Social media as defined by Merriam-Webster
in 2016 as any “forms of electronic communication (such as website) through
which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal
messages and other contents (such as videos)”. Social media is an essential
constituent of today’s society, with tons of information being circulated over
the internet. Some of the most popular social media websites are BaiduTieba, Gab,
LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest,
Reddit, Twitter, Weibo, WhatsApp and YouTube. Social network sites are reported to have
more than 100,000,000 registered users.
A youth is best understood as a period of transition from
the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our
interdependence as members of a community and the society (UNESCO). It is also
seen as a time when someone is neither a child nor an adult but rather
in-between, as long as a person is able to make decisions and choices to
his/her own benefit and detriment, he/she is considered to be a youth. It is an
age between 15-35 years when an individual reflects noticeable changes in
desire, actions or attitude, feelings and traits.
Furthermore, social media’s history stretches far deeper
than anyone might imagine or recall. Social media existed in various forms
before the 20th century (such as telephone, radio, postal service
and the telegraph) it enjoyed a massive boost in the 20th century
with the earliest forms of internet such as UseNet (1979’s), CompuServe(1960s)
and Six Degrees(1997). Blogging sites became popular in 1999, which created a
lasting sensation that’s still growing today although recently at the expanse
of the youths. Youths have translated their need for knowledge, recognition,
acceptance, communication and friendship to virtually all social media sites.
The people who are at the point of molding the future of social media
networking sites are teenagers and youths. This is because a handful of
internet users are teenagers and youths. Reportedly, many young people spend an
average of eight hours online every day, much of that time is used to chat,
send/receive messages, pictures and making comments, rarely focusing on
learning and research. Media network sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp,
LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, will remain popular among children and teens due to
its provision of satisfaction, low cost features, universal acceptance and
speedy communication. In ancient times precisely in the 1950s to 1980s, we
witnessed the way Television turned a nation of people who listened to media
content to watchers of media content, the growth of social media has done same differently
by creating a nation of media content creators. It was reported that between
2012 and 2014 witnessed a growth in usage of social media sites by youths aged
between 18-29 years from 9 percent to 49 percent (Pew Research Centre’s
internet project library survey) as indicated below;
BBC news research (2013) reported that sixty seven percent
of Facebook users are composed of youths and students. According to CNN, in 2010 75% of people got their news
forwarded through e-mail or social media posts, whereas 37% of people shared a
news item via Facebook or Twitter. Social media is so popular
that its worldwide usage is expected to reach about 2.95 billion by the year
2020, which is around a third of the Earth’s entire population.
Social media can be used in
ways that promote positive and productive ideas in society. These positive
behaviors make social media an invaluable tool to teenagers and youths if used
correctly. Below are some of the ways in which social media has influenced the
networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are constantly being used by
teenagers and youths to create a voice for the voiceless. For instance, groups
like “Disability is not inability”, FIFA’s “Say no to racism” campaign and hash
tag “#Bringbackourgirls” which created a buzz worldwide and caught the
attention of world leaders, are being used to make society more conscious of
how to treat people with certain disabilities, difference in color, race or
religion and fast-track the government’s efforts to rescue its citizens from
media platforms are used to educate teenagers and youths, prior to the growth
of social media advising, lecturing and talking to young people through a
face-to-face contact medium was considered ideal, social media in recent times
can do the same job with more speed and efficiency to a broader audience all at
media has been able to give youths the power to hone different skills that are
important in the world today, interacting freely and easily with fellow
teenagers on these sites are increasing each day and it would also extend to
workplaces in a short time, brought about by the growth in exposure to
different people while communicating online, some of whom may be their
potential employers later on. YouTube houses thousands of video clips to give
individuals an opportunity to perfect their various talents or skills for
instance, programming, playing guitar, drumming and Swimming.
involvement and active participation are enhanced through sharing of rich content;
it has helped young people to think outside the box in many occasions, creating
new and interesting content, sharing unique ideas and information. Young people
now spring up new methods and ways of going about things to express
individuality and creativity.
However, in spite of the above
influences there are also some negative influences clearly observable on youths
which are as follows;
media can create a false sense of understanding among people who are not directly
involved in the issue. An example of social media creating misconceptions can
be seen during the Arab Spring protests. Today’s generation rely heavily on
social media to understand what is happening in the world, and consequently
people are exposed to both true and false information. For example, Americans
have several misconceptions surrounding the events of the Arab Springs movement.
Social media can be used to create political change, both major and minor. For
example, in 2011 Egyptians used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as a means to
communicate and organize political rallies to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak.
Statistics show that during this time the rate of Tweets from Egyptians
increased from 2,300 to 230,000 per day and the top 23 protest videos had
approximately 5.5 million views2. 06
people now parade themselves as perfect people today, with perfect body, hair
and skin, maybe that’s what it appeals to young people today. Credits to
Photoshop, the standard of beauty has become impossible to attain and these
images are everywhere. Consequently it has led to young people having distorted
body image. For instance a girl getting more likes on a Photoshop “Selfie” than
another girl is going to make the girl with less likes self-conscious about
Young people are
exposed to the ever-present risk of bullying, to cyber bully someone is to
deliberately use digital media to intentionally expose, cause harm or embarrass
that particular person. It is one of the most common online risks faced by
teenagers and youths in fact it can happen to anybody. According to Study
Moose.com; a girl of 15 years old on October 19 2017, hung herself. Shortly
before she did this, she made a YouTube video showing why she would commit this
unfortunate act, and what made her carry out this extremely painful act was as
a result of bullying on many social media sites. Research carried out by McAfee (2014)”teens and the screen
study” shows that 87 percent of youths have experienced cyber bullying.
media has changed the way people particularly youths now consume pornographic
materials; they now have a greater possibility of viewing or accessing those
problematic materials at their own initiative or accidentally through pop-ups.
Research has revealed that 57 percent of ages 9-19 years have come across or
even visited pornographic sites with or without their conceptual knowledge.
are involved in rampant plagiarism without any restriction whatsoever, for
instance if a world renowned website or individual posts a message or
statement, millions of users often copy this messages and paste same
information sometimes wanting to or even taking credit as its developers
media network sites promotes unreliability and deceit among youths, youths can
create and operate multiple accounts with completely different names and
identity and share separate topics, messages, media clips, videos, pictures and
information to unsuspecting users of the same site.
Conclusively, social media has we’ve discussed above has
demonstrated how it can influence the youths and teenagers life on both ends,
which may sometimes be in favor or against their social lives. Before now
social media seemed like a new set of “cool apps” with little or no effect at
all, but they’ve become one of the most influential sources of getting
information, ideas, perfection of skills, creating awareness etc. across the
world including Pakistan where young people have expressed hitch-free exposure
and used it to create positive awareness among youths.
Youths and teenagers have been touted as the irresistible
force driving social media, however some have been victims of cyber bulling,
pornographic consumption, sexual victimization and other health and
psychological defects such as low self-esteem and loss of attention. With 57
percent of 9 to 19 years old admitting to having contact through their own
initiative or accidentally with online pornography. although its negative influences clearly
outweighs the positive ones, youths, teenagers and children should keep in mind
the primary purposes of using social network sites which are to meet people,
share ideas, share pictures, videos, give comments etc. in remembrance that
they may encounter information that may be offensive or harmful to their
religion, nation and cultural values or norms. Therefore youths should not
create hatred among them, try to separate groups or bring enmity amongst users
on the platform, but rather try to bring each other closer to form a non-formidable
bond to fight these incessant negative effects it has brought into the social
lives of all users.
Thank you for the opportunity and your consideration.
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