I remember the time when Orkut and Facebook were the hottest thing after Hotmail email accounts. You probably know what age I am now, since a) I know what Orkut was, and b) I can’t be a young Gen Z social media user since they have shunned Facebook for a while now, opting for TikTok and Snapchat or Discord.
What started as a revolutionary communication tool has become a hub for everything under the sun, including positives like business, community outreach, and long-distance friendships. But also, negatives like fraud, over advertising (products, services, and our own lives), creepy behaviour, hate speech, disinformation, and a way for authorities to keep tabs on people.
For example, a study from Queen Mary University of London that analyzed millions of posts on a social networking site found it was possible to predict a user’s income accurately, using only the content of their posts. Our socioeconomic standing is just out there on social for user profiling.
In August, a study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology said it didn’t find any direct correlation between spike in depression among young people and increased social media usage. The study, which followed 800 children over six years monitoring social media habits and mental health symptoms, concluded that high social media usage did not lead to more symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Are the younger generation learning to use social media tools without falling into its pitfalls? It’s likely that Gen Z might be becoming wiser about the content they absorb
While social media giants are loving these scientists, what does this mean? Are the younger generation learning to use social media tools without falling into its pitfalls?
It’s likely that Gen Z might be becoming wiser about the content they absorb. According to an Ipsos survey, 65% of Gen Z agree that content that’s personally relevant to them is more important than the content that lots of other people talk about.
Still, what it doesn’t mean is social media is perfectly safe for anyone.
Recently, Cloudflare, a cybersecurity and internet infrastructure company revealed in a report the cyber threats facing critical and vulnerable voices online including LGBTQ+ groups, pro-choice advocacy groups, Ukrainian aid organizations, and more. For LGBTQ+ organizations, it saw an average of 790,000 attacks mitigated per day over the last 10 months, with a majority of those classified as DDoS attacks. It also says that attacks targeting civil society organizations are generally increasing.
Social media is often too convoluted for us to get right
Social media is often too convoluted for us to get right. According to the New York Times, from 2018 through 2022, i.e. post-pandemic, teenagers in New York City were arrested and charged with murder at a rate that grew twice as fast as that of adults. Violence breaks out faster and more often now than it did before the pandemic, law enforcement and education officials say. Conflicts that were born online, and festered as threats were exchanged behind screens, have increasingly spilled into the real world.
Meanwhile, social media giants still behave in ways that can only be called irresponsible. In August, social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, sued a nonprofit that fights hate speech and disinformation, accusing it of asserting false claims and encouraging advertisers to pause investment on the platform.
In March, to lure in younger users, Facebook played a sneaky trick on Gen Z Instagrammers. According to a report by the New York Times, many of them found their posts mysteriously appearing on Facebook, even though many of them had abandoned it long back.
Facebook was enjoying a surge in activity owing to a new feature from Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram. Meta introduced a prompt that popped up on Instagram when people posted a photo or story. The prompt asked Instagram users if they wanted to share their post to Facebook too.
To get rid of the prompt, users had to click a big blue button to agree to share their Instagram posts on Facebook, or a smaller hyperlink to opt out. Many people ended up clicking the more visible blue button and then forgot about it. To reverse the setting, the user had to click through multiple Instagram menus.
Meta has been concerned about losing teenagers and young adults to rivals social media platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, an audience that is highly coveted by advertisers.
Social media is here to stay. As we shift into a population that never lived without social media tools, it’s likely we will learn to discern the positives and hopefully filter out the negatives instinctively.