Social Media and Its Effects
Social media is certainly unprecedented. The ability to share information with millions of people on a whim was a far-fetched idea just a few decades ago. Today, this ability has been given to almost every impressionable young adult in the modern world. It goes without saying that this can have unpredictable effects.
A Google Forms survey was sent to all students and teachers at Central Lyon with questions about social media, how much time they spend on it, and how it’s affected them. A combined group of almost 100 students and teachers took the survey. All responses remained anonymous.
It may be difficult for the older generation to understand the appeal behind social media, but for today’s students, it couldn’t be clearer. Social media provides a sense of community that many students can’t find elsewhere, especially if they live in a smaller town. “Social media always made you seem like you had more friends … You felt more popular or more like you fit in.” one student remarked.
Another positive aspect of social media is its potential for education. One student said, “I've always used social media as a way of learning new things and sharing ideas.” As many students know, social media can help a lot if they don’t understand class material, especially for students who might not have access to their teachers. Communication is another benefit that comes from social media. As one student said,” [Social media] has helped me connect with friends and family who live far away.”
While social media can have many positive effects, it goes without saying that it has a few issues. One student remarks, “While social media is often great, polarizing things are the easiest for platforms to promote. Because of that, you see a lot more of the bad than you do the good. It can be tolling if you let it affect you.” Polarization is certainly a big issue, and social media doesn’t do much to help. For example, apps like TikTok promote videos based on how much interaction (comments/likes) they receive. Because of this, if someone posts controversial content (political issues, recent celebrity drama, etc.) They are more likely to get comments in support or against what they are saying, which causes the video to be promoted to more people. These people will also comment their thoughts on the subject, which gets the video more comments and more promotion from the TikTok algorithm. Processes like this will often get the most toxic content promoted to the most people.
Another issue with social media is the spreading of rumors. Rumors have always been a problem, especially among high school students. With social media allowing information to spread faster than ever, it’s no surprise that its also exacerbated the issue of spreading rumors. “A rumor spread through our grade about a few girls, and it definitely hurt their mental image of themselves,” one student recalls. Rumors have never been good for anyone’s mental health, and there’s no debate that social media has made this issue worse.
“There are so many instances that I can think of where social media had a negative impact on me … if I were to explain, I'd need to write a whole book.” These words from one student reflect the way many feel about this issue. However, another student’s opinion stands in contrast: “I’ve gotten negative comments, but I don’t take them seriously because it’s a waste of time to worry about what others think of me." Overall, the merits of social media is a very divisive topic among the student body.
Teachers who took the survey had a very different set of comments and concerns about social media. One teacher pointed out "Students are not as good at communicating with others- either written or verbally." Another teacher's response brings attention to social media's effect on the political climate: "Many [on social media] voice political 'opinions' based on blatant untruths." However, not all teachers who took the survey see social media in a negative light. One teacher finds that social media has helped the school's art programs reach a wider audience. "The sculpture and ceramics classes have a different way to get their artwork viewed," one teacher remarks, "Previously, it was only the kids in the class that would see the works, now it is anyone who follows or has Instagram."
Overall, there is a wide variety of opinions about social media. The issue is as divisive at Central Lyon as it is anywhere else.