is social media evil?

is social media evil?
the wsj reported that tiktok can leave kids feeling used -- and hurt their self-esteem. teens have learned the more sexual the content, the more likes they get
  • experts are worried about the effects of “sexualized” tiktok videos
  • tiktok is the most popular social media app for teenagers, and many teens depend on the app for social validation
  • tiktok says that they don’t promote videos with sexual content if the poster is under 16. but many users lie about their age
and the nyt reported that tiktok’s focus on retention and watch time could lead to the app pushing dangerous content. unhealthy content is often addictive content, and vice versa
  • the algorithm pushes content that will keep people watching. meaning it often pushes content that could be unhealthy for the users
  • nyt uses an example of a person who the algorithm determines is depressed. they could be pushed into watching videos that promote self harm
  • the algorithm also pushes monetized content
  • but experts say that there’s nothing special about tiktok’s algorithm, it’s pretty similar to other social media apps
the nyt also writes that gym content on tiktok can lead young men to develop “bigorexia”
  • it’s easy to find a ton of young men on tiktok who talk about fitness and post about their body
  • the nyt writes about bobby, who falls behind on schoolwork bc of his extensive focus on bodybuilding and social media
  • discussions about online pressures usually center around the experiences of young women, but young men are affected in a similar way
  • psychiatrists refer to “bigorexia” as a type of muscle dysphoria that leads young men to feel smaller and less muscular than they actually are
  • from a survey of 303 undergrads and 198 high schoolers, exposure to muscular, “masculine” men was correlated to low self-esteem in young men
we also have “tiktok brain” to worry about! the wsj says the app’s fast-paced content is addicting, and it could be shortening kids’ attention spans
  • a psychiatrist says there’s definitely been a dip in young people’s attention spans
  • a study looked at tiktok’s chinese equivalent -- ran by the same company -- and found its short videos activate the reward center of the brain
  • tiktok made changes to the app that diversify content, and prevent users from overusing the app
  • kids generally have a harder time putting down content bc the prefrontal cortex of their brain isn’t developed
the atlantic has a separate concern: social media is splitting the u.s. into angry mobs -- and that’s bad for democracy
  • james madison, when writing the federalist papers, was worried about a mob putting the u.s. democracy in jeopardy
  • on social media, posts that are fueled by emotion rather than reason are promoted by the algorithm, causing a mob mentality
  • but it’s hard to come up with a solution to fix social media without stepping on the first amendment
the atlantic also thinks tiktok’s evolved from a dancing app to a “witch hunt machine” -- using the viral phenomenon of west elm caleb as an example
  • there’s a ton of examples of tiktok witch hunts, eg west elm caleb, couch guy
  • tiktok’s for you page can be fickle. the algorithm is hard to understand. so for creators to stay relevant, they have to jump on trends
  • this led to a ton of people piling on about caleb. the videos spread quickly, unchecked by tiktok until the trend had already taken off
  • but it doesn’t have to be this way. tiktokers can change the culture
and vanity fair is concerned about misinfo: bc of the pandemic and the war in ukraine, twitter became even more of a source for info. but the discourse can be toxic, misinformed, and leave readers feeling helpless
  • since the beginning of the pandemic, people have been consuming news through twitter
  • and from the beginning of the pandemic to the russian-ukraine crisis, there’s now an established pattern that most twitter users abide by once devastating news hits
  • the experts, celebs, humor accounts, wellness accounts, and “grief policers” all show up on the twitter timeline to share their piece
  • it affects our ability to consume news and our ability to react to said news is unequivocal: the science is clear -- social media is evil!! when people quit it, they’re just plain happier
  • a new rigorous study asked a group of people to stop using social media altogether while continuing their normal habits
  • at the end of the study, people who abstained from social media had better well-being, and suffered less from depression and anxiety
maybe the gvt could play a role in preventing toxic misinfo? sfgate reports that the white house gave top tiktokers the scoop on the ukraine conflict, to give better info to their audiences
  • biden stressed the power that these tiktok influencers have over their audience. it’s important for them to communicate accurate info about the russian invasion
  • tiktok specifically has been flooded with misinfo. so the company has started to label state-sponsored media on people’s pages
  • biden has frequently sought out digital creators to communicate policy. and experts say that it’s effective
  • some tiktokers on the call felt like the info provided was too simple, and dodged the hard questions, but others appreciated the acknowledgment
the wsj thinks social media is salvageable. but correcting the evils of social media will take lots of trial and error from companies and regulators -- there’s no one-size-fits-all solution
  • the biggest social media companies -- meta, tiktok, and twitter -- are going through crises right now. but social media isn’t completely evil. it helps keep activists and ppl w/ similar interests connected
  • but there are clear dangers of misinfo, violence, and hate speech being spread online
  • companies and regulators don’t know how to effectively separate the good from the bad. it’s gonna take experimental approaches, oversight boards, and regulation experience to make social media good
but maybe it’s up to us? the atlantic thinks the responsibility -- at least partially -- falls on ourselves. we’re the reason social media is toxic. we’re miserable and misery loves company
  • life expectancies are dropping, and more americans are reporting that they feel hopeless and depressed. that could be a result of a decline in social mobility, climate change, or racial inequality
  • extreme hate groups and hashtags spread quickly and easily via social media
  • the same goes for feelings of discontent
  • the problem with toxic content on tech platforms runs deeper than algorithms
  • people create the content on these sites, not the platforms
or maybe we should blame our childhoods? the wsj reports that the relationships we develop as kids shape our social media habits
  • researchers found that social media offers a substitute for kids who may have trouble making deeper relationships. people with certain “attachment styles” may have a harder time making these connections
  • and since social media doesn’t help and makes you feel worse, you use it more. it’s a vicious cycle
  • in a study with 300 college kids, most students who had a hard time controlling their social media habits had an anxious attachment style
wired has an interesting thought: social media is evil bc of the theodicy problem -- even someone with pure intentions can create something evil
  • jack dorsey says he regrets contributing to a centralized internet. but when dorsey first started, he thought of twitter as a force for good
  • in theology, stories suggest that the creator never has full control of its creation. and if that principle applies to divine beings, it certainly applies to creators of tech, too
  • in crafting future tech, it’s important to recognize the limits of creators, and the ripple effects of tech
waitaminute, says the new yorker. science still hasn’t proved that social media is evil!
  • some people blame social media for the rise in polarization, misinfo, and echo chambers
  • but scientific evidence can point either way. lots of the “problems” with social media have been massively overstated
  • a lot of the “problems” with social media might just be problems that exist in our society naturally -- they’re just reflected on social media
and surely there’s some good in social media? wired explains that #freebritney really freed britney, showcasing the beauty of social media
  • tiktok, twitter, and instagram -- are forums for everyone to be heard
  • britney said very little under her conservatorship. but her fans kept questioning whether she was ok, scouring for clues, rallying, and keeping the hashtag alive
  • women haven’t always had a voice, and #freebritney gave britney one
and an nyt op writes that #cleantok gave her solace during the pandemic
  • cleantok is a sector of tiktok dedicated to videos of people cleaning or organizing their homes
  • moms who post on cleantok are dramatically different than the “momfluencers” who post on other social media sites. the “momfluencers” on other sites usually post picture perfect content of their kids or family
  • during a time like the pandemic, these cleantok videos can be soothing bc the pandemic’s changed the way that we view our homes
  • cleantok also emphasizes the work that goes into keeping a home clean
also, the wsj reports that tiktok’s working on changing their algorithm to address the problems
  • tiktok is testing changes in their algorithm
  • they want to prevent showing too much content on the same topic -- like sad break up content or extreme dieting videos -- to users
  • in making this change, they hope to boost the well-being of their users
  • they’re also working on allowing users to choose hashtags or words they don’t want appearing on their home pages