Fifteen years ago, the term ‘social media’ was something that was only used by a small percentage of the population who were at the forefront of the burgeoning but still fledgling mainstream, commercial Internet. However, in recent years, as websites like MySpace, Bebo, and then eventually the sector defining platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram came to prominence, it became almost unimaginable for any human being over the age of 12 not to have some sort of presence on social media. Though these platforms can be great way to connect with people and a fantastic, lighting quick resource for breaking news stories, there is an undeniable element of social media that poses a danger to young people and their fragile reputations while going through some of the formative years of the their lives. This begs the all-important question, is the prevalence of social media in modern culture having a negative impact on young lives?
The first thing that comes to mind when considering the lasting impact of decisions made on social media is that once sent out in to the ether, a young person can very quickly lose control of the statement, image or video that they have posted. Anybody who sees a post can save it to their own device, which means that even if the post is deleted by the author, copies of it in various forms can still be found elsewhere. This becomes particularly problematic if the image of video sent is of a sexual or otherwise risqué nature, and we have seen this come to fruition with the rise in commonality of so called ‘cyber blackmail’. Young people are being tricked in to sending images and then blackmailed under the threat of them being published to a wider audience. This type of psychological harm can do damage that will last well in to adulthood, and can result in a person being ostracised not only from certain friends but also from family members potentially.
Another aspect of social media that can have a negative impact on young people is the way that old opinions and statements can be readily brought back up years later to damaging effect. For example, every Facebook post or Twitter sentence is saved in an archive on your profile, a profile that can very easily be researched by a potential employer. If, in your formative years, you perhaps posted some things that would not be deemed to be socially acceptable or politically correct in this current climate, then you run the risk of not being given opportunities in the present based on the preconceptions that your old social media creates.
Ultimately, the fast paced nature of modern social media can seem fun and care free in the moment, but there are definitely long term factors that one has to consider before posting something online. It only takes a second to click the send button, but it may take much longer than that to get out of the trouble it causes.