Critical Essay on Media

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Regulation of social media is a new frontier that invites criticism and yet is worthy of exploration even in a country as free as the United States. The statistics on social media usage (Hou, et al, 2019) indicate that nearly every single teenager and young adult has at least one social media account. These individuals get exposed to a greater amount of various information sources than previous generations ever experienced.

The most obvious threat in social media communication is criminal activity such as theft, drug and sex trafficking, or other illegal activity. This area is typically shut down rather quickly by law enforcement monitoring electronic communication. The more hidden threat in social media is when speech is not criminal but has the potential to cause destructive thoughts and behavior. As a result, our youth are freely exposed to this second category of destructive social media in a less regulated and monitored environment.

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Context

The following review looks at research from the past decade that studied the relationship between social media use and depression. This period was chosen because many social media platforms were still being developed in the early 2000s. Research into whether there has been an increase in depression and anxiety for teenagers and young adults who use social media daily is relatively new and continuing to develop. The population of teenagers and young adults is a focus of these studies due to the immense popularity of using social media in this age category.

Our emerging understanding of how social media presents a real and addicting health hazard to our youth has resulted in the need to research what role government regulation and parental responsibility play in confronting this threat. The reality is that social media is a chronic and widespread platform to communicate in either a productive or destructive manner. Like television, music, magazines, and other forms of media before it, the proposed parameters of regulating social media must take into account what is fair and reasonable in light of our constitutional rights of free speech.

Method

The primary source of data comes from a collection of surveys and feedback from individuals ranging from ages 15 to 25 years old. Individuals were asked to report how much time was spent on social media (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and were asked to report symptoms of depression (loneliness, isolation, mood changes). In addition, conduct and relationship problems were identified and recorded. Researchers kept responses confidential since the questions were personal and of the type regarding mental health and well-being.

Prejudice, emotion, and bias are rampant in social media and often result in racism, misogyny, homophobia, and cyberbullying in various forms. A proposal for governmental regulation must address how society can reduce the harmful effects of social media without harming business or individual rights of free expression. Among the ideas for regulation are limitations on how much access is available to minors and how parents can be more informed to protect their children.

Significance

The significance of social media regulation is so great that it has even become one of the issues discussed in terms of national security and whether its unregulated use can interfere with free and democratic elections. It is without dispute that social media can persuade, inform, and ultimately influence decision-making. Therefore, the following discussion explores whether regulation of social media can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety in our youth. This bold idea is timely and critically important but must be balanced with the values our country seeks to protect.

The importance of this research is to determine whether the use of social media helps or hurts the health of this young and developing population. (Brunborg, 2019) Even freelance writers have speculated whether social media magnifies negative impulses and the worst qualities in personality. (Dunbar, 2019) The theory advanced by Dunbar is that social media was designed to be exploitatively engaging so it is habitually addicting and difficult to resist. Without this research and review, we would not be aware of the real impact of social media on the youth.

Quality of Online Experience is Determinative

The five articles examined all theorize that social media use can lead to depression

but identify that it may not necessarily be a direct causation, but rather an indirect path. (Aalbers, 2019; Brunborg, 2019; Dunbar, 2019; Drouin, 2018; Parent, 2019) The five authors agree that there may be intervening behaviors that mediate and precede symptoms of depression. While social media usage alone does not directly cause depression, how it is used can be positive or negative.

(Parent, 2019; Brunborg, 2019) identify that one dangerous use of social media is comparing other people’s lives with their situation. Parent refers to this as “Facebook Envy” which is when individuals experience a feeling of being less valuable or successful than their online friends. (Brunborg, 2019) terms the same behavior as “Social Comparison Theory”. For example, if Facebook user adds celebrities or idols to their connections, they begin to follow how rich and famous these people have become in comparison to their own, less-wealthy life. Therefore, if the time spent on social media is used to engage in social comparison, then the increased time engaged in social comparison is associated with a higher risk of depression.

Positive/Negative Aspects of Reductions in Face-to-Face Interactions

(Brunborg’s, 2019) study found that time on social media leads to a reduction in face-to-face interactions. A reduction in face-to-face interactions can also decrease engagement in one’s immediate surroundings offline. (Aalbers, 2019) found that loneliness could result in the passive use of social media. Specifically, the inability to comment, post, or engage in communication online while only viewing pages created a feeling of loneliness. Passive social media use was associated with less concentration, fatigue, loneliness, and loss of interest. (Aalbers, 2019)

Both Parent and Drouin agree that non-face-to-face interactions online could lead to behavior that is not normally expressed offline. The parent gives the example of engaging in more volatile and toxic comments online than one would normally make in person. On the other hand, Drouin’s study emphasized that social media could be used for social support since face-to-face interaction may be a more difficult or embarrassing experience to reveal feelings of stress or depression. Social support requires the promotion of trust in friendships and/or family relationships. This proves the point that social media could either increase or decrease loneliness and social support depending on what type of online engagement is experienced by the user. Brunborg even theorizes that the positive effects could counter/equalize the negative effects of social media. (Brunborg, 2019)

Drouin’s study focused on females who identified social media as stress-inducing and who scored high on suffering from depression. Drouin found that females had a higher likelihood of experiencing victimization which could lead to anxiety and depression. Parents theorized that males could perpetuate “Toxic masculinity” by engaging in aggressive, competitive, and dominant online behavior which attempted to minimize the roles of females and homosexuals. The use of social media to engage in toxic masculinity could explain the female experience in Drouin’s study.

Brunborg summarizes that the time used on social media alone is not enough to predict the negative consequences, but rather, emphasizes the problematic use of social media to advance aggression and negative conduct. (Brunborg, 2018). Therefore, engagement in such negative online behavior could result in a negative consequence of anxiety and depression in both females and males. This reinforces the earlier theory that the negative use of social media may result in depression.

Potential Forms of Regulation

When deciding whether it is the role of government, industry, or parents to regulate the usage of social media we must consider that government is often the most powerful regulator and parents are often the weakest. The government has the power of the police, the power to regulate economics and monetary gain, and even the power to take children from parents when it is in the best interest. Parents are subject to being ignored by children or not taken seriously.

The industry may be a good middle ground to promote values of respect, fairness, and anti-bullying. For example, ABC and Disney have made enormous advancements in reducing television shows that contain violence, profanity, discrimination, and other negative themes. The Roseanne show was completely canceled for a single discriminatory comment made by Roseanne Barr on her personal Twitter account. Lately, Twitter has surpassed Facebook in regulating the fair use of its platform by checking for harassment, bullying, and other inappropriate content. Facebook, still lags, due to its enormous financial dependence on third-party advertisements.

Conclusion Government regulation is not meant to interfere with business or individual rights, but it is often a necessary tool when a real and present danger has been identified, here to the next generation of media users. Just like television broadcasts are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, social media is ready for a new set of expectations by society. The options include the government mandating certain rules such as users having a minimum age, placing the responsibility on the very industry that provides media platforms following a heightened level of expectations, and also encouraging parents to stay involved in what their children are doing on social media.

Great care must be given to balancing out the interests of individuals and the media industry while avoiding allegations of government censorship similar to that of China and North Korea. The dangers of mental, moral, or physical abuse warrant a serious review of how social media can be improved. Perhaps it is the calling of this generation, which includes the original creators of social media, to be honest, and step up to a self-reflection of how this tool can be either destructive or productive for future generations.

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Critical Essay on Media. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-essay-on-media/
“Critical Essay on Media.” Edubirdie, 09 Feb. 2024, edubirdie.com/examples/critical-essay-on-media/
Critical Essay on Media. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-essay-on-media/> [Accessed 16 Jul. 2024].
Critical Essay on Media [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Feb 09 [cited 2024 Jul 16]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-essay-on-media/
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