Social media has revolutionized the global social landscape by linking billions of users. However, the effects of social media use are relatively contentious with some being positive and others negative. The purpose of this research is to establish the influences of using social media. The theory of uses and gratification, as well as, the framing theory have been used to inform the various effects of social media use. The first chapter introduces the issue and the aim of the study. The second section includes a review of the existing literature on the impacts of social media use. The third part describes the controversy surrounding the influences of using social media in addition to the pros and cons associated with exposure to social media. The fourth segment includes the conclusion of the study. The investigation reveals that social media can be used to improve the well-being of people, as well as, animals and farm activities by sharing research outcomes with the public. Additionally, social media is used for obtaining information and news on different issues. Conversely, prolonged exposure to social media use can accelerate peer pressure, trigger depression, and cause panic after viewing fear-induced posts. Regulating the time spent on social media can mitigate some of the risks by reducing exposure to harmful information.
Social Media Influences
The social media phenomenon remains one of the most fascinating and significant inventions of modern technology in the discipline of communication. Since the advent of social media four decades ago, the past two decades have been nothing short of surprises by the phenomenon following significant emerging technologies. Stein (2014) identifies improved connectivity, advanced mobile devices, smart devices, and consistent Web developments as some of the most significant emerging technologies influencing the growth of social media use. The concept continues to transform how people interact and communicate throughout the globe as it evolves continually. Social media platforms continue to be significant avenues for broadcasting and acquiring first-hand information concerning tragic events. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter comprise some of the most popular social media platforms currently in use with more than one billion users except for Twitter which has approximately300 million (Duggan & Smith, 2013).
The uses and gratification theory and the framing theory can be used to inform the influences of social media on the users. Dutta-Bergman (2004) identifies four elements of the communication process in the framing theory including the sender, the recipient, the message, and the culture. The theory helps to understand the framing of content posted on social media platforms, the motivations of the user, and the effects of social media on the user. Contrary, the uses and gratification theory suggests that individuals use social media to satiate specific wants or desires while the social environment predictably changes how they interact with other users through the medium (McDool, Powell, Roberts, & Taylor, 2016). Stein (2014) provides several examples of reasons why people use different media options including social interaction, relaxation, arousal, escape, and pursuing self-expression. This paper seeks to study the varying effects of social media on the users using the uses and gratification theory, as well as, the framing theory as guidelines for explaining the influences. Understanding the influences of social media on the users should assist in mitigating possible risks, as well as, optimize on areas that may be of benefit to the user.
Social Media Use
The emergence of social media has revolutionized how businesses interact with the target audience. Social media sites can be avenues for collecting information about the attitudes and behaviors of the target population as well as communicating about the company’s products and services. Sinanaj and Beyer (2017) states that social media is an excellent marketing tool for startups and firms seeking to gain a competitive advantage. Besides being a cost-friendly marketing channel, social media also enables businesses to reach multitudes of people as well as communicate with the target audience on an individual level. A report by Pew Research states that there are currently over 2 billion social media users with 70% of the users accessing the chosen platform through mobile devices (Duggan & Smith, 2013). Duggan and Smith, (2013) posit that the adults’ use of social media in the US has been on the rise over the past decade with a prevalence of 5% in 2005 to 54% in 2013 whereas, young adults comprise 86% of the total population of social media users in the US. According to a survey by Compete, a web analytics company, a large group of people estimated at 65% use their smartphones to read news feeds, post status updates, read & reply to messages and post photos (Sinana & Beyer, 2017).
Popular Social Media Sites
Facebook remains to be the prominent platform for adults under the age of 65 years in the US at 68% while Snapchat dominates among the youth aged 18-24 years at 78% popularity (Duggan & Smith, 2013). Duggan and Smith, (2013) examined the prevalence of social media use among teens in use and found out that 95% have access to smartphones. The most popular social media platforms among the teens in the US include YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook at 85%, 72%, 69% and 51% respectively (Duggan & Smith, 2013). While the majority of the adults used social media at least once daily, 45% of the teens reported being on social media ‘almost continually (Duggan & Smith, 2013).’ The number of times individuals use a social media site in a day is an essential factor when establishing which platform to use extensively for optimal impact
Facilitators of Social Media Use
Initially developed for interaction between individuals and people in specific groups, social media sites have become avenues for transmitting various types of social news including tragic events, private events, regional events, and group events. Computers were the primary mode of accessing social networking sites in the early 2000s; however, the majority of people have shifted to the portable and relatively affordable devices allowing them to use social media anytime (Dutta-Bergman, 2004). Constant connection to the internet is considered a critical technology for maintaining consistent interaction and socializing with new and old friends on social media (Sinanaj & Beyer, 2017). Social media has seen a revolutionary growth since the advent of the first modern smartphone in 2007. The size, capacity, and mobile phone applications have frequently changed with larger phones becoming more affordable with time (Duggan & Smith, 2013). Additionally, smartphone ownership has grown exponentially over the years following that smartphone penetration by 2013 stood at 21.6% of the global population, 39% in 2011, and 44% in 2013 (Duggan & Smith, 2013). In the US alone, approximately 77% of the population own a smartphone compared with 35% in 2011 (Duggan & Smith, 2013). Fast and stable internet connectivity in addition to powerful cameras comprises some of the most instrumental smartphone features that promote social media penetrations (Duggan & Smith, 2013).
Effects of Social Media Use
The use of social media has had both positive and negative effects on the users and other people that may be involved within the conversations. A study by Pulido, Rendondo-Sama, Sorde-Marti, and Flecha (2018) reveals that social media can be helpful in the passing of important information on healthcare. For instance, some of the respondents in the investigation claim to have managed to reduce their weight after finding significant information on social media and applying it. As a result, Pulido et al. (2018) demonstrate that social media can be used to share research information which promotes personalized health, independent, and active age. Additionally, the authors found out that social media has assisted in the better management of their farm and animal welfare by following updates on several topics and research outcomes. The participants of the study mentioned cameras and microphones are instrumental in the recording of farm activities and sharing them on social media for deeper conversations with other farmers and animal-related professionals and enthusiasts.
Kuhn and Mansour (2011) examined the impact of social media use on job searching for unemployed people in the USA and established that it had assisted the majority of people in securing a job. Additionally, Kuhn and Mansour (2011) found that employed people who access social media while at work have a higher probability of getting another job compared to counterparts who do not access social media while at work. Therefore, the use of social media use has made it easier for people to attain employment compared to the times before. Conversely, the use of social media has been associated with some adverse effects as demonstrated by Stein (2014) in her report concerning the traumatic incidents caused by social media addiction. Stein (2014) mentions a survey that showed excessive use of social media contributed to drug abuse among teens in Columbia. Furthermore, Stein (2014) states that spending more time on social media has been associated with increased peer pressure, cyberbullying, and conflicts among peers.
Discussion of Social Media Influences
Controversy Surrounding Influences of Social Media Use
Social media impacts remain a contentious topic concerning the benefits and disadvantages of its use, as well as, dependency. Studies reveal that social media has allowed more people from across the world to interact and engage on different issues. Additionally, it has opened up opportunities for businesses, employment, sharing of news, and means of livelihood for others. However, a minority of the population is said to be addicted to social media with corresponding adverse outcomes. Stein (2014) argues that there is a link between excessive use of social media constituting to more than five hours of exposure daily and depression in adolescents. Additionally, Sinanaj and Beyer (2014) state that issues such as breach of sensitive data may result in cyberbullying or feeling of irrelevance after viewing the posts of their peers or lack of approval for the content posted. However, McDool et al. (2016) posit that children with greater exposure to social media are better informed concerning the world and feel happier concerning their friendship. Conversely, the study by McDool et al. (2016) also reveals that the same children were relatively discontented with their daily lives creating controversy from the results.
Pros of Social Media Influence
The use of social media has numerous positive impacts on the respective users. Social media has transformed the social setting by linking billions of people. According to Stein (2014), social media platforms sites like Facebook and Twitter have enabled persons with similar interests including businesses, research, entertainment, socializing, and news to interact on a greater magnitude. Moreover, social media has become a preferred source of information compared to traditional mass media including the television, radio, and print. As a result, regular users of social media are more informed on current issues compared to persons who access social media less often. Social media has allowed people to self-disclose concerning issues they would not otherwise let out to persons around them, thereby improving the well-being of some of the users (Sinanaj & Beyer, 2017). According to McDool et al. (2016), adolescents reported happier friendships following regular social media use on activities such as sports, face-to-face conversations, and playing games. Additionally, social media has allowed people to attain jobs compared to other forms of online job searches while offering other individuals avenues for showcasing their work and a means of livelihood (Kuhn & Mansour, 2011). Therefore, it can be deduced that social media has several positive influences to its users.
Cons of Social Media Influence
Nevertheless, social media has been accused as the culprit for various adverse impacts on its users. Social media can be used to cause fear and confusion among people through the dissemination of fake news on some of the popular platforms. According to McDool et al. (2016), terrorist groups can take responsibility for some unexpected situations with the intention of causing panic among the citizens leading to distressed times. Excessive use of social media can lead to addiction among teens who may later report instances of depression (McDool et al., 2017). One or several cases of cyberbullying could lead to depression and stigma in adolescents who use social media excessively and may end up triggering thoughts of suicide. Self-disclosing some issues on social media may turn into trolls and harassment comments that may facilitate low-self-esteem in the user thereby interfering with their well-being. Additionally, heavy users of social media reported that they were dissatisfied with the overall everyday life despite having happier friendships (McDool et al., 2016). Social media users are more vulnerable to peer pressure concerning drug abuse and other harmful information that is frequently posted on social media including sex, food, and body weight. Stein (2014) states that teenagers who used social media for more than five hours daily were two times more likely to use marijuana and three times more likely to consume alcohol. This discussion demonstrates that there are cons for prolonged exposure to social media use.
Social media use has both positive and negative influences depending on the reason for use and gratification, as well as, the framing of content. Persons who used social media for sports, entertainment, face-to-face socializing, and playing games happen to have cheerful friendships while encountering an overall discontented daily life. On the other hand, users who are excessively exposed to harmful information are more likely to indulge in the injurious activities whereas, those who were exposed to constructive information have a high potential for improving their well-being. Social media can be used as a source of information; however, some information can be inaccurate and others terror-driven causing unease among the public. Approximately, three billion people use social media worldwide with approximately 60% of the adult population and 80% of youths in developed countries being regularly using social media. Smartphones are the primary cause of the proliferation of social media use due to their affordability and portability compared to other devices utilized for accessing the social platforms. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snap Chat, and Twitter include the most social media platforms in the US. The benefits of social media use are greater compared to the adverse effects as they affect a minority of the population that can be helped with the right interventions. Regulating the time of exposure to social media use should help in alleviating some of its negative impacts.
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