Socially Acceptable

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In the twelve years since Facebook was launched, the explosion of social media has left many scrambling to understand its effects and permanently altered our society, particularly among teenagers.  

Having said that, the most obvious gain from social media is the ease of communication it provides.  

Sites like Pinterest provide excellent platforms for learning and sharing ideas and tips about crafts, cooking, and many other DIY projects.  Most of the other social media outlets utilized by teens (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are either free or low cost and provide easy, unlimited, real-time access both the world within and without their sphere of influence, revolutionizing the flow of information.  

“I see it as a plus when you can draw people together quickly and communicate instantly with people across the world,” Wes Dick, an English, Etymology, and Public Speaking teacher at Valley said.  “It allows for a lot of exposure to different people and cultures.”

Self-expression via apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine are increasingly popular among teens.  According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 52% of teens 13-17 use Instagram, and 41% use Snapchat.    

Also among the upsides of social media are its impacts on businesses.

“Social media makes it easier to expand their reach and make business connections,” former Valley Economics teacher Christopher Norman, said.  Companies can also announce new products over social media platforms as well as create interest for these products.       

But the universal nature of social media may just as likely be its greatest flaw.

Corporate invasion of privacy is an ever-present byproduct of social media.  Some sites like Facebook run algorithms that analyze key words, search habits, and other data on your computer and provide advertisements specifically tailored to you.

Companies can even use pictures or videos people post and use them in ads without your knowledge or consent.  

“When it comes to social media and business, everything you say can and will be used to sell you something,” Norman said.  

Social media has also bred negative changes in the responses of people to their environment.  

“People are less likely to confront situations face-to-face and want immediate gratification from their own social lives rather than what’s around them,” Dick said.    

A recent study conducted by UCLA found that social media use among teenagers wildly increases the effects of peer pressure and alters teen social learning, mental health, and even sleep patterns.

Perhaps what has suffered most from social media is interpersonal communication.  

Of teens who use social media, 70% say they witness frequent cyberbullying, not to mention the misunderstandings all too easily created by social media.  

“It creates a tendency to care less about what’s around you,” Dick said.  “While it is beneficial, too much of a good thing usually creates chaos.”  

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