The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an upsurge in social media usage over the past year due to boredom and a lack of human interaction.
As a result, Americans turned to social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Facebook to spend their time, meaning that people were more immersed in a virtual environment to put aside the excruciating pain of the current real world.
According to a study mentioned by Insider Intelligence, 51 percent of overall respondents in a survey, 60 percent of those ages 18 to 34, 64 percent of those ages 35 to 49 and 34 percent of those ages 65 and older, indicated increased use of various social media platforms.
Another study, this time conducted by Vox, found that in 2020, Americans spent an average of 82 minutes a day on social media, a seven-minute increase since 2019. Although it is natural to see a rise in social media usage during difficult times, it is critical to assess and analyze its overall impact on individuals.
Dr. Erin Vogel, a postdoc in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, specializes in social media and well-being. In an interview with Salon, Vogel said, “It seems people do recognize the opportunities to present themselves positively on social media, but they seem to be hurt by it more than helped by it because they’re looking at unrealistic versions of other people.”
While social media entertains and unites individuals, it is a fabricated reality intended to make people envious of the supposedly perfect lifestyles of others. Famous people, such as Youtubers or online influencers, are the ones who are most affected by this portrayal.
However, there is a positive aspect to social media that we do not usually consider in our daily lives: insatiable curiosity. This hunger is an inevitable effect of social media on the majority of people, causing many to observe other’s daily activity on these platforms, naturally prompting us to make assumptions about their whereabouts and hunt for patterns.
While this interest serves little value in one’s life, it is helpful in the investigation of crimes.
About two weeks ago, 22-year-old Gabby Petito was found dead in Wyoming. The police were able to track her down using her social media posts on Instagram and from her YouTube videos. Social media greatly aided them in determining her location and eventually led them to where she appeared last.
For example, according to a timeline made by the New York Times, Petito was last active on Instagram on Aug. 25. The last text message she sent to her parents was on Aug. 30.
This tragic news sparked national interest due to the online research of amateur detectives. It piqued the interest of social media users, who have been pining over the internet footage and images for clues since.
The moral of the story is that improving the effectiveness of one tool or action has both positive and negative repercussions. Increased usage of social media can be beneficial in some circumstances, but it can also be harmful in others.
In a sense, everything is multifaceted. It serves both beneficial and harmful purposes. It is vital to take advantage of the positive aspects of most situations, but to be careful when it comes to the negatives.