Social media has taken a main cultural space in our daily routines. It is estimated at 70% of world population is globally using the social media platform. An average person spends 2-9 hours daily on social media networks either to communicate, entertainment or spreading own message to others. Our lives have been fundamentally changed due to digital spaces. From giving us new ways to come together and stay connected with the world around us, to providing outlets for self-expression, social media has altogather changed the way we initiate, build and maintain our relationships.
But while these digital communities have become commonplace in our daily lives, researchers are only beginning to understand the consequences of social media use on society. Social media models are changing every day, with major platforms like Meta and Instagram evolving into primary digital advertising spaces as much as social ones. A critical responsibility falls on marketers to spread messages that inform, rather than contribute to the sea of misinformation that thrives on social media.
Read on to see what’s on marketers’ minds when it comes to the impact of social media on society:
Social media is adversely affecting the psychological health of youth. Experts are weighing in on the role that the algorithms and design of social platforms play in exasperating these concerns. Experts have denoted a psychological disorder“digital loneliness epidemic,” which focuses on the rise of depression and loneliness as it relates to social media use. Experts say “infinite scroll,” the design principle that enables users to continuously scroll through their feeds, without ever having to decide whether to keep going—it’s hard to imagine what the bottom of a TikTok feed would look like, and that’s intentional. But with the knowledge that mental health concerns are undeniably linked to social media use, the dilemma we’re now facing is when does good design become inhumane design?
Another term for social media use could now be renamed the “digital loneliness pandemic” as the world faces unprecedented isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2020 the Ad Council released a study exploring factors that cause loneliness and what can be done to alleviate it. Interestingly, research found that while social isolation is one factor that can cause loneliness, 73% of respondents typically maintain interpersonal relationships via technology, including engaging with others on social media. Simply put, social media use can both contribute to and help mitigate feelings of isolation. So how do we address this Catch-22? We should ask ourselves how we can use social media as a platform to foster positive digital communities as young adults rely on it more and more to cope with isolation.
Another trend on experts’ minds is how the algorithms behind these massively influential social media platforms may contribute to the rise of extremism and online radicalization.
Major social networking sites have faced criticism over how their advanced algorithms can lead users to increasingly fringe content. These platforms are central to discussions around online extremism, as social forums have become spaces for extreme communities to form and build influence digitally. But as extremist groups continue to turn to fringe chatrooms and the “dark web” that begin on social media, combing through the underbelly of the internet and stopping the spread of hateful narratives is a daunting task.
Social media can be both a space to enlighten and spread messages of doubt. The information age we’re all living in has enabled marketers to intervene as educators and providers of informative messaging to all facets of the public.
Social media platforms have turned into breeding grounds for spreading disinformation. Meta, Instagram, and other platforms have begun to flag certain messages as false, but the work of regulating misinformation is an enduring problem.
Living during a global pandemic has only solidified a societal need for social media as a way to stay connected to the world at large. During the pandemic, these platforms have been used to promote hopeful and educational messages and ensures that social media marketing can act as a public service.
Beyond serving as an educational resource, social media has been the space for digital activism across a myriad of social justice issues. Movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have gone viral thanks to the power of social media. In these cases, social media empowered likeminded people to organize around a specific cause in a way not possible before.It’s impossible to separate the role of social media from the scalable impact that these movements have had on society. #MeToo and BLM are just two examples of movements that have sparked national attention due in large part to conversations that began on social media.
Social media is a great equalizer that allows for large-scale discourse and an endless, unfiltered stream of content. Looking beyond the repercussions for a generation born on social media, these platforms remain an essential way for marketers to reach their audiences. Whether you argue there are more benefits or disadvantages to a world run on social media, we can all agree that social media has fundamentally shifted how society communicates. With every scroll, view, like, comment and share, we’re taught something new about the impact of social media on the way we think and see the world.
But until we find a way to hold platforms more accountable for the global consequences of social media use, it’s up to marketers to use these digital resources as engines of progressive messaging. We can’t control the adverse effects of the Internet, but as marketers, we can do our part in ensuring that the right messages are being spread and that social media remains a force for social good.
Writer is COO of a Alpha Sierra Digital Solutions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org | @sanabintytariq