Pros and Cons of Social Media Use
In one TFP lesson, students brainstorm the pros and cons of technology and social media as they are used in relationships. Students break up into teams and debate whether technology overall helps or hinders relationships more.
A Silicon Valley scientist and writer, Jaron Lanier, has recently published a book called Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Lanier focuses more on the negative effects of social media on relationships, citing extensive research and real-world examples of harm caused. His ideas are worth considering if you are thinking about whether or not social media is harmful or helpful to you.
According to Lanier, research has shown that heavy Facebook use actually makes users more depressed and anxious, especially young users. A large National Institute of Mental Health Study discovered this correlation. You can read more about that research here.
Lanier also describes how social media algorithms work. These algorithms are written to increase user engagement. Unfortunately, negative emotions tend to capture engagement more effectively, so the algorithms lean towards presenting users with anger-inducing or depressing content in their Newsfeeds. Basically, the algorithms are designed to get users as upset and anxious as possible in order to keep drawing them back to using the site.
In addition, there are serious privacy concerns. Because social media services like Facebook and Instagram are free, the deal offered to users is (according to Lanier), “Let us spy on you and in return you’ll get free services.” Users’ data on Facebook is sold and shared with companies looking to manipulate them through advertising. Countries like Russia have even spent millions of dollars buying Facebook users’ data in order to try to influence political outcomes (check out this link).
Yet, as students often point out, social media helps bring people together and offers many positives to the world as well. Being aware of both the positives and negatives can help you make an informed decision regarding what’s best for your own life.
Here’s Lanier’s book.
Picture from here.