College Life, Mental Health

How Social Media Is Reshaping the Way We Communicate

*This is a research paper I wrote for my Composition 2 class


DSC_0030How Social Media Is Reshaping the Way We Communicate In Both the Written Word and Face-To-face

     Social media has had a profound impact on the way we communicate as a society because the avenues of online connection are limitless, with both positive and negative effects. Social media has greatly impacted the lives of many and it’s not always in a positive way. The negative effects of social media have a vast range. For example, social media is addictive to many people in our culture. People have become addicted to the easiness and instant access to everything online (Patel 2018). This issue has created constant interruptions. Our devices have affected our bedtime routine and sleep habits, while creating constant distractions. Virtual communities are available instantly from a handheld device; this can be both powerful and desensitizing.

Communication is affected in a negative way when it comes to deciphering the tone of a conversation. Miscommunications can happen easily when the tone isn’t seen or heard in person (Patel 2018). People post everything and anything on social media, which can evoke emotional stress from people who have different beliefs. People tend to have less of a filter when they express themselves with only a quick click of a button. Communication, relationships, and both emotional and physical health can be negatively impacted from social media due to the addictive nature and stress that comes along with it. Relationships in real-time or face-to-face can sometimes be neglected because social media tends to be so consuming, like a rabbit hole. People also share their more positive highlights in their life rather than the raw reality, which greatly affects others’ self-esteem. When people only see they great parts of other people’s lives all day, they tend to feel insecure that their life doesn’t match up. In the end, social media is not always genuine. In these modern times, communication has new and interesting facets. Small pictures are sent in place in text, called emojis, providing a visual to the context or to help set a tone in a message. The way information is presented can be perceived in multiple ways when reading only text. The modern modification, using emojis, has allowed emotions to enter the text in a more cognitive way (Camp).

We check in, link our location, and tag our friends. It’s safe to say that we are making ourselves vulnerable and potentially unsafe. Social media is also a tool that is used to track and profile us using data from our accounts (Lindsey). Have you ever searched for a something specific, such as “what is a good mattress?” and suddenly ten different mattress brands pop up throughout your feed? That is no coincidence. We share our interests, likes, and social media behavior to be analyzed and created into data for marketers. Privacy can also be affected by sharing your personal life, choices, and beliefs on a platform that may be seen by a potential employer. There have been cases of people losing their jobs due to their behavior outside of work. Professional personas are typically dropped when it comes to social media, and some companies want their employees to fit with their brand in their social lives outside of the workplace. If an individual’s personal life doesn’t mesh well, it could look poorly on the brand they work with. Privacy is also affected on a more frightening level. People don’t always think about the consequences of checking in their locations and sharing too much information. As we want to appear to have an adventurous life, this can also make us vulnerable to stalkers or someone who could have access to assaulting you.

Fake social media accounts exist and they are rampant. There are many reasons fake accounts exist. These accounts can be created to give a brand the look of having many “followers.” Bot accounts appear to be active users that vote, engage, and share to make a company look popular or trending. Twitter accounts are assumed to be anywhere from 9%-15% fake (Burns). Bots are not the only reason for fake accounts; another reason a fake account could exist is to deceive another person. Popular television show Catfish is a reality show with seven seasons dedicated entirely to people with fake accounts that try to trick and lure in a relationship of an unknowing victim. It’s scary to think that an account could be created so easily just to spy on or invade someone’s privacy. There are many lonely people in the world who feel their only chance to make a connection is to hide behind a false identity. This can create an avalanche of dishonesty and cruel behavior that can greatly impact the mental health of the victim. In the show, people fall in love and later meet an entirely different person in real life. Unfortunately, this issue happens too often.

For some, the copious amount of time spend on social media can feel fulfilling enough to mentally exhaust someone and short themselves on real social interaction. People become used to having conversations through text and can lose their ability to have social skills.  Many have become accustomed to hiding behind a screen, making real-time interaction anxiety inducing. Social media can distract people from real life and personal relationships, making their social skills atrophy (McGauran). Someone who relies on social media to express their thoughts, rather than to address their issues personally, may increase passive aggressive behavior. Followed by that issue, people often assume vague posts could be directed toward them, causing more problems and misunderstandings.

The illusion of companionship is another problematic issue with social media to blame. Some people may feel popular and well liked online but when their device is off, there is no one around. The passive contentment shared online can trigger an empty isolating feeling when no one is actually present. People compare themselves to others and their self-esteem diminishes. Social media can create a distraction, as the device literally blocks the view of real life. People miss out on what is in front of them as their intoxicated mind drinks up their glowing screen.

Evidence shows that social media has impacted the influence of suicide. In the past decade, social media has grown and morphed into something bigger and more profound than anyone could have ever expected. Social platforms are a fundamental way to share opinions, ideas and information. Social media has affected emotional health; physical health can also be affected due to stress and poor sleep from the addiction of electronic devices. Web searches including methods of suicide, have been studied and unfortunately, half were pro-suicide websites that offered information and support on how to kill yourself (Luxton). Self-esteem can be affected by social media, which makes people feel alone and isolated in their real life, adding to depression and suicidal thoughts.

Victims of cyber bullying have an increased chance of suicide (NCES). There are also suicide pacts that have been found online, where groups of people make a pact to kill themselves. There is an HBO documentary of a case, called I Love You, Now Die, where a girl talked her boyfriend into killing himself through text messages. On the other side, suicide prevention websites also exist. However, the Internet can be a very dark place. Bullying has shifted and grown in a different way since the access to the Internet and social platforms bloomed. When a child or person is bullied in real life, they can go home or to a save place to get a break from the crude bullying. Now days, bullying can penetrate through real life and into social media, making the platform of bullying limitless. More people can engage and the bully can hide behind fake accounts or just simply behind their screen.

Social development can be affected by cyber bullying and can create isolation and social anxiety. The child or person may become antisocial and closed off. This behavior can also impact the possibility of the child or person becoming a future target again (NCES). As the person or child may be vulnerable, this can lead to depression and the risk of suicide. The bully can be anonymous or be known personally to the victim. Harassment is easily achieved online and through social platforms, and many people may not even perceive it that way.

Some people may be isolated from social, real-time or face-to-face interactions due to a disability or their home situation. The positive aspect of social media is that people who may be isolated can find friends or others to interact with. Say someone moves away from their friends and family for their career or education, they can still remain in contact with friends and family through social media. Many people move away from high school friends, college friends, and family but still get to see their loved ones grow up through social media. People share their milestones and though not everyone may be close personally, they get so see their wedding, children’s birthdays, graduations, achievements, and other memorable times through social platforms. People can reconnect, find a significant other, or join a support group online (Heath). Social media has made it easy for people to stay connected. Social media can also be an icebreaker for relationships, whether romantic or plutonic. It can be intimidating to connect or reach out, but online platforms build the bridge to connections. Social media can also link you to future career opportunities, making the access to future employees or colleagues more available.

Losing a loved one or dealing with a chronic illness can be a very difficult and challenging time. Sometimes local resources are not available or are limited. Also, the access to a support group may not be an option for some. Perhaps a vehicle is not available, you may be too sick to leave home, an abusive spouse won’t let you leave the house, or there are not enough people in your small town to form a group.  Social media offers a great chance to having the support you may need for a particular issue (Heath). For example, if you have a rare disease, chances are you may be one of a few in your town but would not know how to meet them. Social media can widen the location and numbers of individuals to connect to that also have the same rare disease. This can help many feel connected, not alone, find resources, learn more about treatments and coping skills, and make friends with likeminded people who understand what it is like to live with a rare disease. You can join many online support groups from the comfort of your own home.

Once upon a time, we used to write letters by hand. The letters were heartfelt; thought and time was strategically placed into each pen stroke. Now, text can be sent broken up, with poor grammar, abbreviations that look like codes, and sent in an instant. In fact, spelling was once something we had to learn and study but now we rely on the correction from our device. When you don’t use it, you lose it. Therefor, spelling is a rusty skill for most these days.

Social platforms contain 2.8 billion users in the world (Willis). Before, people would share their photos and memories personally and now you have to keep up with everyone’s feeds or you may miss a moment. Instead of directly sending information or photos, you may hear “I posted it online.” This has made communication indirect and impersonal. Everything is instant gratification and yesterday’s old news. The full story is often just a highlight, leaving out details that may be important. Live broadcasting is also a new way to stay connected. You can live stream a wedding, a class, a concert or even a real-time moment that may end up being a civil dispute.  Social media has multiple ways to share and interact. You can even send an instant payment through social media apps. People are utilizing these tools especially during the Coronavirus quarantine. Because of the 2020 quarantine due to Covid19, even funerals have been online to practice social distancing.

Staying connected and aware of current news has never been easier. The issue with social media is that anyone can post a statement, a blog post, or misinformation. Clickbait is also a way to warp a headline to get shares and trick people into clicking or attracting attention. People don’t always open the link to read the full article and may end up using the misconstrued tagline as their information, which can often be misleading (Fox).

Many people will share a statement and then their friends or followers share it (and so on). It’s easy for something to go viral and spread like wildfire. People don’t take the time to fact check or make sure the source is reliable. In the end, many people have false information that trigger emotional beliefs. Fake news can sometimes be more entertaining and add to the shock value, making people more likely to share (Fox). You can search any topic and find contradicting statements. This can be problematic with both medical news and political news.

As Andrea McAlister says, “I feel fortunate to have grown up in the 1980s”; she also points out that the girls in today’s society strive to maintain the perfect online image. Teens average approximately seven hours and twenty-two minutes daily on their phones, according to Common Sense Media. The number of “likes” or engagement on social media platforms can affect a young girl’s self-esteem (McAlister). Fear of missing out, or FOMO is an example of another addiction related to social media. Social media creates an environment that fuels depression, anxiety, and insomnia (Gezgin). It’s important to understand that not everything on Social Media is real, nor are we seeing the entire picture. We only see a glimpse of the best moments of someone’s life while missing out our own life. Though social media has many great uses and is a multi-faceted technological powerhouse, it’s also something to be very cautious about.



Works Cited

Burns, Janet. “How Many Social Media Users Are Real People?” GIMODO. 4 June 2018.

Camp, Alecka L., and Thomas A. Daniel. “Emojis Affect Processing Fluency On Social Media.” US: Educational Publishing Foundation. 9.2, 1 April 2020.

Chandler, K., Nolin, M.J., Davies, E. (1995) Student Strategies to Avoid Harm at School: Statistics in Brief. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, NCES, 95-203, 1-7

Gezgin, Deniz Mertkan, et al. “Investigating Direct and Indirect Effects of Social Media Addiction, Social Media Usage and Personality Traits on FOMO.” International Journal of Progressive Education. 16.2, April 2020.

Fox, Maggie. “Fake News: Lies Spread Faster On Social Media Than Truth Does.” NBC. 8 March 2018.

Heath, Sara. “How Social Media Support Groups Enhance Patient Experience.”Patient Engagement Hit.25 August 2016.

Lindsey, Nicole. “New Research Study Shows That Social Media Privacy Might Not Be Possible.” CPO Magazine.3 February 2019.

Luxton, David D., et al. “Social Media and Suicide: A Public Health Perspective.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. V.102 (Suppl 2) May 2012.

McAlister, Andrea. “The ABCs of Gen X, Y(P), Z: Teen Girls: The Pressure Of Perfection.” American Music Teacher/Music Teachers National Association.68.1, August 2018.

McGauran, Debbie. “5 Ways Social Media Contributes to Social Isolation.” Active Beat.16 September 2015.

Patel, Davki. “Is Social Media Negatively Affecting Your Life?” Pearson.27 June 2018.

Willis, Audrey. “6 Ways Social Media Changed The Way We Communicate.” Circa Interactive.15 August 2017.


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