Social Media and Its Toxicity

Social media has become overwhelmingly popular in today’s technology-driven society. Knowing how popular social media is among college students, I’m confident that many of us have an Instagram account and actively use it. Those who do use it may scroll through Instagram on a daily basis and make it part of our daily routine without even realizing it.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to limit in-person social interaction for a few years and showed us how much we rely on social media as a distraction. We were all home and unable to interact with our friends, so instead we turned to social media.

Although it definitely helped at the time, many of us never experienced true boredom because we always kept ourselves busy on our phones. Being bored is not always a bad thing and we often reflect more on our inner thoughts when we are bored. Without being alone and reflecting, our minds often feel crammed with information and thoughts we do not give ourselves time to release.

Mental health is an important but often under discussed topic. We now know that many people struggle with mental health problems, so it has been widely normalized so that more people can seek the help they might want or need. Mental health issues, specifically depression and anxiety, seemingly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, which I suspect is largely due to increased social media usage.

It spread an abundance of false news during this time of worry. Due to the fact that the pandemic was so new, we did not know much about it. Many people were believing everything they saw online, which instantly caused anxiety levels to go through the roof.

Another big factor that contributes to the toxicity of social media is the use of filters. When social media first came out, there were only filters that changed the photography and videography color schemes.

Over time, the filters have slowly found a new purpose and can now be used to completely modify and change our facial features and structures. There were originally silly ones that made you turn into an old lady or an animal, but then over the course of time it took a turn.

Recent generations have grown up with these tools available to them, and now these filters are being used more than ever and have negative impacts on self-image for many social media users. It could be nice to use a filter that puts a little make-up on you or gets rid of the bags under your eyes, but it is scary and concerning to see it become such a large part of our reality.

Many Instagram users have used what is called a beauty filter. Although adults might be able to recognize what is real and what is a filter, children do not have this same capability. If a child uses Instagram, seeing someone with no flaws and identified as “perfect” because of a filter can cause insecurities at a young age. Children are using them and are growing up in a generation where beauty is often the result of a filter.

Plastic surgery is a very popular option for people who want to change their physical appearance, and I believe this is the result of people using filters that show you what you look like with certain modifications you wish to see on yourself.

I am always curious as to how different my life would be if social media was never a thing. Would we be happier? Would we be sadder? We will never know because more social media applications are being made as we speak, which means we can never escape it and it is now a permanent part of our new reality.

According to onlinetherapy.com, 64 percent of users who spend four hours or more per day on social media experience depression, compared to 44 percent of users who are on the platforms three hours or less per day. Data like this makes you question why we still use social media if it has such negative effects. It is not only addictive, but it is also everywhere.

Social media can be extremely useful in some contexts, such as establishing career connections and looking for jobs. However, a lot of users aren’t on social media for that aspect of it. Social media can be a fun and useful tool at times, but it’s hard to ignore its toxic undertones.