Social Media: A Necessary Tool or a Dangerous Addiction

Social media benefits and drawbacks

Social media: deliberately addictive, you decide. Image: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

AS news breaks of more than 30 American states filing a federal lawsuit against Meta on Tuesday, October 24 we look at social media, what are the benefits and drawbacks? Is social media creating addicts? How does social media affect our mental health? Is there a way to use social media in a healthy way?

As reported by NBC News the lawsuit accuses Meta of ‘knowingly damaging the mental health of teens for profit’ the lawsuit also states that Meta’s Facebook and Instagram have ‘profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans’ and have ‘harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage and ultimately ensnare youth and teens.’

In this article, we will take a look at social media, its benefits and drawbacks. We will discuss social media addiction, its effects on the brain, and its impact on children and teenagers.

What is Social Media?

Social media is a term used to describe online platforms and applications that allow users to create and share content, interact with others, and build communities. Social media platforms are typically characterised by their user-generated content, which means that the content on these platforms is created and shared by the users themselves, rather than by a central authority.

What are the Most Popular Social Media Platforms?

Some of the most popular social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), TikTok, YouTube and LinkedIn.

The most popular social media platform is still Facebook with 2.9 billion monthly active users which are around 37 per cent of the population. Meta owns four of the biggest social media platforms, all with over one billion monthly active users each: Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. According to in 2022 4.59 billion people actively use social media and they expect that figure to rise to six billion by 2027.

Why is Social Media so Popular?

Social media is popular for many reasons, firstly it is free to use if you can refrain from being influenced! It began by helping people connect making it easier for families and friends to stay in touch and share special moments even when they live on opposite sides of the world. With the introduction of Instagram, it gained popularity for its visual appeal, sharing beautiful pictures of nature, home improvements, and so on. Soon after the desire for likes and interaction from strangers became the appeal and from there, people began to connect, make friends and business contacts online, and even find love. It became a place for entertainment, social connection, marketing and so much more.

Social media increased in popularity and became a necessary tool during the COVID-19 pandemic connecting us during lockdown.

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Social Media?

According to the National Library of Medicine ‘never before in human history has it been possible to communicate so quickly.’ This was of course a huge benefit during the pandemic as key information could be disseminated at speed, removing geographic boundaries. Let’s have a look at the benefits of social media:

Staying Connected: As we mentioned above social media makes it easy to stay connected with friends and family regardless of distance. We can share photos, videos, and special moments, and let’s face it how else would we remember everyone’s birthday!

Building Relationships: Social media can help us to build relationships with people who share our interests. We can join groups and communities to connect with others who are passionate about the same things we are. This is perhaps even more important when living as a foreign resident abroad. The groups and forums help to share useful information about documents required, taxes that need to be paid, and events that are taking place near you.

Linda Ward a UK resident living in Murcia said ‘I would be lost without my Facebook groups, I don’t speak Spanish, I’m too old to learn now. The groups helped me make friends when I first got here and I can ask a question whenever I want. I always get friendly and helpful answers.’

Learning New Things: Social media is a great way to learn about topics and ideas. We can follow experts, read articles (like this one!), and watch videos to expand our knowledge.

Promoting Business and Organisations: Social media is now a powerful marketing tool for businesses and organisations. It has put small businesses on the map reaching potential customers in a way they could never even have dreamed before social media.

Raising Awareness: Social media has been used to raise awareness of important social issues such as climate change and racial injustice. It can be used to support movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Me Too movement. It can also be used to raise money or other resources during times of crisis.

Social media benefitssharing special moments
We can share photos, videos, and special moments. Image: Shutterstock/

Just as social media is key for sharing important information it can also be used to share news that is not current, news that is invalid, incorrect, or even false and so the era of Fake News arrived. Let’s have a look at some of the disadvantages of social media:

Social Media Addiction: Social media can be addictive, and people can spend hours each day scrolling through their social media feeds. This can lead to problems in other areas of life, such as work, school, and relationships.

According to Scholarworks excessive use of social media has shown to have negative effects on parenting. It can cause parental distraction, decrease the level of everyday engagement, and even make a child more likely to be at risk for injury. Research has found that parents who overuse digital devices can make their children feel neglected, which can result in children feeling anxious or depressed.

According to a study published in 2021 ‘likes’ on social media are interpreted in the brain as a reward and it releases a rush of dopamine, creating a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. This creates a spiral the more likes we get the more dopamine is released further encouraging us to seek validation from social media interactions.

Social Comparison: Social media can make people compare themselves to others, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Pictures shared on social media are a snapshot of a moment in someone’s life, they are usually optimised and perfected for social media. This has led to increasing pressure to live our lives more Instagram-friendly vying for perfection at all times. This creates impossibly high standards. This is even more dangerous in relation to our physical appearance as many influencers and celebrities are not transparent about using filters or having procedures to enhance their beauty or to lose weight. In doing so they create an image that is hard to recreate but many vulnerable teenagers still try.

Misinformation and Hate Speech: Social media can be used to spread misinformation and hate speech. This can lead to people forming inaccurate beliefs and engaging in harmful behaviour. Social media use has also been linked to an increase in cyberbullying.

According to comparitech, Cyberbullying is on the rise worldwide. They analysed 20,793 interviews with parents from 28 countries and conducted a survey of over 1,000 parents of children over the age of just five and they found that 47.7 per cent of children aged between six and ten reported their children were bullied. 56.4 per cent of parents with children aged 11-13, 59.9 per cent with children aged 14-18, and 54.3 per cent of parents with children aged 19 and older reported their children were bullied both at school and online.

They discovered that one-fifth of all bullying occurs through social media and most teens have now experienced cyberbullying in some way. There is also a correlation between cyberbullying and suicide to see the full article click here.

Privacy Concerns: Social media platforms collect a lot of data about their users. This data can be used for targeted advertising, but it can also be misused by hackers and identity thieves.

Negative Impact on Mental Health: Some studies have shown that social media use can have a negative impact on mental health, including anxiety and depression.

social media drawbacks cyberbullying
Social media use has also been linked to an increase in cyberbullying. Image: Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem

How Does Social Media Affect Our Mental Health?

Social media can affect our mental health positively and negatively. It can enhance connection and it can increase self-esteem but it also leads to stress, sadness, and isolation. Several studies indicate that the increasing reliance on social media gives its users an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and envy, and can even trigger illness. Excessive social media use can interfere with our sleep and it can make it difficult to focus and concentrate.

So armed with all of this information; is it Meta’s fault? Are they actively trying to create social media platforms that create an unhealthy addiction or is this just an unfortunate side effect that nobody saw coming?

There is a growing argument that Meta is at least partially responsible for the addictive nature of its social media platforms. Critics argue that Meta has designed its platforms to be as addictive as possible in order to keep users engaged and to maximise advertising revenue.

Some specific ways in which Meta has been accused of designing its platforms to be addictive include:

Using algorithms to show users content that they are likely to find engaging. This includes content that is emotionally charged, such as news and current events, as well as content that is personalised to the user’s interests.

Using infinite scrolling to keep users scrolling for longer. Infinite scrolling means that users never have to reach the end of their feed. Instead, new content is continuously loaded as users scroll down.

Using notifications to keep users coming back for more. Notifications are sent to users when they receive a new message, like, or comment. This can create a sense of urgency and make users feel like they need to check their social media accounts regularly.

Using gamification elements to make social media more engaging. Gamification elements, such as badges and leaderboards, can make users feel like they are achieving something and encourage them to keep using the platform.

Meta has denied that it designs its platforms to be addictive. However, some internal documents have been leaked to the public to suggest that Meta is aware of the addictive potential of its platforms and is taking steps to address them. For example, Meta has introduced new features that allow users to set limits on how much time they spend on its platforms and to see how much time they are actually spending.

What do you think? Are the social media giants acting deliberately? Should we blame them or should we assign more responsibility to parents who should control their children’s use of social media? Let us know in the comments.

social media addiction
Using infinite scrolling to keep users scrolling for longer. Image: Shutterstock/

Here are Some Tips to Use Social Media in a Healthy Way

Be mindful of how much time you spend on social media. Set limits on how much time you spend on social media each day and stick to them.

Be selective about who you follow and what content you consume. Only follow people and accounts that make you feel good. This is not to say you shouldn’t follow people you don’t agree with but try to avoid following people who make you feel bad about yourself or who post content that is upsetting or harmful.

Take breaks from social media regularly. Put your phone away and spend some time each day doing something else, such as reading, exercising, or spending time with friends and family.

Be critical of the information you see on social media. Not everything you see on social media is true. Be sure to fact-check information before sharing it.

Use privacy settings to protect your information. Be careful about the information you share on social media and who you share it with.

Be mindful of how social media affects your mental health. If you find that social media is making you feel bad about yourself or is interfering with your life, take a step back and reduce your usage.

Avoid using social media before bed. The blue light emitted from screens can interfere with sleep.

Use social media to connect with people you care about. Don’t just use it to scroll through your feed passively.

Turn off social media notifications.

Use social media to learn new things and explore your interests.

Use social media to make a positive impact on the world. There are many ways to use social media to raise awareness about important issues and to help others.

Remember, social media is a tool. It’s up to us to use it in a way that is healthy and beneficial.

Do you have any more tips on how to use social media in a healthy way? Let us know.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!


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      25 October 2023 • 20:17


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