Social networking is one of the most influential technologies of our time. Only 26 percent of American adults used the social media in 2008 but the figure had jumped to 76 percent of adult Americans by July 2015. While the benefits of social media are well-documented, the negative costs of the social media do not get adequate coverage. As our understanding of the social media has increased, it has become clear that the costs of the social media to the society surpass the potential benefits.
One cannot overstate the importance of social relationships and skills. The prospects of personal and professional success are also influenced by the quality of one’s social relationships and skills because we often work with other people and we often need help and cooperation from other people to achieve our objectives and goals. Social media hurts the social development of both young and adults by discouraging face-to-face social interactions. Many social media users have substituted real world interactions with virtual interactions. Despite the potential to connect with more people, many social media users often lose more friends than gain ones and they suffer from mental health issues such as depression because virtual interactions cannot compare to real world interactions in terms of quality (Staples 424).
We have limited time resources. The addictive nature of the social media means it is not uncommon for the users to spend hours on the social media. The time spent on social media results in users skipping or devoting less time to other productive activities that may be much better use of their limited time resources. The research proves this is already the case as one of the productive activities being hurt by the social media is reading. A survey by U.S. Department of Education (DOE) found that only 31 percent of recent college graduates are proficient in English literacy as compared to 40 percent about a decade ago. Grover J. Whitehurst of DOE believes internet addiction is one of the contributing factors behind declining proficiency of English literacy (Rifkin 426).
Social media is also hurting the society by making it easier to spread false and inaccurate information. It is hard to think of a technology in entire human history that made it as easier and as efficient to spread propaganda as the social media has. 64 percent respondents of a survey admitted to finding information through Twitter that they later found to be inaccurate and 16 percent admitted to unknowingly sharing inaccurate post. A study at the University of Michigan found that even after inaccurate news is corrected, the number of users who see the corrected version tends to be below the number of users who saw or shared the original inaccurate news (ProCon.Org). In other words, the social media may be contributing to the deterioration of democracies because millions of voters may be making voting decisions on the basis of inaccurate information. These concerns are widespread because one of the topics of government investigation in the U.S. is the extent to which Russian interference influenced the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election.
Social media imposes more costs on the society than benefits. Social media influences many people to substitute real world social interactions with virtual interactions that are of lower quality. The time spent on social media means the users spend less time on more productive activities such as reading. Social media has made it easier to disseminate inaccurate information and spread propaganda because many users fail to distinguish accurate news from false news. The widespread dissemination of false news on the social media is damaging democracies like those of the U.S. and western Europe.