Throughout the years, social media has progressively become a part of our society and its culture. It is now incorporated into everything we do, from the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed. There are many upsides to having a social media account but at what cost?
Social media has made it easier to hide behind a screen and hurt other people without their knowledge of who you are. We have become so accustomed to being negative with people we don’t know and fighting back when someone says something about us online. We continue a chain of hatred that we eventually let out on people beyond the screen.
We have begun to foster a generation of bullies.
Cyberbullying is not a new topic. We have been dealing with this issue since the late 1990s when the emergence of the internet became prevalent. Many people did not truly understand the importance of cyberbullying at the time since it was new. It has shifted through different platforms and different methods over time to get us to where we are today. It started gaining attention on MySpace, the second networking site ever created, after there was a spike in teen suicides. Then it got worse with the popularity of mobile devices, as you were now able to share text messages and photos with ease. Many teens were committing suicide after their nude photos got passed around, and they received hate for it through different platforms. This would eventually lead us to where we are today, where we have many devices, platforms and methods of hurting people online.
What can account for this spike in negativity and hatred?
Cancel culture has definitely made a huge impact. When our generation sees someone they don’t like or an opinion they don’t agree with, they decide to “cancel them,” or essentially ruin their reputation. We have chosen collectively as a society to patronize people for mistakes that we make as humans even if we have done the same. Aside from serious allegations, there have been many times celebrities have been canceled for minuscule reasons. This method not only leaves room for no change but also teaches kids that it’s okay to criticize and attack people just because they find them annoying, don’t agree with their opinion, etc.
One example is when the internet tried to cancel Rebecca Black for her song “Friday.” At the time of its release (2011), she was only thirteen-years-old making a silly video with her friends. Everyone made fun of her and said horrible things to her, all of which had a lasting effect on her. Although celebrities seem unattainable, they are regular people just like us who have feelings and see the hate plastered all over the internet.
Another issue that can make an impact is the fact that we are able to share and do things with ease online. A 15-second TikTok can be shared on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat in under a minute. We tend to do it carelessly without thinking about the consequences or effects it can cause. Since it’s behind a screen, you are unable to see the pain and embarrassment you can cause.
The effects it can have on mental health are detrimental. It can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and feelings of worthlessness. Having any of these can change behavior; trouble sleeping, failing grades, and use of drugs/alcohol. People are able to sometimes cope with these issues (through therapy or counseling), while others might not be able to handle it and do things to harm themselves.
How can these platforms prevent this from happening? Social media apps have been creating features to help mitigate the effects of aggressive posts. Facebook has implemented preventative and reactive solutions, in which users can learn to identify bullying and report it when they see it. Instagram has taken similar measures, as it is controlled by the same owners of Facebook. They have the option of blocking and reporting and also resources you can use to gain more information on body shaming and image. They also allow users to hide comments or censor posts that might make them feel uneasy. When it comes to Twitter, there is only a reactive approach in which you can block and report. Yet they take pride in allowing their followers the right to speak their minds, so they don’t impede in cyberbullying situations until people deal with long-term harassment.
What can you do to stop it? One thing that can definitely help is to be conscientious about what you post or say to others. Even if you think they won’t see it, they most likely will and it can leave any amount of impact on that person. Another thing you can do is report anything that is considered hate or inappropriate. It would be anonymous and can make more of an impact than you might think.