Do social media platforms pose a real threat to societies? Can we compare what is happening on social media platforms to providing a dangerous firearm to unqualified and undisciplined individuals, then letting them run around in the streets, where they can kill people at any time? Does the use of these platforms lead to the dangers of self-dissatisfaction and a sense of inferiority toward others?
The most optimistic people did not expect the massive spread of the Internet in the world in this way; the number of Internet users this year exceeded five billion people, or approximately 63 per cent of the world’s population, which a few days ago exceeded eight billion people.
Many people expected the Internet to be only for the wealthy, but competition in the mobile device industry, rapid price drops, and the proliferation of social media platforms with appealing features such as ease of use, interaction and low cost made the impossible a reality.
Some statistics illustrate the amazing digital reality we now live in and provide an indication of what life will be like shortly in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.
For example, one out of every five people in the world purchases at least one mobile phone every year, which is an unprecedentedly large number. This shows that digital tools have become a vital part of the majority of people’s daily lives.
In my opinion, social media platforms are the root of the world’s mass madness, as they have turned the vast majority of people into content creators and consumers of strange and sometimes shocking content.
According to the website (Kepios), which defines itself as “Kepios helps the world make sense of what people are doing online”. This website shows that “there will be 4.74 billion social media users around the world in October 2022, equating to 59.3 per cent of the total global population.” “Social media user numbers have continued to grow over the past 12 months too, with 190 million new users joining social media since this time last year.
These statistics demonstrate what people have in the digital world now, how social changes and their ramifications on various aspects of life have affected them, and our recognition that the use of social media platforms demonstrated a large number of positives, primarily to facilitate communication and information exchange among individuals, but also created several challenges and dangers to humanity, some of which can be referred to in this article based on several international studies.
Various studies show that the use of social media platforms has increased the violation of people’s privacy all over the world and has made the lives of many people available to all people in a negative way. Although some content creators do it because they want to, and this is exactly what we are seeing, the truth is that the majority of them are compulsively motivated by getting views and likes. In a way, this has made some of them mentally ill, and the psychological pressure on them is immense, similar to what happens with movie stars and great singers, who constantly live in fear of low prevalence and other painful fears of declining popularity.
In addition to the points already made, research in this area also shows that social media platforms can lead some users to become excessively narcissistic. It is also important to remember that these platforms feature recordings of influencers’ everyday lives, some of whom are incredibly wealthy or lead unattainable lifestyles that the vast majority of people can never hope to emulate.
Following such influencers may make their followers feel inferior and unhappy because they are unable to achieve the same level of success and cannot enjoy life’s true pleasures as they do.
In one of the studies conducted by the author of these lines, young followers expressed mental anguish because they saw the luxurious lives of influencers. Even though they are aware that their lives are sometimes fabricated, they are sad because they find themselves unable to keep up with their lifestyle.
Other research shows that social media platforms have given criminals and transnational gangs a new way to do suspicious things and made it easier, faster, and safer for them to talk to people who might be victims.
Due to their unprecedented spread and the ability of any individual to broadcast and post without prior experience or limitations that prevent him from making mistakes, it is evident that social media platforms pose several risks, and it is hoped that these risks will be reduced through greater awareness among content creators and followers. Even with all of this, social media platforms are still good for society and have potential to help make the world a better place.
Mahmoud Alrajabi is a columnist in the Jordan Times.