Social Media Issue
Over the last decade, social communication has transited from face-to-face to digital format. Modern life is inseparable from social networks. People use them for every purpose, such as to find and contact someone they know, make new acquaintances, share information, pictures and other data with other people viewing their profile. Even though there are numerous benefits of using social networks, there are critical issues that make them dangerous for the emotional state, health or even life of a person. The major problem of social networks is bullying. Numerous articles, psychological publications, research papers and books cover such problem. One can choose among the variety of sources while studying the topic of bullying in social media. It is a topical question, widely studied by mental health professionals, podiatrists, social workers, etc.
Social media is a phenomenon that emerged over the last decade. With the help of various Internet-based applications, social media connects social interaction and technology. Such applications enable creation and sharing of content, generated by a user. Social media platforms changed the conventional methods of communication because they made possible instant and interactive exchange of information. Content is created, shared, and controlled by individuals without any limits. Social media gained a crucial role in communication of many people, organizations, and communities. Social media includes chat rooms, blogging services, social networking and video sites, forums, e-mails, text messaging, and video chats. Every day, social media sites offer their users numerous opportunities to connect with other people, enhance their communicational and professional skills, find like-minded people from all over the world, and share ideas with them. Daily, new users sign up and fill the social networks with their personal content, and the age of the beginning users is rapidly decreasing.
The most popular activity among modern children and teenagers is using social media. Communication and entertainments, offered by social media, are so diverse and absorbing, that sometimes a child can spend most of his/her time on social media to the detriment of his or her real life. According to statistics, more than one-fifth of teenagers log in approximately ten times a day to check their social networks. More than fifty percent of teenagers log in at least once a day (O'Keeffe 2). Even though there are negative and sometimes even dangerous aspects of using social media, it is almost impossible to isolate a child from using them, because they are intertwined tightly with everyday life. Due to modern cell phones that have many applications for socializing installed on them, children have the opportunity to access social media while being away from the computers. Moreover, they can also use them for texting and instant messaging. Consequently, it can be stated that blocking the child’s access to social media means blocking most of his/her access to communication with his/her peers. That is why parents should acknowledge the issue of the excessive use of social media and be aware of potential problems. Among the most dangerous issues are Internet addiction, sleep deprivation, Facebook depression, media violence, privacy issues, children advertising, sexting, bullying, and increase of suicide risk due to the excessive use of media.
It is fair to say that the usage of social media has significant benefits for children and adolescents. For most children, social media websites are extensions of their real lives. Such Internet-based platforms help them socialize and communicate with their peers, offering various opportunities for creativity, volunteering, growth of ideas, sharing interests and forming one’s personality. Being unable to meet all the like-minded people in real life, a person can contact practically anyone around the globe, provided he/she has a link to his profile or the details needed for its search. Synchronization makes it possible to export contacts from one social network to another, finding more profiles of users that the owner of the mobile phone may know or be interested in. With the help of social media students can look for homework, individual and group research projects, exchange ideas, and collaborate without having to meet. Moreover, teenagers can find necessary information about any health concerns they may have easily, quickly, and anonymously. There is a variety of trustworthy health resources available for adolescents. However, there is a serious risk of finding inaccurate information regarding specific health issues or interpreting the discovered information in a wrong way. That is why parents should foster children to ask them questions and share their health concerns instead of plainly relying on the Internet.
However, there is a negative side of using social media resulting in risks of inappropriate content, outside influences of third-party, lack of understanding of privacy issues, cyberbullying and online harassment. For employers and employees, social media creates problems of reputation, productivity, and privacy. As a result, the use of social media at the workplace is a debatable and acute problem. The reputation of the whole company can depend on ethics, behavior, and attitude of one employee. Potentially, any employee can reflect poorly on his employer or the entire company on social media websites. Sharing of the information of person’s subjective perception can harm the company. The situation may worsen when someone uses information out of its context to malign a competitor company. Even jocular complaints shared online can lead to serious negative consequences both for the company and the employee who shared the inappropriate content.
The term bullying was not clearly defined before the 1990s. A definition of bullying in the US varies from minor interactions between individuals to behaviors of criminal nature. Bullying can be defined as an intentionally repeated behavior with an imbalance of power that occurs without provocations and is a form of peer abuse. Notwithstanding, behavior does not have to be violent or physical to be considered bullying. The phenomenon of bullying is spread around the world, especially in schools. A great number of children become victims of bullying in elementary schools, compared to the quantity of victims of bullying in middle and high school. Annually, bullying affects nearly five million students in the United States. Data from the research on the topic of cyberbullying shows that nearly 26% of people experienced harassment via text messages or voice calls. 34% of teenagers suffer from harassment, the amount of which increases with the growth of time spent online. Another survey shows that 51% of people notice aggression while using social networks. At the same time 57% of people believe that using offensive language users try to sound funny, without meaning to actually offend the person (Donnerstein 628). Surveys that took place in Europe, the United States and Australia revealed that 10-35% of teenagers report personal experience of cyberbullying. Over 10% of the surveyed admit that they bullied other people online. Cyberbullying does not depend on gender differences; both genders have the equal risk of being bullied.
There are initiatives for preventing teasing and bullying in numerous states of the U.S. There is even a national bullying awareness campaign. The term cyberbullying stands for the deliberate use of digital media for the communication of false, adverse, embarrassing or humiliating information regarding another person. The term cyberbullying is often used in the context with the term online harassment, though the notions are different. Any individual online can become a victim of cyberbullying, whereas online harassment is much more uncommon compared to harassment in real life. Of course, social environmental conditions define the escalation of aggression, and if an event of bullying occurs, it affects all educational establishments. The victim, the bully, and the people witnessing the act of bullying or its proofs always have an opportunity to change the situation. The bystanders and the culture of the society in general should not be left behind when looking for the way to eliminate bullying. Mental health workers become more engaged in the issue of bullying. They try to explore it from the side of social context, the culture of the society and mindset of definite groups and communities.
The Internet allows a person of any age to access restricted materials of severe violence, hate groups or terrorist groups. The fact that anyone can upload violent content is another huge problem. A user can create aggression, directed at another user. Such behavior is called cyberbullying. Cyberbullying stands for Internet harassment, online bullying, and electronic aggression. The aim of cyberbullying is to harm or discomfort an individual or a group of individuals. Most common manifestations of behavior of online bullies include circulating rumors, sending hostile or threatening mails, leaving provocative comments on generally accessible pages, impersonating the victim for the purpose of creation of his negative image, posting abusive information about the victim in chats, e-mails and in the comments, encouraging others to bully the victim, sending offensive material to the victim, etc. Anonymity, granted by the Internet, makes it much easier to direct aggression against anyone online rather than in real life. It is easy to access the victim from numerous locations with minimal chances of being caught due to the ubiquitous Internet.
The consequences of cyberbullying are most often the same as effects of bullying in real life. The victims suffer from the decline of studying or working efficiency, self-deprecation, depression, social isolation, helplessness, and suicidal thoughts. Such information indicates that the consequences of cyberbullying can be worse than the consequences of bullying in person. First of all, a person can become a victim of cyberbullying while being in the place he considers the most secure, such as his home. The harassment can occur at any time, day or night, and some evidence of abuse can last forever if posted on a blog, Web site or in a chat room. Even if the violation is reported, it is difficult to delete the content represented on the Internet. No one is protected against the potential risk of cyberbullying. Moreover, if a person is bullied as a child or young adult, the effects of such action can be long-term and harm the professional image of the victim. The whole life of a person can be ruined due to the lack of online security.
Knowing that cyberbylling has such negative effects on an individual, it is important to discover the possible victims of cyberbullying, in order to support them as soon as possible. It can save victims from further devastating consequences of cyberbullying. The warning signs include the excessive display of negative feelings, the decline of school grades or working capacity, absence of appetite, trouble sleeping, self-isolation, and ambivalent behavior. The signs of cyberbullying may include avoiding technological devices, restlessness when receiving an incoming call, message or notification, avoidance of talking on topics related to social media, etc. If a person shows any of the signs described above, it is necessary to offer him help and try to comfort him, because long-term consequences of online violent behavior can be irreparable.
Another considerable problem, the acuteness of which is boosted by social media, is suicide. Every year more than 1 million people die of suicide worldwide, with 30 000 of cases occurring in the US (Luxton 195). Social media as an influential factor that boosts suicide-related behavior raises much interest presently.
Cyberbullying is a recent phenomenon that spreads worldwide rapidly due to the limitlessness and anonymity of the Internet. Governmental regulations cannot solve the problem of cyberbullying, because it is an issue of a global level. The problem of cyberbullying can be lessened to some extent with the help of media literacy, educational initiatives, parent involvement, and control. A victim of cyberbullying should never be left alone and hopeless for the delectation of his/her abuser. It should be harder to publish offensive information on the Internet and easier to block or delete such information from public access. There should be real punishments for online harassment. Another question is whether the Internet helps prevent suicide or provokes it. The association between Internet and suicide is indirect, complex, and nearly impossible to trace directly. There is a variety of suicide-related websites that can be easily found with the help of a search engine. However, there are not only websites, blogs, and forums offering support and preventative information, but also websites and chats for those who decide to end their life. Unfortunately, it is very easy to receive information about different methods of suicide with guidelines. Well-known websites, like YouTube, contain videos about suicide that may influence vulnerable groups of people. However, it should be noted that there is a huge number of suicide-prevention videos as well, aimed at increasing awareness and promoting suicide prevention. The social-media based suicide prevention programs focus on children and younger adults, because nearly one-third of the total amount of deaths in such age group are caused by suicide. From such point of view, social media helps or at least lessens the harm it provoked in the first place.
There are certain ways in which social media increases suicidal behavior, and the major one is cyberbullying. If linked to suicide, online bullying is called cyberbullicide. The feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and insecurity are linked to suicidal behavior directly. There is a phenomenon of cyberbullicide pact, an agreement to commit suicide together, developed between individuals that do not know each other and plan to commit an act of suicide. Apart from finding suicide guidelines and partners to commit suicide, the Internet offers lethal means for committing suicide. One can find them on certain websites, forums, and in chat rooms. There are online pharmacies, located outside of the USA, that sell over-the-counter medicine without prescription in any needed quantity. Such pharmacies spread lethal drugs worldwide.
Social media promoted the emergence of communities of people that are not limited physically by any borders. Online harassment, bullying, and gossip deteriorate the quality of personal and professional life of the victim. Companies should warn their employees about the possible consequences of a discovered act of inappropriate online behavior. Vulnerable people that are members of such communities are at risk of emergence or strengthening of suicidal ideations. From the approach of public health, there are social media-based programs aimed at suicide prevention. Since end users create and control social media to the great extent, there should be simple methods of reporting a harassing activity of Internet users, malicious websites, and inappropriate content. People should be able to seek and access help via social media websites. The activity of social media should be aimed at increasing public awareness of cyberbullying, cyberbullicide, online harassment, privacy violation, and inappropriate content publishing. There should be clear policies for preventing dangerous negative consequences of using social media. It is hoped that in the era of technological development and social media rise people will develop a society where everyone respects and treats another people with tolerance.