenous people stand a higher chance of entering the market and being able to compete with large, general-purpose platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.”
Irreplaceable – and Damaging?
Of course, many have begun to believe that the biggest challenge around the impact of social media may be the way it is changing society. The “attention-grabbing algorithms underlying social media … propel authoritarian practices that aim to sow confusion, ignorance, prejudice, and chaos, thereby facilitating manipulation and undermining accountability,” writes University of Toronto political science professor Ronald Deibert in a January essay in the Journal of Democracy .
Berger notes that any piece of information can now get attention, whether it is true or false. This means more potential for movements both welcome as well as malevolent. “Before, only media companies had reach, so it was harder for false information to spread. It could happen, but it was slow. Now anyone can share anything, and because people tend to believe what they see, false information can spread just as, if not more easily, than the truth.
“It’s certainly allowed more things to bubble up rather than flow from the top down,” says Berger. Absent gatekeepers, “everyone is their own media company, broadcasting to the particular set of people that follow them. It used to be that a major label signing you was the path to stardom. Now artists can build their own following online and break through that way. Social media has certainly made fame and attention more democratic, though not always in a good way.”
Deibert writes that “in a short period of time, digital technologies have become pervasive and deeply embedded in all that we do. Unwinding them completely is neither possible nor desirable.”
His cri de coeur argues: that citizens have the right to know what companies and governments are doing with their personal data, and that this right be extended internationally to hold autocratic regimes to account; that companies be barred from selling products and services that enable infringements on human rights and harms to civil society; for the creation of independent agencies with real power to hold social-media platforms to account; and the creation and enforcement of strong antitrust laws to end dominance of a very few social-media companies.
“Social media has certainly made fame and attention more democratic, though not always in a good way.” –Jonah Berger
The rising tide of concern is now extending across sectors. The U.S. Justice Department has recently begun an anti-trust investigation into how tech companies operate in social media, search, and retail services. In July, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the award of nearly $50 million in new funding to 11 U.S. universities to research how technology is transforming democracy. The foundation is also soliciting additional grant proposals to fund policy and legal research into the “rules, norms, and governance” that should be applied to social media and technology companies.
Given all of the reasons not to engage with social media — the privacy issues, the slippery-slope addiction aspect of it, its role in spreading incivility — do we want to try to put the genie back in the bottle? Can we? Does social media definitely have a future?
“Yes, surely it does,” says Yildirim. “Social connections are fabrics of society. Just as the telegraph or telephone as an innovation of communication did not reduce social connectivity, online social networks did not either. If anything, it likely increased connectivity, or reduced the cost of communicating with others.”
It is thanks to online social networks that individuals likely have larger social networks, she says, and while many criticize the fact that we are in touch with large numbers of individuals in a superficial way, these light connections may nevertheless be contributing to our lives when it comes to economic and social outcomes — ranging from finding jobs to meeting new people.
“We are used to being in contact with more individuals, and it is easier to remain in contact with people we only met once. Giving up on this does not seem likely for humans,” she says. “The technology with which we keep in touch may change, may evolve, but we will have social connections and platforms which enable them. Facebook may be gone in 10 years, but there will be something else.”
More From Knowledge at Wharton
Why Generative AI Investments Are Surging in the U.S.
How Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard Deal Is Transformative
Will the Microsoft and Activision Blizzard Deal Lead to More Transformative Tech Acquisitions?
Looking for more insights.
Sign up to stay informed about our latest article releases.
An official website of the United States government
The .gov means it's official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.
The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.
- Account settings
- Browse Titles
NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
Office of the Surgeon General (OSG). Social Media and Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory [Internet]. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2023.
Social Media and Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory [Internet].
Social media has both positive and negative impacts on children and adolescents.
The influence of social media on youth mental health is shaped by many complex factors, including, but not limited to, the amount of time children and adolescents spend on platforms, the type of content they consume or are otherwise exposed to, the activities and interactions social media affords, and the degree to which it disrupts activities that are essential for health like sleep and physical activity. 6 Importantly, different children and adolescents are affected by social media in different ways, based on their individual strengths and vulnerabilities, and based on cultural, historical, and socio-economic factors. 7 , 8 There is broad agreement among the scientific community that social media has the potential to both benefit and harm children and adolescents. 6 , 9
Brain development is a critical factor to consider when assessing the risk for harm. Adolescents, ages 10 to 19, are undergoing a highly sensitive period of brain development. 10 , 11 This is a period when risk-taking behaviors reach their peak, when well-being experiences the greatest fluctuations, and when mental health challenges such as depression typically emerge. 12 , 13 , 14 Furthermore, in early adolescence, when identities and sense of self-worth are forming, brain development is especially susceptible to social pressures, peer opinions, and peer comparison. 11 , 13 Frequent social media use may be associated with distinct changes in the developing brain in the amygdala (important for emotional learning and behavior) and the prefrontal cortex (important for impulse control, emotional regulation, and moderating social behavior), and could increase sensitivity to social rewards and punishments. 15 , 16 As such, adolescents may experience heightened emotional sensitivity to the communicative and interactive nature of social media. 16 Adolescent social media use is predictive of a subsequent decrease in life satisfaction for certain developmental stages including for girls 11–13 years old and boys 14–15 years old. 17 Because adolescence is a vulnerable period of brain development, social media exposure during this period warrants additional scrutiny.
- The Potential Benefits of Social Media Use Among Children and Adolescents
Social media can provide benefits for some youth by providing positive community and connection with others who share identities, abilities, and interests. It can provide access to important information and create a space for self-expression. 9 The ability to form and maintain friendships online and develop social connections are among the positive effects of social media use for youth. 18 , 19 These relationships can afford opportunities to have positive interactions with more diverse peer groups than are available to them offline and can provide important social support to youth. 18 The buffering effects against stress that online social support from peers may provide can be especially important for youth who are often marginalized, including racial, ethnic, and sexual and gender minorities. 20 , 21 , 22 For example, studies have shown that social media may support the mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, transgender, queer, intersex and other youths by enabling peer connection, identity development and management, and social support. 23 Seven out of ten adolescent girls of color report encountering positive or identity-affirming content related to race across social media platforms. 24 A majority of adolescents report that social media helps them feel more accepted (58%), like they have people who can support them through tough times (67%), like they have a place to show their creative side (71%), and more connected to what’s going on in their friends’ lives (80%). 25 In addition, research suggests that social media-based and other digitally-based mental health interventions may also be helpful for some children and adolescents by promoting help-seeking behaviors and serving as a gateway to initiating mental health care. 8 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29
- The Potential Harms of Social Media Use Among Children and Adolescents
Over the last decade, evidence has emerged identifying reasons for concern about the potential negative impact of social media on children and adolescents.
A longitudinal cohort study of U.S. adolescents aged 12–15 (n=6,595) that adjusted for baseline mental health status found that adolescents who spent more than 3 hours per day on social media faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression and anxiety. 30
As of 2021, 8th and 10th graders now spend an average of 3.5 hours per day on social media. 31 In a unique natural experiment that leveraged the staggered introduction of a social media platform across U.S. colleges, the roll-out of the platform was associated with an increase in depression (9% over baseline) and anxiety (12% over baseline) among college-aged youth (n = 359,827 observations). 32 The study’s co-author also noted that when applied across the entirety of the U.S. college population, the introduction of the social media platform may have contributed to more than 300,000 new cases of depression. 32 , 33 If such sizable effects occurred in college-aged youth, these findings raise serious concerns about the risk of harm from social media exposure for children and adolescents who are at a more vulnerable stage of brain development.
Limits on the use of social media have resulted in mental health benefits for young adults and adults. A small, randomized controlled trial in college-aged youth found that limiting social media use to 30 minutes daily over three weeks led to significant improvements in depression severity. 34 This effect was particularly large for those with high baseline levels of depression who saw an improvement in depression scores by more than 35%. 35 Another randomized controlled trial among young adults and adults found that deactivation of a social media platform for four weeks improved subjective well-being (i.e., self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety) by about 25–40% of the effect of psychological interventions like self-help therapy, group training, and individual therapy. 36
In addition to these recent studies, correlational research on associations between social media use and mental health has indicated reason for concern and further investigation. These studies point to a higher relative concern of harm in adolescent girls and those already experiencing poor mental health, 37 , 38 , 39 as well as for particular health outcomes like cyberbullying-related depression, 40 body image and disordered eating behaviors, 41 and poor sleep quality linked to social media use. 42 For example, a study conducted among 14-year-olds (n = 10,904) found that greater social media use predicted poor sleep, online harassment, poor body image, low self-esteem, and higher depressive symptom scores with a larger association for girls than boys. 43 A majority of parents of adolescents say they are somewhat, very, or extremely worried that their child’s use of social media could lead to problems with anxiety or depression (53%), lower self-esteem (54%), being harassed or bullied by others (54%), feeling pressured to act a certain way (59%), and exposure to explicit content (71%). 44
Unless otherwise noted in the text, all material appearing in this work is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission. Citation of the source is appreciated.
- Cite this Page Office of the Surgeon General (OSG). Social Media and Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory [Internet]. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2023. Social Media Has Both Positive and Negative Impacts on Children and Adolescents.
- PDF version of this title (1005K)
In this Page
Other titles in this collection.
- Publications and Reports of the Surgeon General
- Social Media Has Both Positive and Negative Impacts on Children and Adolescents ... Social Media Has Both Positive and Negative Impacts on Children and Adolescents - Social Media and Youth Mental Health
Your browsing activity is empty.
Activity recording is turned off.
Turn recording back on
Connect with NLM
National Library of Medicine 8600 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20894
Web Policies FOIA HHS Vulnerability Disclosure
Help Accessibility Careers
Suggestions or feedback?
MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Machine learning
- Social justice
- Black holes
- Classes and programs
- Aeronautics and Astronautics
- Brain and Cognitive Sciences
- Political Science
- Mechanical Engineering
Centers, Labs, & Programs
- Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)
- Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
- Lincoln Laboratory
- School of Architecture + Planning
- School of Engineering
- School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
- Sloan School of Management
- School of Science
- MIT Schwarzman College of Computing
Why social media has changed the world — and how to fix it
Press contact :, media download.
Images for download on the MIT News office website are made available to non-commercial entities, press and the general public under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license . You may not alter the images provided, other than to crop them to size. A credit line must be used when reproducing images; if one is not provided below, credit the images to "MIT."
Previous image Next image
Are you on social media a lot? When is the last time you checked Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram? Last night? Before breakfast? Five minutes ago?
If so, you are not alone — which is the point, of course. Humans are highly social creatures. Our brains have become wired to process social information, and we usually feel better when we are connected. Social media taps into this tendency.
“Human brains have essentially evolved because of sociality more than any other thing,” says Sinan Aral, an MIT professor and expert in information technology and marketing. “When you develop a population-scale technology that delivers social signals to the tune of trillions per day in real-time, the rise of social media isn’t unexpected. It’s like tossing a lit match into a pool of gasoline.”
The numbers make this clear. In 2005, about 7 percent of American adults used social media. But by 2017, 80 percent of American adults used Facebook alone. About 3.5 billion people on the planet, out of 7.7 billion, are active social media participants. Globally, during a typical day, people post 500 million tweets, share over 10 billion pieces of Facebook content, and watch over a billion hours of YouTube video.
As social media platforms have grown, though, the once-prevalent, gauzy utopian vision of online community has disappeared. Along with the benefits of easy connectivity and increased information, social media has also become a vehicle for disinformation and political attacks from beyond sovereign borders.
“Social media disrupts our elections, our economy, and our health,” says Aral, who is the David Austin Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Now Aral has written a book about it. In “The Hype Machine,” published this month by Currency, a Random House imprint, Aral details why social media platforms have become so successful yet so problematic, and suggests ways to improve them.
As Aral notes, the book covers some of the same territory as “The Social Dilemma,” a documentary that is one of the most popular films on Netflix at the moment. But Aral’s book, as he puts it, "starts where ‘The Social Dilemma’ leaves off and goes one step further to ask: What can we do about it?”
“This machine exists in every facet of our lives,” Aral says. “And the question in the book is, what do we do? How do we achieve the promise of this machine and avoid the peril? We’re at a crossroads. What we do next is essential, so I want to equip people, policymakers, and platforms to help us achieve the good outcomes and avoid the bad outcomes.”
When “engagement” equals anger
“The Hype Machine” draws on Aral’s own research about social networks, as well as other findings, from the cognitive sciences, computer science, business, politics, and more. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles, for instance, have found that people obtain bigger hits of dopamine — the chemical in our brains highly bound up with motivation and reward — when their social media posts receive more likes.
At the same time, consider a 2018 MIT study by Soroush Vosoughi, an MIT PhD student and now an assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth College; Deb Roy, MIT professor of media arts and sciences and executive director of the MIT Media Lab; and Aral, who has been studying social networking for 20 years. The three researchers found that on Twitter, from 2006 to 2017, false news stories were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true ones. Why? Most likely because false news has greater novelty value compared to the truth, and provokes stronger reactions — especially disgust and surprise.
In this light, the essential tension surrounding social media companies is that their platforms gain audiences and revenue when posts provoke strong emotional responses, often based on dubious content.
“This is a well-designed, well-thought-out machine that has objectives it maximizes,” Aral says. “The business models that run the social-media industrial complex have a lot to do with the outcomes we’re seeing — it’s an attention economy, and businesses want you engaged. How do they get engagement? Well, they give you little dopamine hits, and … get you riled up. That’s why I call it the hype machine. We know strong emotions get us engaged, so [that favors] anger and salacious content.”
From Russia to marketing
“The Hype Machine” explores both the political implications and business dimensions of social media in depth. Certainly social media is fertile terrain for misinformation campaigns. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Russia spread false information to at least 126 million people on Facebook and another 20 million people on Instagram (which Facebook owns), and was responsible for 10 million tweets. About 44 percent of adult Americans visited a false news source in the final weeks of the campaign.
“I think we need to be a lot more vigilant than we are,” says Aral.
We do not know if Russia’s efforts altered the outcome of the 2016 election, Aral says, though they may have been fairly effective. Curiously, it is not clear if the same is true of most U.S. corporate engagement efforts.
As Aral examines, digital advertising on most big U.S. online platforms is often wildly ineffective, with academic studies showing that the “lift” generated by ad campaigns — the extent to which they affect consumer action — has been overstated by a factor of hundreds, in some cases. Simply counting clicks on ads is not enough. Instead, online engagement tends to be more effective among new consumers, and when it is targeted well; in that sense, there is a parallel between good marketing and guerilla social media campaigns.
“The two questions I get asked the most these days,” Aral says, “are, one, did Russia succeed in intervening in our democracy? And two, how do I measure the ROI [return on investment] from marketing investments? As I was writing this book, I realized the answer to those two questions is the same.”
Ideas for improvement
“The Hype Machine” has received praise from many commentators. Foster Provost, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, says it is a “masterful integration of science, business, law, and policy.” Duncan Watts, a university professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says the book is “essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how we got here and how we can get somewhere better.”
In that vein, “The Hype Machine” has several detailed suggestions for improving social media. Aral favors automated and user-generated labeling of false news, and limiting revenue-collection that is based on false content. He also calls for firms to help scholars better research the issue of election interference.
Aral believes federal privacy measures could be useful, if we learn from the benefits and missteps of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and a new California law that lets consumers stop some data-sharing and allows people to find out what information companies have stored about them. He does not endorse breaking up Facebook, and suggests instead that the social media economy needs structural reform. He calls for data portability and interoperability, so “consumers would own their identities and could freely switch from one network to another.” Aral believes that without such fundamental changes, new platforms will simply replace the old ones, propelled by the network effects that drive the social-media economy.
“I do not advocate any one silver bullet,” says Aral, who emphasizes that changes in four areas together — money, code, norms, and laws — can alter the trajectory of the social media industry.
But if things continue without change, Aral adds, Facebook and the other social media giants risk substantial civic backlash and user burnout.
“If you get me angry and riled up, I might click more in the short term, but I might also grow really tired and annoyed by how this is making my life miserable, and I might turn you off entirely,” Aral observes. “I mean, that’s why we have a Delete Facebook movement, that’s why we have a Stop Hate for Profit movement. People are pushing back against the short-term vision, and I think we need to embrace this longer-term vision of a healthier communications ecosystem.”
Changing the social media giants can seem like a tall order. Still, Aral says, these firms are not necessarily destined for domination.
“I don’t think this technology or any other technology has some deterministic endpoint,” Aral says. “I want to bring us back to a more practical reality, which is that technology is what we make it, and we are abdicating our responsibility to steer technology toward good and away from bad. That is the path I try to illuminate in this book.”
Share this news article on:
Prof. Sinan Aral’s new book, “The Hype Machine,” has been selected as one of the best books of the year about AI by Wired . Gilad Edelman notes that Aral’s book is “an engagingly written shortcut to expertise on what the likes of Facebook and Twitter are doing to our brains and our society.”
Prof. Sinan Aral speaks with Danny Crichton of TechCrunch about his new book, “The Hype Machine,” which explores the future of social media. Aral notes that he believes a starting point “for solving the social media crisis is creating competition in the social media economy.”
New York Times
Prof. Sinan Aral speaks with New York Times editorial board member Greg Bensinger about how social media platforms can reduce the spread of misinformation. “Human-in-the-loop moderation is the right solution,” says Aral. “It’s not a simple silver bullet, but it would give accountability where these companies have in the past blamed software.”
Prof. Sinan Aral speaks with Kara Miller of GBH’s Innovation Hub about his research examining the impact of social media on everything from business re-openings during the Covid-19 pandemic to politics.
Prof. Sinan Aral speaks with NPR’s Michael Martin about his new book, “The Hype Machine,” which explores the benefits and downfalls posed by social media. “I've been researching social media for 20 years. I've seen its evolution and also the techno utopianism and dystopianism,” says Aral. “I thought it was appropriate to have a book that asks, 'what can we do to really fix the social media morass we find ourselves in?'”
Previous item Next item
- MIT Sloan School of Management
- Business and management
- Social media
- Books and authors
- Behavioral economics
The catch to putting warning labels on fake news
Our itch to share helps spread Covid-19 misinformation
Better fact-checking for fake news
Study: On Twitter, false news travels faster than true stories
More mit news.
The Beaver visits Father Sky: Meet MIT’s First Nations Launch team
Read full story →
GlycoMIT Symposium celebrates advancements in glycobiology
Three from MIT named American Physical Society Fellows for 2023
Anesthesia technology precisely controls unconsciousness in animal tests
Panel examines Israel-Hamas conflict
- More news on MIT News homepage →
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA, USA
- Map (opens in new window)
- Events (opens in new window)
- People (opens in new window)
- Careers (opens in new window)
- Social Media Hub
- MIT on Facebook
- MIT on YouTube
- MIT on Instagram
Skip to content
Feature Article — Dissecting Social Media: What You Should Know
Published on Aug 11, 2020
Have you checked your Facebook News Feed recently? Watched a YouTube video? Posted on Instagram? Sent a Tweet? If so, you are among the 3.5 billion people worldwide who actively use social media.
Social media users generate a massive amount of information, from personal posts, photos and videos, to blogs, DIY articles and much more. While some content aims to entertain or inform, other information is intentionally meant to mislead or deceive. Those who intend to mislead rely on people sharing their messages to spread misinformation. As a result, it’s important to critically evaluate any information you see before sharing it further.
So, how can you tell which information is valid and which is not?
Read on to find some simple tips for checking posts. With a quick review, not only can you learn more about the reliability of what you are seeing, you can also help decrease the amount of bad information received by those in your network.
Looking at the parts of a post
- Does the headline sound true or was it designed to be sensational?
- Does the headline agree with the content of the story?
- Is the headline funny or satirical?
Example: “The CDC has adjusted their COVID19 deaths from 64,000 to 37,000. What do you think about that? Still scared? Angry yet?”
This headline appeared in a Facebook post to support a conspiracy theory that the pandemic is a hoax. FactCheck.org explained that the adjustments were the result of two lists maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and why they were not in sync.
- Who wrote the post? If it is anonymous, this should raise a red flag.
- What do you know about the author? Is this an individual or someone representing an organization?
- Does the author claim to be an expert? Do the author’s credentials back up the claim?
- Does the author have an online profile? What kind of photo do they use on their profile? What is their screen name?
- Is the author selling something related to the topic?
Example: “OSHA 10&30 certified”
Several social media posts about the effectiveness of wearing face masks have misrepresented information provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In one of them, shown on Snopes , the author claimed to be “OSHA 10&30 certified,” but OSHA confirmed that while they have training courses of 10 and 30 hours, the courses do not provide “certification,” nor do they cover COVID-19. In this case, the author was presenting misleading qualifications to sound like an expert.
In many cases, information will not come from the original source; it may have been forwarded by someone else in a person’s network. Often, people assume that because the person who sent it to them is reliable, they can trust the information. But, since not everyone checks the credibility of information before sharing it, users should be wary of any post. For these reasons, you will want to try to determine the original source:
- Who originally posted the information? Information shared on social media can be traced back to an original publication source by either clicking on the post or by searching for the original source online.
- How long has the source existed? New sources that have appeared to address a controversial issue might have a hidden agenda.
- Author’s name
- Publication date
- Organization’s mission and purpose
- Contact information
- Physical address
- Current copyright date
- Accurate reporting supported by evidence
- Links to other sources that back up the claim
If you can’t find the source or are not sure if the information is credible, it is best not to share it.
Example: “And the people stayed home” poem attributed to an author who lived through the 1918 influenza pandemic
A poem that went viral during the COVID-19 pandemic was misattributed to an author who lived through the “Spanish flu pandemic of 1919.” When Snopes traced back the original source of “And the people stayed home,” it found that the author wrote the poem in 2020 about the COVID-19 pandemic, not the 1918 Spanish flu.
- When was the post originally published? Is it recent? Old information often resurfaces on social media when it appears timely, so it is useful to check the date.
- Does the author seem biased?
- What evidence is offered to support the claims being made? If the author doesn’t offer evidence or if the “evidence” is only anecdotes or opinions, seek other sources for more information before believing what is being shared.
- Can the quotes be attributed to legitimate people? Are those people informed about the topic?
- What is the quality of the writing? Often, articles with noticeable typos or grammatical errors are a sign that the post is not legitimate.
- What do other sources say about this topic? The more outlandish something seems, the more important it is to see if other sources are reporting the same thing. Even when consuming legitimate news, it is important to check the story from a few different sources because they will have different viewpoints and may cover different details, which will allow you to piece together a more complete picture of the situation.
- Has the issue been addressed by fact checkers? Sites like FactCheck.org , PolitiFact.com and Snopes.com are just a few of the websites dedicated to fact-checking.
Example: Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind COVID-19 documentary
When Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind COVID-19 went viral with outlandish claims about SARS-CoV-2, fact-checkers got busy scrutinizing the content. Both PolitiFact and FactCheck.org highlighted a host of false and misleading claims related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, including its origins, vaccines, treatments and more. Plandemic had more than 8 million views in the first week of its release.
Visuals are increasingly becoming an issue as more people edit images to make them align with a particular viewpoint of the story being told. This is especially true of those who intend to misinform or deceive.
- Does the photo appear shocking, particularly engaging, or simply out of place? Try using Google Images or TinEye to find the original photo. In particular, look for any signs that the image has been altered, such as people or things that were not part of the original photo.
- When and where was the original photo taken? Often old images are used to represent current topics, particularly on social media.
- Is a video or audio soundbite being used? If so, try to find the original video or recording so you can evaluate the context for which it was meant.
Example: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation building
A side-by-side comparison of an original photo of the exterior of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation building alongside a doctored photo clearly shows alterations. A quick Google Image search brings up many original, unaltered copies of the photo.
In conclusion, as you use these tips more often, you will get faster and better at recognizing misinformation and deception. By thinking critically, looking for the small details, listening to different perspectives, and fact-checking, the spread of misinformation can stop with you.
Download a PDF version of this article.
For more information
- The Washington Post Fact Checker
- News Literacy Project (NLP) — Provides information for educators and the public to help them become active consumers of news and information.
- Informable mobile App — A free app by the News Literacy Project aims to help players practice differentiating between good and bad information they find online.
- AllSides — Provides media bias ratings for hundreds of media outlets and writers to help the public identify different perspectives.
Categories: Parents PACK August 2020 , Feature Article
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.
- Share full article
How Does Social Media Affect Your Mental Health?
Facebook has delayed the development of an Instagram app for children amid questions about its harmful effects on young people’s mental health. Does social media have an impact on your well-being?
By Nicole Daniels
What is your relationship with social media like? Which platforms do you spend the most time on? Which do you stay away from? How often do you log on?
What do you notice about your mental health and well-being when spending time on social networks?
In “ Facebook Delays Instagram App for Users 13 and Younger ,” Adam Satariano and Ryan Mac write about the findings of an internal study conducted by Facebook and what they mean for the Instagram Kids app that the company was developing:
Facebook said on Monday that it had paused development of an Instagram Kids service that would be tailored for children 13 years old or younger, as the social network increasingly faces questions about the app’s effect on young people’s mental health. The pullback preceded a congressional hearing this week about internal research conducted by Facebook , and reported in The Wall Street Journal , that showed the company knew of the harmful mental health effects that Instagram was having on teenage girls. The revelations have set off a public relations crisis for the Silicon Valley company and led to a fresh round of calls for new regulation. Facebook said it still wanted to build an Instagram product intended for children that would have a more “age appropriate experience,” but was postponing the plans in the face of criticism.
The article continues:
With Instagram Kids, Facebook had argued that young people were using the photo-sharing app anyway, despite age-requirement rules, so it would be better to develop a version more suitable for them. Facebook said the “kids” app was intended for ages 10 to 12 and would require parental permission to join, forgo ads and carry more age-appropriate content and features. Parents would be able to control what accounts their child followed. YouTube, which Google owns, has released a children’s version of its app. But since BuzzFeed broke the news this year that Facebook was working on the app, the company has faced scrutiny. Policymakers, regulators, child safety groups and consumer rights groups have argued that it hooks children on the app at a younger age rather than protecting them from problems with the service, including child predatory grooming, bullying and body shaming.
The article goes on to quote Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram:
Mr. Mosseri said on Monday that the “the project leaked way before we knew what it would be” and that the company had “few answers” for the public at the time. Opposition to Facebook’s plans gained momentum this month when The Journal published articles based on leaked internal documents that showed Facebook knew about many of the harms it was causing. Facebook’s internal research showed that Instagram, in particular, had caused teen girls to feel worse about their bodies and led to increased rates of anxiety and depression, even while company executives publicly tried to minimize the app’s downsides.
But concerns about the effect of social media on young people go beyond Instagram Kids, the article notes:
A children’s version of Instagram would not fix more systemic problems, said Al Mik, a spokesman for 5Rights Foundation, a London group focused on digital rights issues for children. The group published a report in July showing that children as young as 13 were targeted within 24 hours of creating an account with harmful content, including material related to eating disorders, extreme diets, sexualized imagery, body shaming, self-harm and suicide. “Big Tobacco understood that the younger you got to someone, the easier you could get them addicted to become a lifelong user,” Doug Peterson, Nebraska’s attorney general, said in an interview. “I see some comparisons to social media platforms.” In May, attorneys general from 44 states and jurisdictions had signed a letter to Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to end plans for building an Instagram app for children. American policymakers should pass tougher laws to restrict how tech platforms target children, said Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, a Boston-based group that was part of an international coalition of children’s and consumer groups opposed to the new app. Last year, Britain adopted an Age Appropriate Design Code , which requires added privacy protections for digital services used by people under the age of 18.
Students, read the entire article , then tell us:
Do you think Facebook made the right decision in halting the development of the Instagram Kids app? Do you think there should be social media apps for children 13 and younger? Why or why not?
What is your reaction to the research that found that Instagram can have harmful mental health effects on teenagers, particularly teenage girls? Have you experienced body image issues, anxiety or depression tied to your use of the app? How do you think social media affects your mental health?
What has your experience been on different social media apps? Are there apps that have a more positive or negative effect on your well-being? What do you think could explain these differences?
Have you ever been targeted with inappropriate or harmful content on Instagram or other social media apps? What responsibility do you think social media companies have to address these issues? Do you think there should be more protections in place for users under 18? Why or why not?
What does healthy social media engagement look like for you? What habits do you have around social media that you feel proud of? What behaviors would you like to change? How involved are your parents in your social media use? How involved do you think they should be?
If you were in charge of making Instagram, or another social media app, safer for teenagers, what changes would you make?
Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column . Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.
Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.
Nicole Daniels joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2019 after working in museum education, curriculum writing and bilingual education. More about Nicole Daniels
- Search Menu
- Advance Articles
- Editor's Choice
- Virtual Roundtables
- Author Videos
- Author Guidelines
- Submission Site
- Open Access Options
- About The European Journal of Public Health
- About the European Public Health Association
- Editorial Board
- Advertising and Corporate Services
- Journals Career Network
- Self-Archiving Policy
- Terms and Conditions
- Explore Publishing with EJPH
- Journals on Oxford Academic
- Books on Oxford Academic
- < Previous
The impact of social media interventions on mental well-being: a systematic review
- Article contents
- Figures & tables
- Supplementary Data
R Plackett, A Blyth, P Schartau, The impact of social media interventions on mental well-being: a systematic review, European Journal of Public Health , Volume 33, Issue Supplement_2, October 2023, ckad160.1577, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckad160.1577
- Permissions Icon Permissions
There is some evidence that problematic social media use is related to poorer mental well-being. To improve users’ mental well-being, social media interventions, e.g., abstinence from social media, have been recommended. However, there is limited understanding of their effectiveness. This systematic review aimed to synthesise literature on the effectiveness of social media interventions for improving mental well-being.
Three databases were searched (2004-June 2022). Experimental studies evaluating the impact of social media interventions on mental well-being in adults were included. Outcomes such as depression, and loneliness, were included. A narrative synthesis was completed to summarise effectiveness by outcomes and intervention type. The Quality Assessment Tool was used to measure quality.
Of 2,785 results, 23 studies were included for analysis. Many studies (9/23, 39%) found improvements in mental well-being, seven (7/23, 30%) found mixed effects and seven found no effect on mental well-being. Therapy-based interventions, that used techniques from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, were more effective (83%, 5/6 of studies showing benefit) than limiting use (20%, 1/5) or full abstinence from social media (25%, 3/12). Depression was the most improved outcome with 70% (7/10) of studies showing a significant improvement after the intervention. Quality was poor, 96% (22/23) of studies received a weak score, mostly due to selection bias, as most used convenience sampling of university students (16/23, 70%).
This review provides some evidence that social media interventions are effective in improving mental well-being, especially for depression and when using therapy-based techniques. Further research with representative samples is needed to understand who may benefit most from social media interventions. This will help to develop guidance for policymakers and clinicians on how to manage problematic social media use.
• The relationship between social media and mental well-being is complex and experimental evidence overall does not show conclusively that less time spent on social media improves mental well-being.
• Reflecting on why/when social can become problematic for our mental health can improve mental well-being, so policies/public health interventions should focus on how we use social media.
Citing articles via.
- Contact EUPHA
- Recommend to your Library
- Online ISSN 1464-360X
- Print ISSN 1101-1262
- Copyright © 2023 European Public Health Association
- About Oxford Academic
- Publish journals with us
- University press partners
- What we publish
- New features
- Open access
- Institutional account management
- Rights and permissions
- Get help with access
- Media enquiries
- Oxford University Press
- Oxford Languages
- University of Oxford
Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide
- Copyright © 2023 Oxford University Press
- Cookie settings
- Legal notice
This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account
This PDF is available to Subscribers Only
For full access to this pdf, sign in to an existing account, or purchase an annual subscription.
Read our research on: Israel | Internet & Technology | Family & Relationships
Regions & Countries
2. views of social media and its impacts on society.
When asked whether social media is a good or bad thing for democracy in their country, a median of 57% across 19 countries say that it is a good thing. In almost every country, close to half or more say this, with the sentiment most common in Singapore, where roughly three-quarters believe social media is a good thing for democracy in their country. However, in the Netherlands and France, about four-in-ten agree. And in the U.S., only around a third think social media is positive for democracy – the smallest share among all 19 countries surveyed.
In eight countries, those who believe that the political system in their country allows them to have an influence on politics are also more likely to say that social media is a good thing for democracy. This gap is most evident in Belgium, where 62% of those who feel their political system allows them to have a say in politics also say that social media is a good thing for democracy in their country, compared with 44% among those who say that their political system does not allow them much influence on politics.
Those who view the spread of false information online as a major threat to their country are less likely to say that social media is a good thing for democracy, compared with those who view the spread of misinformation online as either a minor threat or not a threat at all. This is most clearly observed in the Netherlands, where only four-in-ten (39%) among those who see the spread of false information online as a major threat say that social media has been a good thing for democracy in their country, as opposed to the nearly six-in-ten (57%) among those who do not consider the spread of misinformation online to be a threat who say the same. This pattern is evident in eight other countries as well.
Views also vary by age. Older adults in 12 countries are less likely to say that social media is a good thing for democracy in their country when compared to their younger counterparts. In Japan, France, Israel, Hungary, the UK and Australia, the gap between the youngest and oldest age groups is at least 20 percentage points and ranges as high as 41 points in Poland, where nearly nine-in-ten (87%) younger adults say that social media has been a good thing for democracy in the country and only 46% of adults over 50 say the same.
The perceived impacts of the internet and social media on society
The publics surveyed believe the internet and social media are affecting societies. Across the six issues tested, few tend to say they see no changes due to increased connectivity – instead seeing things changing both positively and negatively – and often both at the same time.
A median of 84% say technological connectivity has made people easier to manipulate with false information and rumors – the most among the six issues tested. Despite this, medians of 73% describe people being more informed about both current events in other countries and about events in their own country. Indeed, in most countries, those who think social media has made it easier to manipulate people with misinformation and rumors are also more likely to think that social media has made people more informed.
When it comes to politics, the internet and social media are generally seen as disruptive, with a median of 65% saying that people are now more divided in their political opinions. Some of this may be due to the sense – shared by a median of 44% across the 19 countries – that access to the internet and social media has led people to be less civil in the way they talk about politics. Despite this, slightly more people (a median of 45%) still say connectivity has made people more accepting of people from different ethnic groups, religions and races than say it has made people less accepting (22%) or had no effect (29%).
There is widespread concern over misinformation – and a sense that people are more susceptible to manipulation
Previously reported results indicate that a median of 70% across the 19 countries surveyed believe that the spread of false information online is a major threat to their country. In places like Canada, Germany and Malaysia, more people name this as a threat than say the same of any of the other issues asked about.
This sense of threat is related to the widespread belief that people today are now easier to manipulate with false information and rumors thanks to the internet and social media. Around half or more in every country surveyed shares this view. And in places like the Netherlands, Australia and the UK, around nine-in-ten see people as more manipulable.
In many places, younger people – who tend to be more likely to use social media (for more on usage, see Chapter 3 ) – are also more likely to say it makes people easier to manipulate with false information and rumors. For example, in South Korea, 90% of those under age 30 say social media makes people easier to manipulate, compared with 65% of those 50 and older. (Interestingly, U.S.-focused research has found older adults are more likely to share misinformation than younger ones.) People with more education are also often more likely than those with less education to say that social media has led to people being easier to manipulate.
In 2018, when Pew Research Center asked a similar question about whether access to mobile phones, the internet and social media has made people easier to manipulate with false information and rumors, the results were largely similar. Across the 11 emerging economies surveyed as part of that project , at least half in every country thought this was the case and in many places, around three-quarters or more saw this as an issue. Large shares in many places were also specifically concerned that people in their country might be manipulated by domestic politicians. For more on how the two surveys compare, see “ In advanced and emerging economies, similar views on how social media affects democracy and society .”
Spotlight on the U.S.: Attitudes and experiences with misinformation
Misinformation has long been seen as a source of concern for Americans. In 2016 , for example, in the wake of the U.S. presidential election, 64% of U.S. adults thought completely made-up news had caused a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current events. At the time, around a third felt that they often encountered political news online that was completely made up and another half said they often encountered news that was not fully accurate. Moreover, about a quarter (23%) said they had shared such stories – whether knowingly or not.
When asked in 2019 who was the cause of made-up news, Americans largely singled out two groups of people: political leaders (57%) and activists (53%). Fewer placed blame on journalists (36%), foreign actors (35%) or the public (26%). A large majority of Americans that year (82%) also described themselves as either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the potential impact of made-up news on the 2020 presidential election. People who followed political and election news more closely and those with higher levels of political knowledge also tended to be more concerned.
Among adult American Twitter users in 2021, in particular, there was widespread concern about misinformation: 53% said inaccurate or misleading information is a major problem on the platform and 33% reported seeing a lot of that type of content when using the site.
As of 2021 , around half (48%) of Americans thought the government should take steps to restrict false information, even if it meant losing freedom to access and publish content – a share that had increased somewhat substantially since 2018, when 39% felt the same.
Most say people are more informed about current events – foreign and domestic – thanks to social media and the internet
A majority in every country surveyed thinks that access to the internet and social media has made people in their country more informed about domestic current events. In Sweden, Japan, Greece and the Netherlands, around eight-in-ten or more share this view, while in Malaysia, a smaller majority (56%) says the same.
Younger adults tend to see social media making people more informed than older adults do. Older adults, for their part, don’t necessarily see the internet and social media making people less informed about what’s happening in their country; rather, they’re somewhat more likely to describe these platforms as having little effect on people’s information levels. In the case of the U.S., for example, 71% of adults under 30 say social media has made people more informed about current events in the U.S., compared with 60% of those ages 50 and older. But those ages 50 and older are about twice as likely to say social media has not had much impact on how informed people are compared with those under 30: 19% vs. 11%, respectively.
In seven of the surveyed countries, people with higher levels of education are more likely than those with lower levels to see social media informing the public on current events in their own country.
Majorities in every country also agree that the internet and social media are making people more informed about current events happening in other countries. The two questions are extremely highly correlated ( r = 0.94), meaning that in most places where people say social media is making people more informed about domestic events, they also say the same of international events. (See the topline for detailed results for both questions, by country.)
In the 2018 survey of emerging economies , results of a slightly different question also found that a majority in every country – and around seven-in-ten or more in most places – said people were more informed thanks to social media, the internet and smartphones, rather than less.
In some countries, those who think social media has made it easier to manipulate people with misinformation and rumors are also more likely to think that social media has made people more informed. This finding, too, was similar in the 2018 11-country study of emerging economies: Generally speaking, individuals who are most attuned to the potential benefits technology can bring to the political domain are also the ones most anxious about the possible harms.
Spotlight on the U.S.: Social media use and news consumption
In the U.S. , around half of adults say they either get news often (17%) or sometimes (33%) from social media. When it comes to where Americans regularly get news on social media, Facebook outpaces all other social media sites. Roughly a third of U.S. adults (31%) say they regularly get news from Facebook. While Twitter is only used by about three-in-ten U.S. adults (27%), about half of its users (53%) turn to the site to regularly get news there. And a quarter of U.S. adults regularly get news from YouTube, while smaller shares get news from Instagram (13%), TikTok (10%) or Reddit (8%). Notably, TikTok has seen rapid growth as a source of news among younger Americans in recent years.
On several social media sites asked about, adults under 30 make up the largest share of those who regularly get news on the site. For example, half or more of regular news consumers on Snapchat (67%), TikTok (52%) or Reddit (50%) are ages 18 to 29.
While this survey finds that 64% of Americans think the public has become more informed thanks to social media, results of Center analyses do show that Americans who mainly got election and political information on social media during the 2020 election were less knowledgeable and less engaged than those who primarily got their news through other methods (like cable TV, print, etc.).
Majorities or pluralities tend to see social media leading to more political divisions
Around half or more in almost every country surveyed think social media has made people more divided in their political opinions. The U.S., South Korea and the Netherlands are particularly likely to hold this view. As a separate analysis shows, the former two also stand out for being the countries where people are most likely to report conflicts between people who support different political parties . While perceived political division in the Netherlands is somewhat lower, it, too, stands apart: Between 2021 and 2022, the share who said there were conflicts increased by 23 percentage points – among the highest year-on-year shifts evident in the survey.
More broadly, across each of the countries surveyed, people who see social division between people who support different political parties, are, in general, more likely to see social media leading people to be more divided in their political opinions.
In a number of countries, younger people are somewhat more likely to see social media enlarging political differences than older people. More educated people, too, often see social media exacerbating political divisions more than those with less education.
Similarly, in the survey of 11 emerging economies conducted in 2018, results of a slightly different question indicated that around four-in-ten or more in every country – and a majority in most places – thought social media had made people more divided.
Publics diverge over whether social media has made people more accepting of differences
There is less consensus over what role social media has played when it comes to tolerance: A 19-country median of 45% say it has made people more accepting of people from different ethnic backgrounds, religions and races, while a median of 22% say it has made them less so, and 29% say that it has not had much impact either way.
South Korea, Singapore, Italy and Japan are the most likely to see social media making people more tolerant. On the flip side, the Netherlands and Hungary stand out as the two countries where a plurality says the internet and social media have made people less accepting of people with racial or religious differences. Most other societies are somewhat divided, as in the case of the U.S., where around a third of the public falls into each of the three groups.
Younger people are more likely than older ones in most countries to say that social media has increased tolerance. This is the case, for example, in Canada, where 54% of adults under 30 say social media has contributed to people being more accepting of people from different ethnic groups, religions and races, compared with a third of those ages 50 and older. In some places – and in Canada – older people are more likely to see social media leading to less tolerance, though in other places, older people are simply less likely to see much impact from the technology.
In most countries, people who see social media leading to more divisions between people with different political opinions are more likely to say social media has made people less accepting of those racially and religiously different from them than those who say social media is having no effect on political division. People who see more conflicts between partisans in their society are also more likely than those who see fewer divisions to place some of the blame on social media, describing it as making people less accepting of differences.
Results of an analysis of the 11-country poll did find that people who used smartphones and social media were more likely to regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds – though the question did not ask about acceptance , just about interactions. The publics in these emerging economies were also somewhat divided when it came to their opinions on how social media has led to people being more or less accepting of those with different viewpoints.
Mixed views on whether social media has made people discuss politics civilly
Across the countries surveyed, a median of 46% say access to the internet and social media has made people less civil when they talk about politics. This is more than the 23% who say it has made them more civil – though a median of 26% see little impact either way.
In the U.S., the Netherlands and Australia, a majority sees the internet and social media making people less civil. Roughly seven-in-ten Americans say this. Singapore stands out as the only country where around half see these technologies increasing civility. All other countries surveyed are somewhat divided.
People with higher levels of education tend to see less civility thanks to social media relative to those with lower levels of education.
In most places surveyed, those who think social media has made people more divided politically, compared with those who say it has had no impact on divisions, are also more likely to say social media has made people less civil in how they talk about politics.
Majorities view social media as a way to raise awareness among the public and elected officials
Across advanced economies, people generally recognize social media as useful for bringing the public’s and elected officials’ attention to certain issues, for changing people’s minds and for influencing policy choices. A median of 77% across the 19 countries surveyed say social media is an effective way to raise public awareness about sociopolitical issues. Those in the UK are particularly optimistic about social media as a way of bringing public attention to a topic, with about nine-in-ten holding this belief. People in France and Belgium are the least convinced about social media’s role in raising public awareness, but majorities in both countries still say it’s effective for highlighting certain issues among the public.
Many also consider social media effective for changing people’s minds on social or political issues (65% median). Confidence in social media’s effect on changing people’s minds is strongest in South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. Germans, Belgians, Israelis and French adults are more skeptical, with no more than about half seeing social media as effective for changing people’s minds on sociopolitical issues.
Views on social media as a way to bring the attention of elected officials to certain issues are similar. A median of 64% consider social media effective for directing elected officials’ attention to issues, and this view is especially prevalent in South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. People in Belgium, Hungary and France are less convinced.
Somewhat fewer consider social media effective for influencing policy decisions (61% median). Israelis are particularly doubtful of social media as a way for affecting policy change: A majority of Israelis say social media is an ineffective way of influencing policy decisions, and about half in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany agree. About a fifth in Poland also did not provide an answer.
An additional question was asked in the U.S. about social media’s role in creating sustained social movements; roughly seven-in-ten Americans say social media is effective for this. Younger Americans, as well as those with more education or higher incomes, are more likely than others to hold this view. Social media users and those who say social media has been generally good for U.S. democracy are also more likely to believe social media is effective at creating sustained social movements.
Age plays a role in how people in many of the 19 nations surveyed view social media’s role in public discourse. Those ages 18 to 29 are especially likely to see social media as effective for raising public awareness. For example, in France, 70% of those ages 18 to 29 see social media as an effective way of raising public awareness. Only 48% of those 50 and older share this view, a difference of 22 percentage points.
Similarly, younger adults are also more likely to consider social media an effective way for changing people’s minds on issues. The difference is greatest in Poland and Germany, where younger adults are 24 points more likely than their older counterparts to see social media this way. There are fewer differences between younger and older adults when it comes to social media’s effectiveness for directing elected officials’ attention and influencing policy decisions. Younger adults are also generally more likely to be social media users and provide answers to these questions.
Education and income are other demographic characteristics related to people’s view of social media as a way to influence public discourse. In 11 countries, those with incomes higher than the median income are more likely than those with lower incomes to consider social media effective for raising public awareness about sociopolitical issues. Those with more education are similarly more likely to consider social media effective for elevating sociopolitical issues in the public consciousness in eight countries. People with lower levels of education and income are somewhat less likely than others to provide answers to questions about social media’s effectiveness for influencing policies, changing minds and bringing attention to issues.
Social media usage is also connected to how people evaluate these platforms as a way to affect public discourse and policy choices. In nearly all countries, social media users are more likely than those who are not on social media to say social media is effective for raising public awareness, and social media users are also more likely to consider social media useful for changing people’s minds in 11 of 19 countries. The differences are greatest in Israel in both cases. Israeli social media users are 47 points more likely than non-users to say social media is effective for raising awareness and 38 points more likely to consider it effective for changing people’s minds on sociopolitical issues. Different views between social media users and non-users are less common when it comes to social media as an effective way for bringing elected officials’ attention to issues or influencing policy decisions. Social media users are also more likely than non-users to answer these questions.
Among social media users, those who are more active are more likely to consider social media an effective avenue for shaping people’s views and attention. Those who post about political or social issues at least sometimes on social media have a greater chance of seeing social media as effective for raising awareness for sociopolitical issues than those who post rarely or never in 16 countries. For example, in Spain, 84% of social media users who post sometimes or often see social media as an effective way to bring awareness to issues, compared to 71% of users who never or rarely post. Similarly, social media users who post more frequently are more likely to see social media as effective for changing minds in 13 countries, for influencing policy decisions in 15 countries, and bringing elected officials’ attention to issues in 12 nations.
People’s views of social media as a way to spread awareness or affect change are additionally related to how they see democracy. The beliefs that social media is effective for influencing policy decisions and for bringing issues to the attention of elected officials or the public are especially common among people who also believe they have a say in politics. For example, in Germany, 60% of people who say people like them have at least a fair amount of influence on politics also say social media is effective for affecting policy choices. In comparison, 43% of Germans who do not think they have a say in politics also think social media can influence policy decisions.
Add Pew Research Center to your Alexa
Say “Alexa, enable the Pew Research Center flash briefing”
Table of contents, in advanced and emerging economies, similar views on how social media affects democracy and society, freedom, elections, voice: how people in australia and the uk define democracy, global public opinion in an era of democratic anxiety, most people in advanced economies think their own government respects personal freedoms, more people globally see racial, ethnic discrimination as a serious problem in the u.s. than in their own society, most popular.
About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .
Can ❤️s change minds? How social media influences public opinion and news circulation
Assistant Professor of Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University
Study 1 was approved by University College Dublin Office of Research Ethics (reference numbers: HS-E-20-110-Samahita and HS-E-20-134-Samahita) and funded by University College Dublin, Collegio Carlo Alberto, and the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance. Data for Study 2 was accessed through the Academic Research Twitter API. The author has no direct relevant material or financial interest that relate to the research described.
View all partners
Social media use has been shown to decrease mental health and well-being, and to increase levels of political polarization .
But social media also provides many benefits, including facilitating access to information, enabling connections with friends, serving as an outlet for expressing opinions and allowing news to be shared freely.
To maximize the benefits of social media while minimizing its harms, we need to better understand the different ways in which it affects us. Social science can contribute to this understanding. I recently conducted two studies with colleagues to investigate and disentangle some of the complex effects of social media.
Social media likes and public policy
In a recently published article , my co-researchers (Pierluigi Conzo, Laura K. Taylor, Margaret Samahita and Andrea Gallice) and I examined how social media endorsements, such as likes and retweets, can influence people’s opinions on policy issues.
We conducted an experimental survey in 2020 with respondents from the United States, Italy and Ireland. In the study, we showed participants social media posts about COVID-19 and the tension between economic activity and public health. Pro-economy posts prioritized economic activities over the elimination of COVID-19. For instance, they advocated for reopening businesses despite potential health risks.
Pro-public health posts, on the other hand, prioritized the elimination of COVID-19 over economic activities. For example, they supported the extension of lockdown measures despite the associated economic costs.
We then manipulated the perceived level of support within these social media posts. One group of participants viewed pro-economy posts with a high number of likes and pro-public health posts with a low number of likes, while another group viewed the reverse.
After participants viewed the posts, we asked whether they agreed with various pandemic-related policies, such as restrictions on gatherings and border closures.
Overall, we found that the perceived level of support of the social media posts did not affect participants’ views — with one exception. Participants who reported using Facebook or Twitter for more than one hour a day did appear to be influenced. For these respondents, the perceived endorsements in the posts affected their policy preferences.
Participants that viewed pro-economy posts with high number of likes were less likely to favour pandemic-related restrictions, such as prohibiting gatherings. Those that viewed pro-public health posts with high number of likes were more likely to favour restrictions.
Social media metrics can be an important mechanism through which online influence occurs. Though not all users pay attention to these metrics, those that do can change their opinions as a result.
Active social media users in our survey were also more likely to report being politically engaged. They were more likely to have voted and discussed policy issues with friends and family (both online and offline) more frequently. These perceived metrics could, therefore, also have effects on politics and policy decisions.
Twitter’s retweet change and news sharing
In October 2020, a few weeks before the U.S. presidential election, Twitter changed the functionality of its retweet button . The modified button prompted users to share a quote tweet instead, encouraging them to add their own commentary.
Twitter hoped that this change would encourage users to reflect on the content they were sharing and to slow down the spread of misinformation and false news.
In a recent working paper , my co-researcher Daniel Ershov and I investigated how Twitter’s change to its user interface affected the spread of information on the platform.
We collected Twitter data for popular U.S. news outlets and examined what happened to their retweets after the change was implemented. Our study revealed that this change had significant effects on news diffusion: on average, retweets for news media outlets fell by over 15 per cent.
We then investigated whether the change affected all news media outlets to the same extent. We specifically examined whether media outlets where misinformation is more common were affected more by the change. We discovered this was not the case: the effect on these outlets was not greater than for outlets of higher journalistic quality (and if anything, the effects were slightly smaller).
A similar comparison revealed that left-wing news outlets were affected significantly more than right-wing outlets. The average drop in retweets for liberal outlets was more than 20 per cent, but the drop for conservative outlets was only five per cent. This occurred because conservative users changed their behaviour significantly less than liberal users.
Lastly, we also found that Twitter’s policy affected visits to the websites of the news outlets affected, suggesting that the new policy had broad effects on the diffusion of news.
Understanding social media
These two studies underscore that seemingly simple features can have complex effects on user attitudes and media diffusion. Disentangling the specific features that make up social media and estimating their individual effects is key to understanding how social media affects us.
Like Instagram, Meta’s new Threads platform allows users to hide the number of likes on posts. X, formerly Twitter, has just rolled out a similar feature by allowing paid users to hide their likes. These decisions can have important implications for political discourse within the new social network.
At the same time, subtle changes to platforms’ design can have unintended consequences which depend on how users respond to these policies. Social scientists can play an important role in furthering our understanding of these nuanced effects of social media.
- Social media
- Public perception
- social media politics
- Social media likes
- Social media apps
- Social media use
- Listen to this article
Director, Cool Soils
Manager, Animal Care and Use Advisory Service
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous
RMIT Vice-Chancellor's Research Fellowships
- Reference Manager
- Simple TEXT file
People also looked at
Conceptual analysis article, the effect of social media on the development of students’ affective variables.
- 1 Science and Technology Department, Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Nanjing, China
- 2 School of Marxism, Hohai University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China
- 3 Government Enterprise Customer Center, China Mobile Group Jiangsu Co., Ltd., Nanjing, China
The use of social media is incomparably on the rise among students, influenced by the globalized forms of communication and the post-pandemic rush to use multiple social media platforms for education in different fields of study. Though social media has created tremendous chances for sharing ideas and emotions, the kind of social support it provides might fail to meet students’ emotional needs, or the alleged positive effects might be short-lasting. In recent years, several studies have been conducted to explore the potential effects of social media on students’ affective traits, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and so on. The present paper reviews the findings of the exemplary published works of research to shed light on the positive and negative potential effects of the massive use of social media on students’ emotional well-being. This review can be insightful for teachers who tend to take the potential psychological effects of social media for granted. They may want to know more about the actual effects of the over-reliance on and the excessive (and actually obsessive) use of social media on students’ developing certain images of self and certain emotions which are not necessarily positive. There will be implications for pre- and in-service teacher training and professional development programs and all those involved in student affairs.
Social media has turned into an essential element of individuals’ lives including students in today’s world of communication. Its use is growing significantly more than ever before especially in the post-pandemic era, marked by a great revolution happening to the educational systems. Recent investigations of using social media show that approximately 3 billion individuals worldwide are now communicating via social media ( Iwamoto and Chun, 2020 ). This growing population of social media users is spending more and more time on social network groupings, as facts and figures show that individuals spend 2 h a day, on average, on a variety of social media applications, exchanging pictures and messages, updating status, tweeting, favoring, and commenting on many updated socially shared information ( Abbott, 2017 ).
Researchers have begun to investigate the psychological effects of using social media on students’ lives. Chukwuere and Chukwuere (2017) maintained that social media platforms can be considered the most important source of changing individuals’ mood, because when someone is passively using a social media platform seemingly with no special purpose, s/he can finally feel that his/her mood has changed as a function of the nature of content overviewed. Therefore, positive and negative moods can easily be transferred among the population using social media networks ( Chukwuere and Chukwuere, 2017 ). This may become increasingly important as students are seen to be using social media platforms more than before and social networking is becoming an integral aspect of their lives. As described by Iwamoto and Chun (2020) , when students are affected by social media posts, especially due to the increasing reliance on social media use in life, they may be encouraged to begin comparing themselves to others or develop great unrealistic expectations of themselves or others, which can have several affective consequences.
Considering the increasing influence of social media on education, the present paper aims to focus on the affective variables such as depression, stress, and anxiety, and how social media can possibly increase or decrease these emotions in student life. The exemplary works of research on this topic in recent years will be reviewed here, hoping to shed light on the positive and negative effects of these ever-growing influential platforms on the psychology of students.
Significance of the study
Though social media, as the name suggests, is expected to keep people connected, probably this social connection is only superficial, and not adequately deep and meaningful to help individuals feel emotionally attached to others. The psychological effects of social media on student life need to be studied in more depth to see whether social media really acts as a social support for students and whether students can use social media to cope with negative emotions and develop positive feelings or not. In other words, knowledge of the potential effects of the growing use of social media on students’ emotional well-being can bridge the gap between the alleged promises of social media and what it actually has to offer to students in terms of self-concept, self-respect, social role, and coping strategies (for stress, anxiety, etc.).
Exemplary general literature on psychological effects of social media
Before getting down to the effects of social media on students’ emotional well-being, some exemplary works of research in recent years on the topic among general populations are reviewed. For one, Aalbers et al. (2018) reported that individuals who spent more time passively working with social media suffered from more intense levels of hopelessness, loneliness, depression, and perceived inferiority. For another, Tang et al. (2013) observed that the procedures of sharing information, commenting, showing likes and dislikes, posting messages, and doing other common activities on social media are correlated with higher stress. Similarly, Ley et al. (2014) described that people who spend 2 h, on average, on social media applications will face many tragic news, posts, and stories which can raise the total intensity of their stress. This stress-provoking effect of social media has been also pinpointed by Weng and Menczer (2015) , who contended that social media becomes a main source of stress because people often share all kinds of posts, comments, and stories ranging from politics and economics, to personal and social affairs. According to Iwamoto and Chun (2020) , anxiety and depression are the negative emotions that an individual may develop when some source of stress is present. In other words, when social media sources become stress-inducing, there are high chances that anxiety and depression also develop.
Charoensukmongkol (2018) reckoned that the mental health and well-being of the global population can be at a great risk through the uncontrolled massive use of social media. These researchers also showed that social media sources can exert negative affective impacts on teenagers, as they can induce more envy and social comparison. According to Fleck and Johnson-Migalski (2015) , though social media, at first, plays the role of a stress-coping strategy, when individuals continue to see stressful conditions (probably experienced and shared by others in media), they begin to develop stress through the passage of time. Chukwuere and Chukwuere (2017) maintained that social media platforms continue to be the major source of changing mood among general populations. For example, someone might be passively using a social media sphere, and s/he may finally find him/herself with a changed mood depending on the nature of the content faced. Then, this good or bad mood is easily shared with others in a flash through the social media. Finally, as Alahmar (2016) described, social media exposes people especially the young generation to new exciting activities and events that may attract them and keep them engaged in different media contexts for hours just passing their time. It usually leads to reduced productivity, reduced academic achievement, and addiction to constant media use ( Alahmar, 2016 ).
The number of studies on the potential psychological effects of social media on people in general is higher than those selectively addressed here. For further insights into this issue, some other suggested works of research include Chang (2012) , Sriwilai and Charoensukmongkol (2016) , and Zareen et al. (2016) . Now, we move to the studies that more specifically explored the effects of social media on students’ affective states.
Review of the affective influences of social media on students
Vygotsky’s mediational theory (see Fernyhough, 2008 ) can be regarded as a main theoretical background for the support of social media on learners’ affective states. Based on this theory, social media can play the role of a mediational means between learners and the real environment. Learners’ understanding of this environment can be mediated by the image shaped via social media. This image can be either close to or different from the reality. In the case of the former, learners can develop their self-image and self-esteem. In the case of the latter, learners might develop unrealistic expectations of themselves by comparing themselves to others. As it will be reviewed below among the affective variables increased or decreased in students under the influence of the massive use of social media are anxiety, stress, depression, distress, rumination, and self-esteem. These effects have been explored more among school students in the age range of 13–18 than university students (above 18), but some studies were investigated among college students as well. Exemplary works of research on these affective variables are reviewed here.
In a cross-sectional study, O’Dea and Campbell (2011) explored the impact of online interactions of social networks on the psychological distress of adolescent students. These researchers found a negative correlation between the time spent on social networking and mental distress. Dumitrache et al. (2012) explored the relations between depression and the identity associated with the use of the popular social media, the Facebook. This study showed significant associations between depression and the number of identity-related information pieces shared on this social network. Neira and Barber (2014) explored the relationship between students’ social media use and depressed mood at teenage. No significant correlation was found between these two variables. In the same year, Tsitsika et al. (2014) explored the associations between excessive use of social media and internalizing emotions. These researchers found a positive correlation between more than 2-h a day use of social media and anxiety and depression.
Hanprathet et al. (2015) reported a statistically significant positive correlation between addiction to Facebook and depression among about a thousand high school students in wealthy populations of Thailand and warned against this psychological threat. Sampasa-Kanyinga and Lewis (2015) examined the relationship between social media use and psychological distress. These researchers found that the use of social media for more than 2 h a day was correlated with a higher intensity of psychological distress. Banjanin et al. (2015) tested the relationship between too much use of social networking and depression, yet found no statistically significant correlation between these two variables. Frison and Eggermont (2016) examined the relationships between different forms of Facebook use, perceived social support of social media, and male and female students’ depressed mood. These researchers found a positive association between the passive use of the Facebook and depression and also between the active use of the social media and depression. Furthermore, the perceived social support of the social media was found to mediate this association. Besides, gender was found as the other factor to mediate this relationship.
Vernon et al. (2017) explored change in negative investment in social networking in relation to change in depression and externalizing behavior. These researchers found that increased investment in social media predicted higher depression in adolescent students, which was a function of the effect of higher levels of disrupted sleep. Barry et al. (2017) explored the associations between the use of social media by adolescents and their psychosocial adjustment. Social media activity showed to be positively and moderately associated with depression and anxiety. Another investigation was focused on secondary school students in China conducted by Li et al. (2017) . The findings showed a mediating role of insomnia on the significant correlation between depression and addiction to social media. In the same year, Yan et al. (2017) aimed to explore the time spent on social networks and its correlation with anxiety among middle school students. They found a significant positive correlation between more than 2-h use of social networks and the intensity of anxiety.
Also in China, Wang et al. (2018) showed that addiction to social networking sites was correlated positively with depression, and this correlation was mediated by rumination. These researchers also found that this mediating effect was moderated by self-esteem. It means that the effect of addiction on depression was compounded by low self-esteem through rumination. In another work of research, Drouin et al. (2018) showed that though social media is expected to act as a form of social support for the majority of university students, it can adversely affect students’ mental well-being, especially for those who already have high levels of anxiety and depression. In their research, the social media resources were found to be stress-inducing for half of the participants, all university students. The higher education population was also studied by Iwamoto and Chun (2020) . These researchers investigated the emotional effects of social media in higher education and found that the socially supportive role of social media was overshadowed in the long run in university students’ lives and, instead, fed into their perceived depression, anxiety, and stress.
Keles et al. (2020) provided a systematic review of the effect of social media on young and teenage students’ depression, psychological distress, and anxiety. They found that depression acted as the most frequent affective variable measured. The most salient risk factors of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression based on the systematic review were activities such as repeated checking for messages, personal investment, the time spent on social media, and problematic or addictive use. Similarly, Mathewson (2020) investigated the effect of using social media on college students’ mental health. The participants stated the experience of anxiety, depression, and suicidality (thoughts of suicide or attempts to suicide). The findings showed that the types and frequency of using social media and the students’ perceived mental health were significantly correlated with each other.
The body of research on the effect of social media on students’ affective and emotional states has led to mixed results. The existing literature shows that there are some positive and some negative affective impacts. Yet, it seems that the latter is pre-dominant. Mathewson (2020) attributed these divergent positive and negative effects to the different theoretical frameworks adopted in different studies and also the different contexts (different countries with whole different educational systems). According to Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions ( Fredrickson, 2001 ), the mental repertoires of learners can be built and broadened by how they feel. For instance, some external stimuli might provoke negative emotions such as anxiety and depression in learners. Having experienced these negative emotions, students might repeatedly check their messages on social media or get addicted to them. As a result, their cognitive repertoire and mental capacity might become limited and they might lose their concentration during their learning process. On the other hand, it should be noted that by feeling positive, learners might take full advantage of the affordances of the social media and; thus, be able to follow their learning goals strategically. This point should be highlighted that the link between the use of social media and affective states is bi-directional. Therefore, strategic use of social media or its addictive use by students can direct them toward either positive experiences like enjoyment or negative ones such as anxiety and depression. Also, these mixed positive and negative effects are similar to the findings of several other relevant studies on general populations’ psychological and emotional health. A number of studies (with general research populations not necessarily students) showed that social networks have facilitated the way of staying in touch with family and friends living far away as well as an increased social support ( Zhang, 2017 ). Given the positive and negative emotional effects of social media, social media can either scaffold the emotional repertoire of students, which can develop positive emotions in learners, or induce negative provokers in them, based on which learners might feel negative emotions such as anxiety and depression. However, admittedly, social media has also generated a domain that encourages the act of comparing lives, and striving for approval; therefore, it establishes and internalizes unrealistic perceptions ( Virden et al., 2014 ; Radovic et al., 2017 ).
It should be mentioned that the susceptibility of affective variables to social media should be interpreted from a dynamic lens. This means that the ecology of the social media can make changes in the emotional experiences of learners. More specifically, students’ affective variables might self-organize into different states under the influence of social media. As for the positive correlation found in many studies between the use of social media and such negative effects as anxiety, depression, and stress, it can be hypothesized that this correlation is induced by the continuous comparison the individual makes and the perception that others are doing better than him/her influenced by the posts that appear on social media. Using social media can play a major role in university students’ psychological well-being than expected. Though most of these studies were correlational, and correlation is not the same as causation, as the studies show that the number of participants experiencing these negative emotions under the influence of social media is significantly high, more extensive research is highly suggested to explore causal effects ( Mathewson, 2020 ).
As the review of exemplary studies showed, some believed that social media increased comparisons that students made between themselves and others. This finding ratifies the relevance of the Interpretation Comparison Model ( Stapel and Koomen, 2000 ; Stapel, 2007 ) and Festinger’s (1954) Social Comparison Theory. Concerning the negative effects of social media on students’ psychology, it can be argued that individuals may fail to understand that the content presented in social media is usually changed to only represent the attractive aspects of people’s lives, showing an unrealistic image of things. We can add that this argument also supports the relevance of the Social Comparison Theory and the Interpretation Comparison Model ( Stapel and Koomen, 2000 ; Stapel, 2007 ), because social media sets standards that students think they should compare themselves with. A constant observation of how other students or peers are showing their instances of achievement leads to higher self-evaluation ( Stapel and Koomen, 2000 ). It is conjectured that the ubiquitous role of social media in student life establishes unrealistic expectations and promotes continuous comparison as also pinpointed in the Interpretation Comparison Model ( Stapel and Koomen, 2000 ; Stapel, 2007 ).
Implications of the study
The use of social media is ever increasing among students, both at school and university, which is partly because of the promises of technological advances in communication services and partly because of the increased use of social networks for educational purposes in recent years after the pandemic. This consistent use of social media is not expected to leave students’ psychological, affective and emotional states untouched. Thus, it is necessary to know how the growing usage of social networks is associated with students’ affective health on different aspects. Therefore, we found it useful to summarize the research findings in recent years in this respect. If those somehow in charge of student affairs in educational settings are aware of the potential positive or negative effects of social media usage on students, they can better understand the complexities of students’ needs and are better capable of meeting them.
Psychological counseling programs can be initiated at schools or universities to check upon the latest state of students’ mental and emotional health influenced by the pervasive use of social media. The counselors can be made aware of the potential adverse effects of social networking and can adapt the content of their inquiries accordingly. Knowledge of the potential reasons for student anxiety, depression, and stress can help school or university counselors to find individualized coping strategies when they diagnose any symptom of distress in students influenced by an excessive use of social networking.
Admittedly, it is neither possible to discard the use of social media in today’s academic life, nor to keep students’ use of social networks fully controlled. Certainly, the educational space in today’s world cannot do without the social media, which has turned into an integral part of everybody’s life. Yet, probably students need to be instructed on how to take advantage of the media and to be the least affected negatively by its occasional superficial and unrepresentative content. Compensatory programs might be needed at schools or universities to encourage students to avoid making unrealistic and impartial comparisons of themselves and the flamboyant images of others displayed on social media. Students can be taught to develop self-appreciation and self-care while continuing to use the media to their benefit.
The teachers’ role as well as the curriculum developers’ role are becoming more important than ever, as they can significantly help to moderate the adverse effects of the pervasive social media use on students’ mental and emotional health. The kind of groupings formed for instructional purposes, for example, in social media can be done with greater care by teachers to make sure that the members of the groups are homogeneous and the tasks and activities shared in the groups are quite relevant and realistic. The teachers cannot always be in a full control of students’ use of social media, and the other fact is that students do not always and only use social media for educational purposes. They spend more time on social media for communicating with friends or strangers or possibly they just passively receive the content produced out of any educational scope just for entertainment. This uncontrolled and unrealistic content may give them a false image of life events and can threaten their mental and emotional health. Thus, teachers can try to make students aware of the potential hazards of investing too much of their time on following pages or people that publish false and misleading information about their personal or social identities. As students, logically expected, spend more time with their teachers than counselors, they may be better and more receptive to the advice given by the former than the latter.
Teachers may not be in full control of their students’ use of social media, but they have always played an active role in motivating or demotivating students to take particular measures in their academic lives. If teachers are informed of the recent research findings about the potential effects of massively using social media on students, they may find ways to reduce students’ distraction or confusion in class due to the excessive or over-reliant use of these networks. Educators may more often be mesmerized by the promises of technology-, computer- and mobile-assisted learning. They may tend to encourage the use of social media hoping to benefit students’ social and interpersonal skills, self-confidence, stress-managing and the like. Yet, they may be unaware of the potential adverse effects on students’ emotional well-being and, thus, may find the review of the recent relevant research findings insightful. Also, teachers can mediate between learners and social media to manipulate the time learners spend on social media. Research has mainly indicated that students’ emotional experiences are mainly dependent on teachers’ pedagogical approach. They should refrain learners from excessive use of, or overreliance on, social media. Raising learners’ awareness of this fact that individuals should develop their own path of development for learning, and not build their development based on unrealistic comparison of their competences with those of others, can help them consider positive values for their activities on social media and, thus, experience positive emotions.
At higher education, students’ needs are more life-like. For example, their employment-seeking spirits might lead them to create accounts in many social networks, hoping for a better future. However, membership in many of these networks may end in the mere waste of the time that could otherwise be spent on actual on-campus cooperative projects. Universities can provide more on-campus resources both for research and work experience purposes from which the students can benefit more than the cyberspace that can be tricky on many occasions. Two main theories underlying some negative emotions like boredom and anxiety are over-stimulation and under-stimulation. Thus, what learners feel out of their involvement in social media might be directed toward negative emotions due to the stimulating environment of social media. This stimulating environment makes learners rely too much, and spend too much time, on social media or use them obsessively. As a result, they might feel anxious or depressed. Given the ubiquity of social media, these negative emotions can be replaced with positive emotions if learners become aware of the psychological effects of social media. Regarding the affordances of social media for learners, they can take advantage of the potential affordances of these media such as improving their literacy, broadening their communication skills, or enhancing their distance learning opportunities.
A review of the research findings on the relationship between social media and students’ affective traits revealed both positive and negative findings. Yet, the instances of the latter were more salient and the negative psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and stress have been far from negligible. These findings were discussed in relation to some more relevant theories such as the social comparison theory, which predicted that most of the potential issues with the young generation’s excessive use of social media were induced by the unfair comparisons they made between their own lives and the unrealistic portrayal of others’ on social media. Teachers, education policymakers, curriculum developers, and all those in charge of the student affairs at schools and universities should be made aware of the psychological effects of the pervasive use of social media on students, and the potential threats.
It should be reminded that the alleged socially supportive and communicative promises of the prevalent use of social networking in student life might not be fully realized in practice. Students may lose self-appreciation and gratitude when they compare their current state of life with the snapshots of others’ or peers’. A depressed or stressed-out mood can follow. Students at schools or universities need to learn self-worth to resist the adverse effects of the superficial support they receive from social media. Along this way, they should be assisted by the family and those in charge at schools or universities, most importantly the teachers. As already suggested, counseling programs might help with raising students’ awareness of the potential psychological threats of social media to their health. Considering the ubiquity of social media in everybody’ life including student life worldwide, it seems that more coping and compensatory strategies should be contrived to moderate the adverse psychological effects of the pervasive use of social media on students. Also, the affective influences of social media should not be generalized but they need to be interpreted from an ecological or contextual perspective. This means that learners might have different emotions at different times or different contexts while being involved in social media. More specifically, given the stative approach to learners’ emotions, what learners emotionally experience in their application of social media can be bound to their intra-personal and interpersonal experiences. This means that the same learner at different time points might go through different emotions Also, learners’ emotional states as a result of their engagement in social media cannot be necessarily generalized to all learners in a class.
As the majority of studies on the psychological effects of social media on student life have been conducted on school students than in higher education, it seems it is too soon to make any conclusive remark on this population exclusively. Probably, in future, further studies of the psychological complexities of students at higher education and a better knowledge of their needs can pave the way for making more insightful conclusions about the effects of social media on their affective states.
Suggestions for further research
The majority of studies on the potential effects of social media usage on students’ psychological well-being are either quantitative or qualitative in type, each with many limitations. Presumably, mixed approaches in near future can better provide a comprehensive assessment of these potential associations. Moreover, most studies on this topic have been cross-sectional in type. There is a significant dearth of longitudinal investigation on the effect of social media on developing positive or negative emotions in students. This seems to be essential as different affective factors such as anxiety, stress, self-esteem, and the like have a developmental nature. Traditional research methods with single-shot designs for data collection fail to capture the nuances of changes in these affective variables. It can be expected that more longitudinal studies in future can show how the continuous use of social media can affect the fluctuations of any of these affective variables during the different academic courses students pass at school or university.
As already raised in some works of research reviewed, the different patterns of impacts of social media on student life depend largely on the educational context. Thus, the same research designs with the same academic grade students and even the same age groups can lead to different findings concerning the effects of social media on student psychology in different countries. In other words, the potential positive and negative effects of popular social media like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc., on students’ affective conditions can differ across different educational settings in different host countries. Thus, significantly more research is needed in different contexts and cultures to compare the results.
There is also a need for further research on the higher education students and how their affective conditions are positively and negatively affected by the prevalent use of social media. University students’ psychological needs might be different from other academic grades and, thus, the patterns of changes that the overall use of social networking can create in their emotions can be also different. Their main reasons for using social media might be different from school students as well, which need to be investigated more thoroughly. The sorts of interventions needed to moderate the potential negative effects of social networking on them can be different too, all requiring a new line of research in education domain.
Finally, there are hopes that considering the ever-increasing popularity of social networking in education, the potential psychological effects of social media on teachers be explored as well. Though teacher psychology has only recently been considered for research, the literature has provided profound insights into teachers developing stress, motivation, self-esteem, and many other emotions. In today’s world driven by global communications in the cyberspace, teachers like everyone else are affecting and being affected by social networking. The comparison theory can hold true for teachers too. Thus, similar threats (of social media) to self-esteem and self-worth can be there for teachers too besides students, which are worth investigating qualitatively and quantitatively.
Probably a new line of research can be initiated to explore the co-development of teacher and learner psychological traits under the influence of social media use in longitudinal studies. These will certainly entail sophisticated research methods to be capable of unraveling the nuances of variation in these traits and their mutual effects, for example, stress, motivation, and self-esteem. If these are incorporated within mixed-approach works of research, more comprehensive and better insightful findings can be expected to emerge. Correlational studies need to be followed by causal studies in educational settings. As many conditions of the educational settings do not allow for having control groups or randomization, probably, experimental studies do not help with this. Innovative research methods, case studies or else, can be used to further explore the causal relations among the different features of social media use and the development of different affective variables in teachers or learners. Examples of such innovative research methods can be process tracing, qualitative comparative analysis, and longitudinal latent factor modeling (for a more comprehensive view, see Hiver and Al-Hoorie, 2019 ).
Both authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication.
This study was sponsored by Wuxi Philosophy and Social Sciences bidding project—“Special Project for Safeguarding the Rights and Interests of Workers in the New Form of Employment” (Grant No. WXSK22-GH-13). This study was sponsored by the Key Project of Party Building and Ideological and Political Education Research of Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications—“Research on the Guidance and Countermeasures of Network Public Opinion in Colleges and Universities in the Modern Times” (Grant No. XC 2021002).
Conflict of interest
Author XX was employed by China Mobile Group Jiangsu Co., Ltd.
The remaining author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.
Aalbers, G., McNally, R. J., Heeren, A., de Wit, S., and Fried, E. I. (2018). Social media and depression symptoms: A network perspective. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 148, 1454–1462. doi: 10.1037/xge0000528
PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Abbott, J. (2017). Introduction: Assessing the social and political impact of the internet and new social media in Asia. J. Contemp. Asia 43, 579–590. doi: 10.1080/00472336.2013.785698
CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Alahmar, A. T. (2016). The impact of social media on the academic performance of second year medical students at College of Medicine, University of Babylon, Iraq. J. Med. Allied Sci. 6, 77–83. doi: 10.5455/jmas.236927
Banjanin, N., Banjanin, N., Dimitrijevic, I., and Pantic, I. (2015). Relationship between internet use and depression: Focus on physiological mood oscillations, social networking and online addictive behavior. Comp. Hum. Behav. 43, 308–312. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.013
Barry, C. T., Sidoti, C. L., Briggs, S. M., Reiter, S. R., and Lindsey, R. A. (2017). Adolescent social media use and mental health from adolescent and parent perspectives. J. Adolesc. 61, 1–11. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.005
Chang, Y. (2012). The relationship between maladaptive perfectionism with burnout: Testing mediating effect of emotion-focused coping. Pers. Individ. Differ. 53, 635–639. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.05.002
Charoensukmongkol, P. (2018). The impact of social media on social comparison and envy in teenagers: The moderating role of the parent comparing children and in-group competition among friends. J. Child Fam. Stud. 27, 69–79. doi: 10.1007/s10826-017-0872-8
Chukwuere, J. E., and Chukwuere, P. C. (2017). The impact of social media on social lifestyle: A case study of university female students. Gender Behav. 15, 9966–9981.
Drouin, M., Reining, L., Flanagan, M., Carpenter, M., and Toscos, T. (2018). College students in distress: Can social media be a source of social support? Coll. Stud. J. 52, 494–504.
Dumitrache, S. D., Mitrofan, L., and Petrov, Z. (2012). Self-image and depressive tendencies among adolescent Facebook users. Rev. Psihol. 58, 285–295.
PubMed Abstract | Google Scholar
Fernyhough, C. (2008). Getting Vygotskian about theory of mind: Mediation, dialogue, and the development of social understanding. Dev. Rev. 28, 225–262. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2007.03.001
Festinger, L. (1954). A Theory of social comparison processes. Hum. Relat. 7, 117–140. doi: 10.1177/001872675400700202
Fleck, J., and Johnson-Migalski, L. (2015). The impact of social media on personal and professional lives: An Adlerian perspective. J. Individ. Psychol. 71, 135–142. doi: 10.1353/jip.2015.0013
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Am. Psychol. 56, 218–226. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.218
Frison, E., and Eggermont, S. (2016). Exploring the relationships between different types of Facebook use, perceived online social support, and adolescents’ depressed mood. Soc. Sci. Compu. Rev. 34, 153–171. doi: 10.1177/0894439314567449
Hanprathet, N., Manwong, M., Khumsri, J., Yingyeun, R., and Phanasathit, M. (2015). Facebook addiction and its relationship with mental health among Thai high school students. J. Med. Assoc. Thailand 98, S81–S90.
Hiver, P., and Al-Hoorie, A. H. (2019). Research Methods for Complexity Theory in Applied Linguistics. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. doi: 10.21832/HIVER5747
Iwamoto, D., and Chun, H. (2020). The emotional impact of social media in higher education. Int. J. High. Educ. 9, 239–247. doi: 10.5430/ijhe.v9n2p239
Keles, B., McCrae, N., and Grealish, A. (2020). A systematic review: The influence of social media on depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adolescents. Int. J. Adolesc. Youth 25, 79–93. doi: 10.1080/02673843.2019.1590851
Ley, B., Ogonowski, C., Hess, J., Reichling, T., Wan, L., and Wulf, V. (2014). Impacts of new technologies on media usage and social behavior in domestic environments. Behav. Inform. Technol. 33, 815–828. doi: 10.1080/0144929X.2013.832383
Li, J.-B., Lau, J. T. F., Mo, P. K. H., Su, X.-F., Tang, J., Qin, Z.-G., et al. (2017). Insomnia partially mediated the association between problematic Internet use and depression among secondary school students in China. J. Behav. Addict. 6, 554–563. doi: 10.1556/2006.6.2017.085
Mathewson, M. (2020). The impact of social media usage on students’ mental health. J. Stud. Affairs 29, 146–160.
Neira, B. C. J., and Barber, B. L. (2014). Social networking site use: Linked to adolescents’ social self-concept, self-esteem, and depressed mood. Aus. J. Psychol. 66, 56–64. doi: 10.1111/ajpy.12034
O’Dea, B., and Campbell, A. (2011). Online social networking amongst teens: Friend or foe? Ann. Rev. CyberTher. Telemed. 9, 108–112.
Radovic, A., Gmelin, T., Stein, B. D., and Miller, E. (2017). Depressed adolescents positive and negative use of social media. J. Adolesc. 55, 5–15. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.12.002
Sampasa-Kanyinga, H., and Lewis, R. F. (2015). Frequent use of social networking sites is associated with poor psychological functioning among children and adolescents. Cyberpsychol. Behav. Soc. Network. 18, 380–385. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2015.0055
Sriwilai, K., and Charoensukmongkol, P. (2016). Face it, don’t Facebook it: Impacts of social media addiction on mindfulness, coping strategies and the consequence on emotional exhaustion. Stress Health 32, 427–434. doi: 10.1002/smi.2637
Stapel, D. A. (2007). “In the mind of the beholder: The interpretation comparison model of accessibility effects,” in Assimilation and Contrast in Social Psychology , eds D. A. Stapel and J. Suls (London: Psychology Press), 143–164.
Stapel, D. A., and Koomen, W. (2000). Distinctiveness of others, mutability of selves: Their impact on self-evaluations. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 79, 1068–1087. doi: 10.1037//0022-35184.108.40.2068
Tang, F., Wang, X., and Norman, C. S. (2013). An investigation of the impact of media capabilities and extraversion on social presence and user satisfaction. Behav. Inform. Technol. 32, 1060–1073. doi: 10.1080/0144929X.2013.830335
Tsitsika, A. K., Tzavela, E. C., Janikian, M., Ólafsson, K., Iordache, A., Schoenmakers, T. M., et al. (2014). Online social networking in adolescence: Patterns of use in six European countries and links with psychosocial functioning. J. Adolesc. Health 55, 141–147. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.11.010
Vernon, L., Modecki, K. L., and Barber, B. L. (2017). Tracking effects of problematic social networking on adolescent psychopathology: The mediating role of sleep disruptions. J. Clin. Child Adolesc. Psychol. 46, 269–283. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2016.1188702
Virden, A., Trujillo, A., and Predeger, E. (2014). Young adult females’ perceptions of high-risk social media behaviors: A focus-group approach. J. Commun. Health Nurs. 31, 133–144. doi: 10.1080/07370016.2014.926677
Wang, P., Wang, X., Wu, Y., Xie, X., Wang, X., Zhao, F., et al. (2018). Social networking sites addiction and adolescent depression: A moderated mediation model of rumination and self-esteem. Pers. Individ. Differ. 127, 162–167. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2018.02.008
Weng, L., and Menczer, F. (2015). Topicality and impact in social media: Diverse messages, focused messengers. PLoS One 10:e0118410. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118410
Yan, H., Zhang, R., Oniffrey, T. M., Chen, G., Wang, Y., Wu, Y., et al. (2017). Associations among screen time and unhealthy behaviors, academic performance, and well-being in Chinese adolescents. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 14:596. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14060596
Zareen, N., Karim, N., and Khan, U. A. (2016). Psycho-emotional impact of social media emojis. ISRA Med. J. 8, 257–262.
Zhang, R. (2017). The stress-buffering effect of self-disclosure on Facebook: An examination of stressful life events, social support, and mental health among college students. Comp. Hum. Behav. 75, 527–537. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2017.05.043
Keywords : affective variables, education, emotions, social media, post-pandemic, emotional needs
Citation: Chen M and Xiao X (2022) The effect of social media on the development of students’ affective variables. Front. Psychol. 13:1010766. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1010766
Received: 03 August 2022; Accepted: 25 August 2022; Published: 15 September 2022.
Copyright © 2022 Chen and Xiao. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
This article is part of the Research Topic
The Roles of Social Media in Education: Affective, Behavioral, and Cognitive Dimensions
The history and evolution of digital marketing, top digital marketing trends for 2023, complete guide to top digital marketing job roles in 2021, why digital marketing is critical to your organization, top 12 types of seo, 10 digital marketing skills to master in 2021, top 20 content writer interview questions for 2024, top 14 benefits of digital marketing, the beginner’s guide to local seo, why choose a digital marketing career in 2024, social media: advantages and disadvantages | simplilearn.
Table of Contents
Information and communication technology has changed rapidly over the past 20 years, with a key development being the emergence of social media .
This is Your Ticket to a High-Paid Marketing Job
Here's the video of our course on Social Media Strategy | Social Media Marketing Tutorial
Learn for free! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel & Be a Part of 400k+ Happy Learners Community.
Why People Share Information?
A fascinating study by the New York Times Consumer Insight Group revealed the motivations that participants cited for sharing information on social media. These include a desire to reveal valuable and entertaining content to others; to define themselves; to grow and nourish relationships and to get the word out about brands and causes they like or support.
These factors have caused social networks to evolve from being a handy means for keeping in touch with friends and family to being used in ways that have a real impact on society.
The Influence of Social media is being used in ways that shape politics, business, world culture, education, careers, innovation, and more.
Master SEO, social media, pay-per-click, conversion optimization, digital analytics, content, mobile, & email marketing in just 12 months. Enroll for our Digital Marketing Masters Program !
Top 7 Impacts of Social Media
1. the impact of social media on politics.
A new study from Pew Research claims that about one in five U.S. adults gets their political news primarily through social media. The study also finds that those who do get their political news primarily through social media tend to be less well-informed and more likely to be exposed to unproven claims that people who get their news from traditional sources.
In comparison to other media, the influence of social media in political campaigns has increased tremendously. Social networks play an increasingly important role in electoral politics — first in the ultimately unsuccessful candidacy of Howard Dean in 2003, then in the election of the first African-American president in 2008, and again in the Twitter-driven campaign of Donald Trump.
The New York Times reports that “The election of Donald J. Trump is perhaps the starkest illustration yet that across the planet, social networks are helping to fundamentally rewire human society.” Because social media allows people to communicate more freely, they are helping to create surprisingly influential social organizations among once-marginalized groups.
2. The Impact of Social Media on Society
Almost a quarter of the world’s population is now on Facebook. In the U.S., nearly 80% of all internet users are on this platform. Because social networks feed off interactions among people, they become more powerful as they grow.
Thanks to the internet, each person with marginal views can see that he’s not alone. And when these people find one another via social media, they can do things — create memes, publications, and entire online worlds that bolster their worldview, and then break into the mainstream.
Without social media, social, ethical, environmental, and political ills would have minimal visibility. Increased visibility of issues has shifted the balance of power from the hands of a few to the masses.
The flipside: Social media is slowly killing real activism and replacing it with ‘slacktivism’
While social media activism brings an increased awareness about societal issues, questions remain as to whether this awareness is translating into real change. Some argue that social sharing has encouraged people to use computers and mobile phones to express their concerns on social issues without actually having to engage actively with campaigns in real life. Their support is limited to pressing the ‘Like’ button or sharing content.
This passivity is a very human reaction when people are given options that absolve them from the responsibility to act. A 2013 study by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business found that when people are presented with the option of ‘liking’ a social cause , they use this to opt-out of actually committing time and money to a charitable cause. On the other hand, when people are allowed to show support in private, they are more likely to offer meaningful support by making a financial contribution.
The researchers found that a public endorsement is meant to satisfy others’ opinions, whereas people who give in private do so because the cause is aligned to their values. This peer pressure may be a factor in the recent trend of political polls in the U.S. to misread voter intentions: people who respond to the polls may be answering how they think the pollsters expect or the way they think will please their peers, but in the privacy of the voting booth (or at home with a mail-in ballot), they vote according to their true preferences.
Learn About the Purdue Digital Marketing Bootcamp
3. The Impact of Social Media on Commerce
The rise of social media means it’s unusual to find an organization that does not reach its customers and prospects through one social media platform or another. Companies see the importance of using social media to connect with customers and build revenue.
Businesses have realized they can use social media to generate insights, stimulate demand, and create targeted product offerings. These functions are important in traditional brick-and-motor businesses and, obviously, in the world of e-commerce.
[Related reading: 9 Social Media Marketing Skills You Need Right Now ]
Many studies suggest implementing social networks within the workplace can strengthen knowledge sharing. The result is to improve project management activities and enable the spread of specialized knowledge. Fully implementing social technologies in the workplace removes boundaries, eliminates silos, and can raise interaction and help create more highly skilled and knowledgeable workers.
The flipside: A low number of social ‘shares’ can lead to negative social proof and destroy business credibility
Interestingly, although social sharing has become the norm rather than the exception in business, some companies, after experiencing first-hand some adverse effects of social media, have decided to go against the grain and remove the social sharing buttons from their websites.
A case study of Taloon.com , an e-commerce retailer from Finland, found that conversions rose by 11.9% when they removed share buttons from their product pages.
These results highlight the double-edged nature of the impact of social media. When products attract a lot of shares, it can reinforce sales. But when the reverse is true, customers begin to distrust the product and the company. This effect is what Dr. Paul Marsden, psychologist and author of ‘The Social Commerce Handbook,’ referred to as ‘social proof.’
Become a Certified Marketing Expert in 8 Months
4. The Impact of Social Media on the World of Work
Social media has had a profound effect on recruitment and hiring. Professional social networks such as LinkedIn are important social media platforms for anyone looking to stand out in their profession. They allow people to create and market a personal brand.
Nineteen percent of hiring managers make their hiring decisions based on information found on social media. According to CareerBuilder's 2018 social media recruitment survey , 70 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates.
Also Read: Personal Branding Vs. Business Branding
5. The Impact of Social Media on Training and Development
Job candidates who develop skills in the latest and most advanced social media techniques are far more employable.
A 2020 survey by OnePoll on behalf of Pearson and Connections Academy asked 2,000 U.S. parents and their high-school aged children about the “new normal” of high school. Sixty-eight percent of students and 65% of their parents believe that social media will be a useful tool and part of the new high school normal.
Blogs , wikis, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook , and podcasts are now common tools for learning in many educational institutions. Social media has contributed to the increase in long-distance online learning.
Despite issues of lack of privacy and some instances of cheating among long-distance learners, this has not deterred social platforms from being used in education.
Become a certified digital marketer and reach new career heights with our IMT Ghaziabad Digital Marketing Program . Enroll today!
6. N egative Impact of Social Media
Social Media is relatively a newer technology, hence, it is a little difficult to establish its long-term good and bad consequences. However, multiple researchers have concluded a strong relationship between heavy use of social media platforms with an increase in risk of depression, self-harm, anxiety, and loneliness.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Long-use of social media platforms make you addicted to checking out what other people are doing. FOMO is an exacerbated feeling that other people are living better lives or having more fun compared with you. This feeling makes you check your notification every second, just to make yourself feel better.
Teenagers need to fit in, to be popular, and to outdo others. This process was challenging long before the advent of social media. Add Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram into the mix, and you suddenly have teenagers subjected to feeling pressure to grow up too fast in an online world.
The Cyberbullying Institute’s 2019 survey of U.S. middle and high school students found that over 36 percent report having been cyberbullied at some point in their life, with 30 percent having been victimized twice or more. It also found that almost 15 percent admitted to having cyberbullied someone at least once, and nearly 11 percent admitting to doing it two or more times. Teenagers can misuse social media platforms to spread rumors, share videos aimed at destroying reputations, and to blackmail others.
Lack of Privacy
Stalking, identity theft, personal attacks, and misuse of information are some of the threats faced by social media users. Most of the time, the users themselves are to blame as they share content that should not be in the public eye. The confusion arises from a lack of understanding of how the private and public elements of an online profile actually work.
Unfortunately, by the time private content is deleted, it’s usually too late. and the content can cause problems in people’s personal and professional lives.
7. The Impact of Social Media on Relationships
One of the effects of social media is encouraging people to form and cherish "social media friendships" over actual friendships. The term 'friend' as used on social media is a weak shadow of traditional friendship. Real friends actually know each other, frequently interact face to face, and have a personal bond.
Top 20+ Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media
If the internet is an unmissable part of contemporary life, social media is integral for communication – an unavoidable element, especially for those who lead hectic lifestyles and depend on it for even the smallest updates. People can communicate with friends, speak with family, and stay updated on global happenings via numerous platforms. One of the most common online activities is using social media, and in 2021, 82% of Americans had a profile on one or more social networking sites, up 2% from the usage rate of 80% the year before. That comes to about 223 million social media users in the United States in 2020.
Over the past ten years, social media has grown astronomically. There was minimal participation in the industry in 2005. At the time, most of them were unaware, and among those who knew, having the opportunity to establish a MySpace page typically meant elaborate backgrounds and unique playlists rather than a direct connection. If people were to spring back a little bit, the real taste of social media emerged from blogging, where accounts were created sometime in the 1980s. After that, the evolution of free platforms and chat rooms created newer social opportunities. Later Facebook, Twitter, and others revolutionized it.
Advantages of Social Media
Connectivity is among the most significant benefits of social media. It can link countless users at any time, everywhere. Information could be spread globally through social media and its connectedness, making it simple for people to interact with one another. It results in global relationships.
The use of social media in education is commendable. Learners and educators can enroll in global collaborative platforms to facilitate constructive learning. It also aids in skill improvement by fostering knowledge and creativity.
Information and Updates
Stay informed about events happening across the globe or in other people's lives using social media. In contrast to television, radio, or newspapers, social media lets everyone convey information accurately by presenting the real picture. It aids in showcasing real-world news across the globe.
People have become more conscious thanks to social media. It serves as a channel for information, thus paving the way to innovation and success via developing their knowledge and abilities. Social media well-covers global events, making people more aware of their surroundings.
Share Anything With Others
Social media is the best platform to convey feelings and opinions - a song, a poem, a work of art, a decadent dessert, or anything else. Anyone can let their creativity shine through the platform for it to be shared by millions of others. Sharing the artistic works with others could open the door to achievement and several milestones.
Helps in Building Communities
Live in a diverse world where individuals from different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds exist. Social media brings these people together by linking them on a common platform. Thus, fostering a sense of unity facilitates the development of community links. For instance, food lovers can join the community of food bloggers, while gamers can join communities focused on gaming, etc.
Noble deeds can be promoted on social media. It is the ideal tool for endorsing causes like giving donations to those with cancer, for instance, to those who need money for treatment. While everyone can use social media to assist others in finance, it is also the simplest and fastest way to advance any worthwhile cause.
Social media serves as an excellent stress reliever. Several groups can support people battling against stress, depression, and loneliness. By creating a feeling of elation, these communities can bestow a brighter attitude while also helping develop healthy relationships with others, thus enhancing mental health.
Social media improves company relationships by fostering goodwill among users; its promotion increases sales, which in turn increases profitability. The comments and feedback left by customers are a fantastic resource for businesses. Due to the user likes garnered, companies can experience enhanced popularity and a boost in revenue.
Networking platforms contribute to greater brand recognition. Visually appealing products and information capture users' attention, which increases brand visibility and raises customer knowledge about certain goods and services.
Social media enhances customer engagement by providing goods and services and soliciting comments on them. Users from across communities leave various feedback and suggestions, which can assist in improving areas of focus and satisfy them.
Social media is a great supporter of internet commerce and marketing. Posts and promotions facilitate effective user connections and contribute to the profitability of a business. It fosters user relationships and endorses customer loyalty, which is crucial for any company's expansion.
Disadvantages of Social Media
Affects social-emotional connection.
Social media hampers emotional bonds. Everything is conveyed through texts digitally, which can stunt expressions. Ingenuity is lost when people who would ideally visit one another to convey greetings only send text messages instead of hugs.
Decreases Quick-witted Skill
With the decrease in real face-to-face conversations and in-person chats, quick-wittedness is rare. Sense of humor and sporty tête-à-têtes have been compromised – the sense of love, friendship, fun, and enjoyment have all disappeared due to the effects of social media on human mental health.
Causing Distress to Someone's Feelings
People who use social media to communicate lack empathy and do not wink an eyelid when they have to hurt someone. The latest trolls, negative comments, and feedback are all witnesses to the hard-heartedness that has evolved due to the invisible nature of social media.
Present Physically Not Mentally
Spending time with each other is about being 'present' and in the moment. As friends and family gather, create memories by speaking to one another about times past, present and future. Unfortunately, today with social media being made available on the mobile phone, people spend time with each other 'scrolling' through posts.
Lacking Understanding and Thoughtfulness
Feelings are conveyed through word and voice – but to do this, there is a need to be physically present in front of the other person to communicate feelings effectively. However, social media gives it a different hue when anyone puts them into a text, thus masking the real meaning.
Lack of Quality Family Time
Social media has been the cause of many disrupted relationships simply because families cannot spend quality time with each other. Family time has taken a hit with 'me' and privacy taking precedence (due to the quality of texts that appear on social media).
People, particularly children, have been victims of cyberbullying where threats, cons, and other negative activities easily ensnare them. Fake news and rumors spread effortlessly, leading to depression and suicide.
The vulnerability of social media has also thrown light on how easy it is to gather a person's data. Privacy settings must be constantly updated and profile locked to avoid such situations.
Social media is impulsive. New messages, notifications, and updates are the impetus to constantly checking the phone, resulting in distraction. The individual wastes time even ignoring important work to only look at the menial update.
Spending hours on the couch glued to our smartphones results in several health problems such as obesity, stress, and high blood pressure. Technology and accompanying social media have led to a rise in laziness among people due to no physical activity or exercise.
A serious issue among youth social media addiction has led to disastrous consequences. While checking social media and using the smartphone in moderation is not bad, productive time and energy are wasted due to overuse.
Cheating and Relationship Issues
Individuals are now using social media as a platform for dating and marriage. However, chances are that the information provided on the profile is false, eventually leading to a toxic relationship or even divorce.
The Bottom Line
It’s been said that information is power. Without a means of distributing information, people cannot harness its power. One positive impact of social media is in the distribution of information in today’s world. Platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others have made it possible to access information at the click of a button.
Research conducted by parse.ly shows that the life expectancy of a story posted on the web is 2.6 days, compared to 3.2 days when a story is shared on social media. That’s a difference of 23%, which is significant when you consider that billions of people use the internet daily.
The lifespan of an article is different from the active lifespan of a social media post itself. Green Umbrella estimates that a Facebook post has an average lifespan of 6 hours, an Instagram post or LinkedIn post of 48 hours, and a tweet on Twitter a mere 18 minutes. The longer social media users actively access the information, the more discussion it generates and the greater the social media impact. The shorter the active lifespan, the more frequently one must post to that channel to maintain engagement (recognizing that posting too frequently can cause reader burnout).
While the world would be a much slower place without social media, it’s caused harm as well as good. However, the positive impact of social media is astronomical and far surpasses the ills associated with sharing.
Ultimately, sharing is about getting people to see and respond to content. As long as the content is still relevant and the need for information still exists, it’s always worthwhile for any organization to use social media to keep publishing.
Q1. What is the main impact of social media on society?
Social media has changed the way we live our lives. It has redefined the way we imagine our surroundings. Who could have imagined that community networking sites would become a major platform for brands to find potential customers! There are both positive and negative impacts of social media on society as well as businesses.
Q2.What is the impact of social media in our daily lives?
Social media can impact you both positively and negatively. If you are a brand manager, or small business owner, then social media is a great platform for you to meet your customers. However, for individuals, social media is more like an addiction which may cause discomfort if not addressed properly.
Q3. What is the impact of social media in the modern world?
Social media in the modern world is used to connect with your friends and see what they are up-to without even calling them. It provides us a comfortable solution to connecting with our dear ones. For brands and businesses, social media is more like an advertising platform.
Q4. What are the five main benefits of social media?
Social media is a great innovation that has changed the way we communicate and interact with each other. Here are 5 main benefits of social media -
- Stay updated with all the new things in the world
- Communicate anytime, anywhere from the comfort of your home
- Advertising platforms for brands to find their right-set of consumers
- Easy to build relationships and connecting with like-minded people
- Easy access to desired information, products and services.
Find our Post Graduate Program in Digital Marketing Online Bootcamp in top cities:
About the author.
Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.
Post Graduate Program in Digital Marketing
Digital Marketing Specialist
IMT Ghaziabad Digital Marketing Program
*Lifetime access to high-quality, self-paced e-learning content.
Importance of Social Media in Today's World
Free eBook: Essentials of Social Media Marketing
Exploring Chinese Social Media Apps
What is Social Media Marketing?
Digital Marketing Salary Guide 2021
Top Social Media Apps for 2023
The Top Social Media Marketing Tips and Tricks for 2020
- PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- For Parents
- For Educators
- Our Work and Impact
Or browse by category:
- Movie Reviews
- Best Movie Lists
- Best Movies on Netflix, Disney+, and More
Common Sense Selections for Movies
50 Modern Movies All Kids Should Watch Before They're 12
- Best TV Lists
- Best TV Shows on Netflix, Disney+, and More
- Common Sense Selections for TV
- Video Reviews of TV Shows
Best Kids' Shows on Disney+
Best Kids' TV Shows on Netflix
- Book Reviews
- Best Book Lists
- Common Sense Selections for Books
8 Tips for Getting Kids Hooked on Books
50 Books All Kids Should Read Before They're 12
- Game Reviews
- Best Game Lists
Common Sense Selections for Games
- Video Reviews of Games
Nintendo Switch Games for Family Fun
- Podcast Reviews
- Best Podcast Lists
Common Sense Selections for Podcasts
Parents' Guide to Podcasts
- App Reviews
- Best App Lists
Social Networking for Teens
Gun-Free Action Game Apps
- YouTube Channel Reviews
- YouTube Kids Channels by Topic
Parents' Ultimate Guide to YouTube Kids
YouTube Kids Channels for Gamers
- Preschoolers (2-4)
- Little Kids (5-7)
- Big Kids (8-9)
- Pre-Teens (10-12)
- Teens (13+)
- Screen Time
- Social Media
- Online Safety
- Identity and Community
Explaining the News to Our Kids
- All Articles
- Family Tech Planners
- Digital Skills
- Latino Culture
- Black Voices
- Asian Stories
- Native Narratives
- LGBTQ+ Pride
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
Celebrate Hip-Hop's 50th Anniversary
Movies and TV Shows with Arab Leads
How does social media affect news -- and vice versa?
The relationship between social media and the news is a cultural phenomenon that no one -- probably not even the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat -- ever predicted. According to Common Sense Media's report, News and America's Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News , half of all kids 10–18 get their news from online media. While adding a social element to news has undoubtedly engaged more young people in current events, it's also created divisions, increased the spread of false information, and allowed people to avoid opposing points of views by remaining inside a social circle of like-minded friends.
But social media as both a source of news and a creator of news is here to stay . The dimension it's given to news has become vital. It's enabled more voices to be heard, more stories to be told, and more exposure to significant events to be shared. As with everything, there are pros and cons to the social aspect of news. Parents can help kids understand both the positive and negative effects of the relationship between social media and news to enable them to be well-informed participants .
Here are some of the elements social media brings to news and their pros and cons.
- Pro: Social media has allowed people to broadcast direct, first-person accounts of events without going through a reporter working for a news organization. This can be especially powerful in places where individual voices are oppressed, filtered, or simply not represented.
- Con: Now that anyone can build a website or post any information they want, content creators are not necessarily reliable sources of information. Plus, this kind of coverage can be especially visceral and raw.
Friending, following, commenting.
- Pro: Social media allows every individual to have a voice in the news through comments and posts. It can bring together people who share the same views.
- Con: People tend to friend and follow others who believe the same things they do to the exclusion of other viewpoints. Using social media sites such as Facebook allows people to surround themselves (virtually) with others who agree and reinforce their ideas, which ultimately divides us.
- Pro: Sharing is what makes social media so fun. It exposes you to more content, and you can see what your friends say about it.
- Con: Sharing is so easy that people don't tend to explore the factual accuracy of what they share. Plenty of kids who have shared news through social media say that they later found out a story they shared was fake.
- Pro: Social media enables us to hear about current events while they're happening. When tragedies or natural disasters occur, friends and family can check themselves as "safe" so you don't have to worry.
- Con: Immediacy -- and our expectation of it -- leads to stories being reported before we know all the facts.
Common Sense Media offers the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based ratings and reviews. Our timely parenting advice supports families as they navigate the challenges and possibilities of raising kids in the digital age.
Social Media Essay: Benefits and Drawbacks of Social Networking Sites
The advent of various social media channels has revolutionized the internet landscape by introducing us to global networking. Today, an individual can connect with another in a completely different part of this world just in a matter of seconds. We will take you through various notions and opinions associated with social media and how they impact our everyday lives. Also, there are some incredible tips to give you a better insight into how to write a social media essay.
Sep 03 2020 ● 8 min read
Table of Contents
What is social media essay.
As you know, an social media essay is a piece of writing that is used to introduce an essential topic to the world with its underlying advantages and disadvantages. These aspects are driven solely by facts and should not contain the opinions of the writers. It is drafted to give others a better understanding of the subject in hand.
No matter which subject it pertains to, an essay ends with a conclusion where the writers are permitted to give their opinion after weighing the advantages and disadvantages.
Similarly, a social media essay is written to appreciate the positive aspects and highlight the negative impacts of social media in this time and day. The conclusions include the analysis of the two elements by the writers in their own lives and give an open-ended point of view. Depending upon the essay writer or paper writing service , the decision can be decisive, too, but that is not encouraged.
How do you write a social media essay?
Today, the use of social networks, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or LinkedIn, has increased exponentially. An average millennial spends 2 hours and 58 minutes per day on social media platforms like Facebook. While some say that the platform is super-informative, others argue that all the information gathered on this platform is trivial and doesn't justify long hours invested in the use of social media.
The above arguments make using social media by individuals with a debatable issue, and this is why a lot of students are required to write an essay on social media. So, here are some incredible tips to help you out in writing an essay on social media even if you don't have marketing skills .
Structure of Social Media Essay
A classic essay consists of 3 parts – the introduction, main body, and the conclusion.
- The Introduction
As you introduce the main topic, always begin with how it is relevant to the current scenario. You can do this by providing some background information. The information can be made richer by adding some reliable stats and data . Once you have established the topic, you need to give a strong thesis statement of the hypothesis on which your essay is based.
The thesis statement in your essay should be precise and debatable. If not, the arguments that you are going to put forward in the essay would make no sense.
The main body of your text should consist of logical arguments in relevance to your hypothesis. Make sure you put forward one statement in one paragraph and start a new one with another section. This will make your essay look more organized.
Also, when developing ideas, only include the ones you can write clearly about. If not, avoid them. Make sure that the essay develops coherently.
To conclude the essay about social media, bring back your hypothesis, and state how the aspects you discussed earlier support or nullify it. Make it a point to summarize all ideas, but do not start adding more ideas when you are about to conclude. You can now give an, ideally, open end to your essay.
A great conclusion is the one that provokes thought and will make your readers question the use of social media in their everyday lives.
Also, remember that essays do not have to include pros and cons always. They can either be full of pros or cons or both, depending upon your hypothesis. Just ensure they are relevant.
Various tones of a social media essay
You might believe that an essay is an essay, and two of them would be similar, but that's a misconception. Different essays have varying tones depending on how the author is treating the thesis statement through the main body of the text. Here are a few examples of essays on social media in different tones.
- Sample of a Persuasive Essay
If you are asked to write an academic paper about the effects of social media on the mental health of teenagers and young adults, you should make it persuasive. For this, just writing about the topic is not enough. It would help if you had an impactful thesis, followed by powerful arguments to support or question your theory.
The perils associated with social media addiction are forcing parents and "grown-ups" to throw their benefits in bad light today. In the race to become best in academics and non-academic activities, people are losing their grip on how social networks bring people together. They empower individuals with knowledge about various cultures and languages, which might not have been possible otherwise.
Social media sites can be addictive, and students might waste their formative years scrolling through the trivial feed and gain nothing but superficial knowledge. But that is just because neither parents nor the school is encouraging positive social media behavior. If these institutions start offering tips to students to limit and utilize their time on social media , one would be amazed to see their achievements.
Is social media a catalyst for the downfall of student life? Well, social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and more are teeming with inspirational achievers and content creators who go the extra mile to share their stories and inspire students. If the children are taught to see their access to social media as an opportunity to grow rather than a competition for likes and followers, they are bound to work harder and achieve goals that seemed insurmountable earlier.
- Sample of Negative Essay about social media
If you have been asked to highlight the negative aspects of social media, your teacher does not mean that you have to cross all limits to present the use of social media in a bad light. Instead, what they are asking for is some logical and believable arguments that tell us why social media is harmful to society.
Social media is destroying family links by creating a virtual shell for each individual, which dissociates them with their own parents and siblings. The kids are adversely affected by increased access to social media if parents are always indulged in their devices and ignore them. Eventually, even kids start using tools to connect to other people, ignoring their family members.
Since kids and teenagers are the most impressionable age groups, they start believing that everything that glitters on social media platforms is gold, and they become materialistic. Their lives start revolving around likes, comments, and followers/subscribers. No matter whether their minds are prepared for such exposure or not, social media exposes them to the best and the worst about this world, which might turn them into rebels. They start valuing their online friends more than their offline lives and go to unimaginable extents to keep them entertained.
So, parents and elders need to pay attention to their children and limit their social media use so that they can learn to form real relationships and values.
- Weighing the pros and cons
Another way in which you can present your social media essay is by comparing the positive and negative aspects associated with it. In such essays, the conclusion is better left open for the readers to decide their own take on social media.
One cannot argue that social media has taken the world by storm by allowing like-minded individuals to connect and share their experiences with the world. You can use these platforms to make new friends and discover the ones who have lost touch. You can talk to everyone on your friend list and share your content on these channels to become a part of the creators' community. There is no dearth for talent on social media and its admirers.
On the other hand, if you use social media sites for long stretches of time in one go, you run the risk of addiction. Gradually, a social media addict starts to build a cocoon for themselves, which they find hard to step out of. This leads to a disconnect between you and the family you already have and love. One might feel too confined yet comfortable in their space that they have no urge left to step out, pushing them towards social seclusion, or worse – depression.
When you flip the coin again, you will discover that social media has become an incredible platform for small businesses to grow and earn good profits . The grass-root companies do not have to invest much for advertising and promotion or even own an establishment. All they have to do is to create a grassroots marketing strategy for themselves, and their brand will start selling in no time!
In the end, social media is a game-changer on the World Wide Web. It allows people to connect with the virtual world with the risk of disconnecting with the real world. Then again, businesses are doing well on these platforms. There are indeed two sides to social media, one positive and another negative, and it is up to you which one you lean towards more.
- Argumentative social media essay
A challenging but equally exciting type of essay on social media you should know about is an argumentative essay. It is often written when you are tasked with altering the point of view of the reader, which is of a completely opposite belief. Here is a sample for your better understanding.
Social networks have an uncertain future with the string impression they leave on users, especially the younger generations. Parents panic with the first mention of social media sites by their children and learning about their presence on these platforms because they are afraid of cyberbullying. They do not want their children to get cat-fished by some stranger on Reddit when they are not around.
Moreover, social media platforms are the reason why several individuals are losing their confidential data every day to corporate houses. These businesses are using the information to bug users with ads about stuff they do not want to buy.
If such instances carry on, the day is not far when the government will start to keep checks on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other channels. Massive surveillance will be imposed on these sites to prevent malicious minds from harming innocent teenagers physically or by hacking into their systems. So, before you get a chance to ask " have I been hacked ", know that someone is taking care of it.
Incorporate an Attractive Topic
Having an attractive topic for your social media essay does not mean using poetic words in it. You should have an issue relevant to the current scenario. In the process of selecting a fascinating topic, do not forget to keep it within the extents of your knowledge. If it becomes too complicated for you to write about, you will be stuck when coming up with arguments and ideas.
The perfect topic would be the one which offers good potential for research and is interesting for the readers too. Even if you present profound arguments about such topics, they should be in a logical, comprehensible, and readable format for people to understand easily.
Writing a social media essay is no cakewalk, whether you are a high-school student or university student. All you need to do is, structuralize it properly, be clear with the ideas and arguments you are planning to present, pick the tone of your essay, and began writing. Do not forget to top your essay up with a catchy topic so that your entire hard work doesn't fall flat.
Published on Sep 03 2020
Gintaras is an experienced marketing professional who is always eager to explore the most up-to-date issues in data marketing. Having worked as an SEO manager at several companies, he's a valuable addition to the Whatagraph writers' pool.
Data analytics · 7 mins
Marketing Data Connectors: Key to a Unified Client View
What is Data Tracking? Key to Making Better Business Decisions
Top 7 Data Visualization Tools for your Marketing Agency in 2023
Marketing analytics & reporting · 5 mins
Top 4 Tactics to Jumpstart Your Emails to Success
9 Management Dashboard Types and Uses
Data analytics · 8 mins
Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4: Are You Ready for the Change?
Get marketing insights direct to your inbox.
The Great Social Media–News Collapse
Posted: November 3, 2023 | Last updated: November 6, 2023
Over the past decade, Silicon Valley has learned that news is a messy, expensive, low-margin business—the kind that, if you’re not careful, can turn a milquetoast CEO into an international villain and get you dragged in front of Congress .
No surprise, then, that Big Tech has decided it’s done with the enterprise altogether. After the 2016 election, news became a bug rather than a feature, a burdensome responsibility of truth arbitration that no executive particularly wanted to deal with. Slowly, and then not so slowly, companies divested from news. Facebook reduced its visibility in users’ feeds. Both Meta and Google restricted the distribution of news content in Canada. Meta’s head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, noted that its newest social network, Threads, wouldn’t go out of its way to amplify news content. Elon Musk destroyed Twitter, apparently as part of a reactionary political project against the press, and made a number of decisions that resulted in its replacement, X, being flooded with garbage. As The New York Times declared recently, “The major online platforms are breaking up with news.”
This is correct, but the narrative is missing something. Journalists tend to fixate on how our work is or isn’t distributed. Doing so allows us to believe that algorithms and shortsighted, mercurial tech executives are fully to blame when our work isn’t consumed. Fair enough: Platforms, especially Facebook, have encouraged news organizations to redefine their publishing strategies in the past, including through disastrous pivots to video, only to change directions with an algorithm update or the falsification of key metrics. They’ve also allowed their platforms to be used for dangerous propaganda that crowds out legitimate information. But there is also a less convenient and perhaps more existential side to tech’s divestiture of news. It’s not just the platforms: Readers are breaking up with traditional news, too.
Last week, the Pew Research Center published a new study showing that fewer adults on average said they regularly followed the news in 2021 or 2022 than in any other year surveyed. (Pew started asking the question in 2016.) There’s some shakiness when you break down the demographics, but overall, 38 percent of American adults are following the news closely, versus a high of 52 percent in 2018. This tracks: In 2022, Axios compiled data from different web-traffic-monitoring companies that showed news consumption took a “ nosedive ” after 2020 and, despite January 6, the war in Ukraine, and other major events, engagement across all news media—news sites, news apps, cable news, and social media—was in decline.
The struggles of legacy news organizations have no simple explanation. Trust in the media has fallen sharply in the past two decades, and especially the past several years, though much more so among Republicans. Some of this is self-inflicted, the result of news organizations getting stories wrong and the fact that these mistakes are more visible, and therefore subject to both legitimate and bad-faith criticism, than ever before. A great deal of the blame also comes from efforts on the right to delegitimize mainstream media . Local-news outlets have died a slow death at the hands of hedge funds. A generational shift is at play as well: Millions of younger people look to influencers and creators on Instagram and especially TikTok , along with podcast hosts, as trusted sources of news. In these contexts, consumer trust is not necessarily based on the quality of reporting or the prestige and history of the brand, but on strong parasocial relationships.
[ Read: The internet of the 2010s died today ]
You can see how public opinion has shifted in surveys covering the 2010s. In 2014—squarely in the halcyon days of social news—75 percent of adults surveyed by Pew said that the internet and social media helped them feel more informed about national news. But by 2020, the conventional wisdom had shifted. That year, a Pew survey of more than 10,000 people found that “U.S. adults who mainly get their political news through social media tend to be less engaged with news” and, notably, less knowledgeable about current events and politics.
Perhaps the best way to understand this is by considering the effects that online news and social platforms had on each other. In the fall of 2013, while working at BuzzFeed News , my colleagues and I noticed that, almost overnight, Facebook had turned on a fire hose of traffic to news stories on the site—and it wasn’t just us. According to data I obtained at the time, in the span of three months, a subtle tweak of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm resulted in more than 200 different news organizations becoming much more visible on the platform.
For the next few years, publishers chased the high. More people clicking on their links meant more ads served, which in turn meant healthier businesses. Organizations adopted social-media strategies designed to promote and package stories in ways that were algorithmically pleasing and easily digestible to people casually scrolling on their phones. These years saw a proliferation of clickbait and Upworthy -style “curiosity gap” headlines. Some of these strategies were cynical attempts at “going viral,” but most were earnest attempts to reach people through the immense distribution offered by major social networks.
News cycles became much quicker. And although social media allowed new voices to enter the conversation, the centrality of these platforms also created a herding effect around coverage. News would be reported, takes would be published about that news, and all of it was distributed through social networks, where journalists could easily track metrics to see what was performing well and then tweak their coverage accordingly.
Twitter in particular became a de facto assignment editor for newsrooms, which kicked off races between publications that bestowed outsized importance on niche online drama. The platform helped turn certain journalists into online influencers and microcelebrities and brought some of the news-gathering process into the open. But by humanizing journalists, these platforms also opened them up to attacks and harassment. Traditional news organizations encouraged their reporters to use social media to promote their work, but bristled when those same reporters aired personal opinions.
In politics, a strange, cyclical relationship emerged. Social-media algorithms designed for viral advertising and engagement gave a natural advantage to the most shameless politicians—none more so than Donald Trump, whose every utterance conjured up the kind of divisive engagement perfectly tailored to trend across platforms. Trump’s prominence across social media didn’t just help him win fans or raise money—it also justified more media coverage. (Even now, his posts on Truth Social are covered as news events.) By the logic of social media, Trump’s popularity made him newsworthy, which, in turn, made him more popular, which then made him more newsworthy.
[ Read: What happened to Wirecutter? ]
From 2013 to 2017, news content was arguably the grist for the social-media mill. Political news did numbers on the platforms, which created a new kind of toxic political engagement. Massive, hyperpartisan Facebook pages sharing aggregated news stories designed to provoke users became, for a moment, some of the most influential media services on the planet. At some point, an argumentative, trollish style of posting became the default language of social media. Throughout the 2010s, activists, journalists, propagandists, politicos, white nationalists, and conspiracy theorists converged in these spaces, and the platforms curdled into battlegrounds where news stories were the primary ammunition. As the researcher Michael Caulfield has written , a tragic mass shooting or even just a story about a submarine disaster became evidence to fit an ideological position—a way to attack an enemy. This toxicity made public spaces hostile to reasonable discourse and marginalized audiences.
Consuming news might always have exacted an emotional toll, but by 2020, the experience of picking through the wreckage of social media to find out about the world was particularly awful. It’s telling that during the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic, the very act of reading the news was rebranded as “doomscrolling,” and people have long called Twitter a “hellsite.” It is no wonder, then, that people—and platforms—started opting out of news. The experience was miserable! Likewise, it makes sense that some of the decisions to deprioritize algorithmic news curation was seen by users as a positive change: A recent Morning Consult survey found that “People Like Facebook More Now That It’s Less Newsy.”
It would be wrong to suggest that news—and especially commentary about the news— will vanish. But the future might very well look like slivers of the present, where individual influencers command large audiences, and social networking and text-based media take a back seat to video platforms with recommendation-forward algorithms, like TikTok’s. This seems likely to coincide with news organizations’ continued loss of cultural power and influence.
In a recent New York essay, John Herrman suggested that the 2024 presidential campaign might be “the first modern election in the United States without a minimum viable media” to shape broad political narratives. This might not be a bad development, but it’s likely to be, at the very least, disorienting and powered by ever more opaque algorithms. And although it is obviously self-serving of me to suggest that a decline in traditional media might have corrosive effects on journalism, our understanding of the world, and public discourse, it is worth noting that a creator-economy approach to news shifts trust from organizations with standards and practices to individuals with their own sets of incentives and influences.
Should this era of informational free-for-all come about, there will be an element of tragedy—or at the very least irony—to its birth. The frictionless access and prodigious distribution of social media should have been a perfect partner for news, the very type of relationship that might bolster trust in institutions and cultivate a durable shared reality. None of that came to pass. Social media brought out the worst in the news business, and news, in turn, brought out the worst in a lot of social media.
More for You
Proposition HH fails in Colorado, dealing huge blow to Democrats
Donald Trump's Attorney Pushes for a Mistrial
Just 10 days before another government shutdown, Congress expands to-do list with Ukraine, border
WeWork’s $18 billion bankruptcy just took over 60% of NYC’s office space with it—the last thing the reeling commercial real-estate sector needed
Ukraine appears to be gunning for a top Russian battlefield commander who has had an unusual run as a military leader
The Best Burger in Every State
Va. 2023 election results: Dems projected to flip Legislature, in Youngkin defeat
Pennsylvania Voting Machines Changing Votes Sparks Outrage
Donald Trump once called for his execution. Now Yusef Salaam will be on the New York City Council.
Ranking the 10 worst QB situations in the NFL
First, Ukrainian Marines Secured A Bridgehead Across The Dnipro River. Now, They’re Shuttling Armored Vehicles Across.
It's starting to look like majoring in computer science isn't the road to the promised land of money and job security after all
Rashida Tlaib censure passes
Rare Primate Found in Nebraska Is a Clue About the Future
'Trump is political and electoral poison': Christie blames GOP losses on former president
The 1950s Cake Recipes You Need to Make Today
What is nitrous oxide and why is it being banned?
The US Army needs tanks to win a war in the Pacific, but it knows the Abrams isn't the right tank for the job
House approves bill slashing Pete Buttigieg's salary to $1
Nuclear Bomb Maps Show Impact of Russia, China, U.S. Weapons
41 states sue Meta, claiming Instagram, Facebook are addictive, harm kids
The action marks the most sprawling state challenge to date over social media’s impact on the mental health of children.
Forty-one states and D.C. are suing Meta, alleging that the tech giant harms children by building addictive features into Instagram and Facebook — legal actions that represent the most significant effort by state enforcers to tackle the impact of social media on children’s mental health.
The barrage of lawsuits is the culmination of a sprawling 2021 investigation into claims that Meta contributes to mental health issues among young people. While the scope of the legal claims vary, they paint a picture of a company that has hooked children on its platforms using harmful and manipulative tactics.
A 233-page federal complaint alleges that the company engaged in a “scheme to exploit young users for profit” by misleading them about safety features and the prevalence of harmful content, harvesting their data and violating federal laws on children’s privacy. State officials claim that the company knowingly deployed changes to keep children on the site to the detriment of their well-being, violating consumer protection laws.
The allegations mark a rare bipartisan agreement and underscore the groundswell of concern among government leaders that social networks harm younger users by optimizing for engagement over safety.
“At a time when our nation is not seeing the level of bipartisan problem-solving collaboration that we need, you can see it here among this group of attorneys general,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D), who is co-leading the federal suit, said during a joint news conference Tuesday.
Thirty-three states including Colorado and California are filing a joint lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of California, while attorneys general for D.C. and eight states are filing separate complaints in federal, state or local courts.
“Our bipartisan investigation has arrived at a solemn conclusion: Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D), one of the officials leading the effort, said in a statement.
Meta spokesperson Liza Crenshaw said in a statement that the company is “disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path.”
Weiser said state officials had not discussed whether the cases will be consolidated in court, as in recent lawsuits by school districts and parents, but said the suits will probably be “managed in tandem.” The attorneys general expressed optimism that the multipronged action, whether through settlement or regulatory pressure, could force the company to change its conduct around children.
Civil penalties, changes in business practices and restitution are all be on the table as potential consequences, the attorneys general said.
The effect of Meta’s products on young people was thrust into the national spotlight after a 2021 Wall Street Journal report detailed internal research, leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, showing that Instagram worsened body issues for some teen girls.
The revelations ushered in a political reckoning in Washington and in state capitals across the country, with legislators launching fresh efforts to restrict children’s social media use and regulators renewing scrutiny of Meta’s safety practices.
But efforts to pass new privacy and safety protections for children online have languished at the federal level , largely leaving states to forge ahead with aggressive new measures .
States such as Arkansas and Utah have passed laws banning those younger than 13 from social media and requiring teens younger than 18 to get parental consent to access the sites. California, meanwhile, passed rules requiring tech companies to vet their products for risks and build safety and privacy guardrails into its tools. In lieu of federal legislation, parents and school districts have also taken up the matter, filing lawsuits accusing Meta, TikTok and other platforms of worsening the nation’s youth mental health crisis and deepening anxiety, depression and body image issues among students.
The mounting legal cases arrive at a time when the research about the connection between social media usage and mental health problems remains murky. This year, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy released an advisory arguing that excessive social media use as a child may lead to a higher risk of poor mental health including sleep problems or body dissatisfaction. But a report by the American Psychological Association found that social media use “is not inherently beneficial or harmful to young people” and that there should be more research done on the subject.
In launching their probe in 2021, state enforcers said the company “failed to protect young people on its platforms” and accused it of “exploiting children in the interest of profit.”
The tech giant rejected the investigation at the time, with Meta spokesman Andy Stone saying the allegations were “false and demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the facts.”
Since then, Meta has unveiled numerous policy and product changes intended to make its apps safer for children, including giving parents tools to track activity, building in warnings that urge teens to take a break from social media and implementing stricter privacy settings by default for young users.
The changes have done little to pacify its critics at the state and federal level, who contend the company has shirked its responsibility to protect its most vulnerable young users.
For years, Meta has worried about young people spending less time on Facebook, while teens flock to competitors including TikTok and Snapchat. To attract younger users, the company has attempted to replicate TikTok with its short-form video service, Reels.
But the push to attract young people has drawn the attention of regulators who are concerned that apps like Facebook and Instagram hurt young people’s mental health, draw them into addictive products at a young age and compromise their privacy. Meta argues that the research about the effects of social media on young people is mixed and that the company takes precautions to protect users.
After Haugen’s disclosures became public, Meta announced that it was pausing its plans to build an Instagram app designed especially for children younger than 13. Advocacy groups, state attorneys general and lawmakers had urged the company to drop the project out of concern for young people’s mental health.
The company said at the time that it still believed in the concept of a children-oriented Instagram app because young users were simply lying about their age to join Instagram.
The Biden administration is separately scrutinizing Meta’s record on children’s safety, with the Federal Trade Commission proposing a plan to bar the company from monetizing the data it collects from young users. Meta’s Stone called it a “political stunt” and said the company would “vigorously fight” the move.
While efforts to rein in social media’s impact on children are gaining steam with legislators and enforcers, they are increasingly running into major hurdles in the courts .
Federal judges recently blocked the newly passed children’s safety laws in California and Arkansas, saying they may violate First Amendment protections and sometimes raising doubts about their efficacy and whether they would actually keep children safer.
State and federal enforcers for years have scrutinized tech companies’ handling of children’s private personal information, at times leveling huge fines against social media companies. The FTC and New York state in 2019 reached a $170 million settlement with Google-owned YouTube over charges that the company illegally collected data from users younger than 13.
In recent years, officials have zeroed in on how tech companies could be exacerbating anxiety, depression and other mental health ills among children and teens.
Indiana, Arkansas and Utah have filed separate lawsuits accusing TikTok of harming children through addictive features, by exposing them to inappropriate content or by misleading consumers about their safety protections. Arkansas filed a similar lawsuit accusing Meta of violating the state’s rules against deceptive trade practices.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (R), who co-led the multistate probe and filed one of the lawsuits against Meta in state court, said at Tuesday’s news conference that the federal litigation in California could serve as a “vehicle for settlement talks across the industry.” Colorado’s Weiser said that while he is “always open” to striking settlements, “here that was not something that was able to happen.”
The state attorneys general described their investigation into other tech companies as ongoing.
“This is not just about Meta but as one of the biggest players and as an entity where there’s clear evidence of misleading the public and making deliberate decisions that hurt ], I think it’s appropriate that we lead off with this particular lawsuit,” Skrmetti said
Mobile Menu Overlay
The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500
FACT SHEET: President Biden Issues Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence
Today, President Biden is issuing a landmark Executive Order to ensure that America leads the way in seizing the promise and managing the risks of artificial intelligence (AI). The Executive Order establishes new standards for AI safety and security, protects Americans’ privacy, advances equity and civil rights, stands up for consumers and workers, promotes innovation and competition, advances American leadership around the world, and more. As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive strategy for responsible innovation, the Executive Order builds on previous actions the President has taken, including work that led to voluntary commitments from 15 leading companies to drive safe, secure, and trustworthy development of AI. The Executive Order directs the following actions: New Standards for AI Safety and Security
As AI’s capabilities grow, so do its implications for Americans’ safety and security. With this Executive Order, the President directs the most sweeping actions ever taken to protect Americans from the potential risks of AI systems :
- Require that developers of the most powerful AI systems share their safety test results and other critical information with the U.S. government. In accordance with the Defense Production Act, the Order will require that companies developing any foundation model that poses a serious risk to national security, national economic security, or national public health and safety must notify the federal government when training the model, and must share the results of all red-team safety tests. These measures will ensure AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy before companies make them public.
- Develop standards, tools, and tests to help ensure that AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy. The National Institute of Standards and Technology will set the rigorous standards for extensive red-team testing to ensure safety before public release. The Department of Homeland Security will apply those standards to critical infrastructure sectors and establish the AI Safety and Security Board. The Departments of Energy and Homeland Security will also address AI systems’ threats to critical infrastructure, as well as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and cybersecurity risks. Together, these are the most significant actions ever taken by any government to advance the field of AI safety.
- Protect against the risks of using AI to engineer dangerous biological materials by developing strong new standards for biological synthesis screening. Agencies that fund life-science projects will establish these standards as a condition of federal funding, creating powerful incentives to ensure appropriate screening and manage risks potentially made worse by AI.
- Protect Americans from AI-enabled fraud and deception by establishing standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content and authenticating official content . The Department of Commerce will develop guidance for content authentication and watermarking to clearly label AI-generated content. Federal agencies will use these tools to make it easy for Americans to know that the communications they receive from their government are authentic—and set an example for the private sector and governments around the world.
- Establish an advanced cybersecurity program to develop AI tools to find and fix vulnerabilities in critical software, building on the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing AI Cyber Challenge. Together, these efforts will harness AI’s potentially game-changing cyber capabilities to make software and networks more secure.
- Order the development of a National Security Memorandum that directs further actions on AI and security, to be developed by the National Security Council and White House Chief of Staff. This document will ensure that the United States military and intelligence community use AI safely, ethically, and effectively in their missions, and will direct actions to counter adversaries’ military use of AI.
Protecting Americans’ Privacy
Without safeguards, AI can put Americans’ privacy further at risk. AI not only makes it easier to extract, identify, and exploit personal data, but it also heightens incentives to do so because companies use data to train AI systems. To better protect Americans’ privacy, including from the risks posed by AI, the President calls on Congress to pass bipartisan data privacy legislation to protect all Americans, especially kids, and directs the following actions:
- Protect Americans’ privacy by prioritizing federal support for accelerating the development and use of privacy-preserving techniques— including ones that use cutting-edge AI and that let AI systems be trained while preserving the privacy of the training data.
- Strengthen privacy-preserving research and technologies, such as cryptographic tools that preserve individuals’ privacy, by funding a Research Coordination Network to advance rapid breakthroughs and development. The National Science Foundation will also work with this network to promote the adoption of leading-edge privacy-preserving technologies by federal agencies.
- Evaluate how agencies collect and use commercially available information —including information they procure from data brokers—and strengthen privacy guidance for federal agencies to account for AI risks. This work will focus in particular on commercially available information containing personally identifiable data.
- Develop guidelines for federal agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of privacy-preserving techniques, including those used in AI systems. These guidelines will advance agency efforts to protect Americans’ data.
Advancing Equity and Civil Rights
Irresponsible uses of AI can lead to and deepen discrimination, bias, and other abuses in justice, healthcare, and housing. The Biden-Harris Administration has already taken action by publishing the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and issuing an Executive Order directing agencies to combat algorithmic discrimination , while enforcing existing authorities to protect people’s rights and safety. To ensure that AI advances equity and civil rights, the President directs the following additional actions:
- Provide clear guidance to landlords, Federal benefits programs, and federal contractors to keep AI algorithms from being used to exacerbate discrimination.
- Address algorithmic discrimination through training, technical assistance, and coordination between the Department of Justice and Federal civil rights offices on best practices for investigating and prosecuting civil rights violations related to AI.
- Ensure fairness throughout the criminal justice system by developing best practices on the use of AI in sentencing, parole and probation, pretrial release and detention, risk assessments, surveillance, crime forecasting and predictive policing, and forensic analysis.
Standing Up for Consumers, Patients, and Students
AI can bring real benefits to consumers—for example, by making products better, cheaper, and more widely available. But AI also raises the risk of injuring, misleading, or otherwise harming Americans. To protect consumers while ensuring that AI can make Americans better off, the President directs the following actions:
- Advance the responsible use of AI in healthcare and the development of affordable and life-saving drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services will also establish a safety program to receive reports of—and act to remedy – harms or unsafe healthcare practices involving AI.
- Shape AI’s potential to transform education by creating resources to support educators deploying AI-enabled educational tools, such as personalized tutoring in schools.
AI is changing America’s jobs and workplaces, offering both the promise of improved productivity but also the dangers of increased workplace surveillance, bias, and job displacement. To mitigate these risks, support workers’ ability to bargain collectively, and invest in workforce training and development that is accessible to all, the President directs the following actions:
- Develop principles and best practices to mitigate the harms and maximize the benefits of AI for workers by addressing job displacement; labor standards; workplace equity, health, and safety; and data collection. These principles and best practices will benefit workers by providing guidance to prevent employers from undercompensating workers, evaluating job applications unfairly, or impinging on workers’ ability to organize.
- Produce a report on AI’s potential labor-market impacts , and study and identify options for strengthening federal support for workers facing labor disruptions , including from AI.
Promoting Innovation and Competition
America already leads in AI innovation—more AI startups raised first-time capital in the United States last year than in the next seven countries combined. The Executive Order ensures that we continue to lead the way in innovation and competition through the following actions:
- Catalyze AI research across the United States through a pilot of the National AI Research Resource—a tool that will provide AI researchers and students access to key AI resources and data—and expanded grants for AI research in vital areas like healthcare and climate change.
- Promote a fair, open, and competitive AI ecosystem by providing small developers and entrepreneurs access to technical assistance and resources, helping small businesses commercialize AI breakthroughs, and encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to exercise its authorities.
- Use existing authorities to expand the ability of highly skilled immigrants and nonimmigrants with expertise in critical areas to study, stay, and work in the United States by modernizing and streamlining visa criteria, interviews, and reviews.
Advancing American Leadership Abroad
AI’s challenges and opportunities are global. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue working with other nations to support safe, secure, and trustworthy deployment and use of AI worldwide. To that end, the President directs the following actions:
- Expand bilateral, multilateral, and multistakeholder engagements to collaborate on AI . The State Department, in collaboration, with the Commerce Department will lead an effort to establish robust international frameworks for harnessing AI’s benefits and managing its risks and ensuring safety. In addition, this week, Vice President Harris will speak at the UK Summit on AI Safety, hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
- Accelerate development and implementation of vital AI standards with international partners and in standards organizations, ensuring that the technology is safe, secure, trustworthy, and interoperable.
- Promote the safe, responsible, and rights-affirming development and deployment of AI abroad to solve global challenges, such as advancing sustainable development and mitigating dangers to critical infrastructure.
Ensuring Responsible and Effective Government Use of AI
AI can help government deliver better results for the American people. It can expand agencies’ capacity to regulate, govern, and disburse benefits, and it can cut costs and enhance the security of government systems. However, use of AI can pose risks, such as discrimination and unsafe decisions. To ensure the responsible government deployment of AI and modernize federal AI infrastructure, the President directs the following actions:
- Issue guidance for agencies’ use of AI, including clear standards to protect rights and safety, improve AI procurement, and strengthen AI deployment.
- Help agencies acquire specified AI products and services faster, more cheaply, and more effectively through more rapid and efficient contracting.
- Accelerate the rapid hiring of AI professionals as part of a government-wide AI talent surge led by the Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Digital Service, U.S. Digital Corps, and Presidential Innovation Fellowship. Agencies will provide AI training for employees at all levels in relevant fields.
As we advance this agenda at home, the Administration will work with allies and partners abroad on a strong international framework to govern the development and use of AI. The Administration has already consulted widely on AI governance frameworks over the past several months—engaging with Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, the UAE, and the UK. The actions taken today support and complement Japan’s leadership of the G-7 Hiroshima Process, the UK Summit on AI Safety, India’s leadership as Chair of the Global Partnership on AI, and ongoing discussions at the United Nations. The actions that President Biden directed today are vital steps forward in the U.S.’s approach on safe, secure, and trustworthy AI. More action will be required, and the Administration will continue to work with Congress to pursue bipartisan legislation to help America lead the way in responsible innovation. For more on the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to advance AI, and for opportunities to join the Federal AI workforce, visit AI.gov .
We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.
Opt in to send and receive text messages from President Biden.