by Graham Pierrepoint
Social media is both a blessing and a curse – while it has been praised for bringing people from all over world together, and it has been proven to be a useful tool for marketing and bringing businesses and customers together – it is also thought to have brought with it a whole legion of self-esteem problems for a generation of teenagers. The first users of Facebook who were teenagers at its inception will now be in their thirties – while Twitter is into its second decade, and YouTube is much older than many people think – all in all, these networks have been around long enough to have cemented themselves into our culture and, more worryingly, our everyday psyche. It’s young people who use social media the most – and a study at the Royal Society for Public Health, London, has ranked the five main networks based on a survey of around 1500 people.
The young people who were surveyed – 24 at oldest, 14 at youngest – were asked to score Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat based on how they felt they impacted upon a number of feelings and factors. These factors included anxiety, body image, relationships, sleep, depression, loneliness and more besides – and the results, on the whole, were rather clear – with one network appearing positive, while the rest languished in negativity – one in particularly lagging behind at the back.
YouTube scored positively in its net total, standing clear of Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram – the photo-sharing site – which finished dead last, and was therefore surmised to have the most negative impact upon young people’s psyches. It’s a site which relies heavily upon image-sharing and little upon discussion and words, meaning that it is perhaps unsurprising that it has had such a big impact on how young people see themselves. The RSPH has advised that it wishes for social networks to take greater action in preventing negative impacts upon young people – in particular noting that there should be warnings to curb long periods of heavy usage, and that there should be greater provision in schools to educate young people about how to use social media safely.
Social media is an everyday part of our lives these days – and for many young people, that can mean comparing themselves to others on a constant basis – and with this latest study, it is clear that many people are more conscious about these issues than we may have assumed.