Is Social Media Doing More Harm than Good? by@limarc
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5,475 reads

Is Social Media Doing More Harm than Good?

by Limarc AmbalinaFebruary 16th, 2021
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Most of us use social media every day. The attraction and addiction of these platforms spans all ages, cultures, and communities. Even my 61-year-old father gave up his flip phone and became a smartphone user. But is this tech doing more harm than good? Let's talk about it in a Slack chat with slogging's official #expert-interviews channel, and it's edited for readability. We rely on social media to stay in touch with loved ones around the world, run our businesses, log in to paid services.

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Most of us use social media every day. The attraction and addiction of these platforms spans all ages, cultures, and communities (for the most part. Even my 61-year-old father gave up his flip phone and became a smartphone user, who scrolls through Facebook at least 2 hours a day. We rely on social media to stay in touch with loved ones around the world, run our businesses, log in to paid services, and more. But is this tech doing more harm than good? Let's talk about it.

This Slack discussion by Nataraj Sindam, Jean Machuca, Amy Tom, and Sidra occurred in slogging's official #expert-interviews channel, and has been edited for readability.

Limarc AmbalinaJan 15, 2021, 4:17 AM
Is social media doing more harm than good?
Limarc AmbalinaJan 15, 2021, 4:18 AM
So Nataraj, after watching The Social Dilemma last year, my eyes were opened to issues I knew existed, but not to that extent revealed in the film.

What do you think about the current state of social media? Is it doing more harm than good?
Nataraj SindamJan 16, 2021, 6:08 PM
Before jumping in to the good vs bad, what are we really meaning when we use the term Social Media? Is YouTube a social media product? Is Hackernoon a social media product? Is the Google Feed on an android phone also Social Media?
Limarc AmbalinaJan 17, 2021, 1:17 PM
For the purposes of this conversation, let's keep it focused on the biggest social media platforms of the past 10 years: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, Snapchat.
Nataraj SindamJan 29, 2021, 8:08 AM
Social networks when just viewed as a means to connect individuals living anywhere in the world are useful. They laid the foundations for the formations of virtual networks. Networks that are based on interests, rather than any other form of social or physical filters that we have in real world. It created a wave of interactions that were not possible before. Having said that, the networks could have evolved in any direction, but most often they are primarily driven for optimizing the growth of the Product/Company that they are part of. And there in started the problems.
Limarc AmbalinaJan 29, 2021, 8:31 AM
So you believe that these platforms were started with good intentions in mind, but eventually became more about profit rather than serving the user? IF so, could you give an example of a company that's fallen into this trap and how they could possibly get out of it and return to serving the user first.
Nataraj SindamFeb 5, 2021, 5:59 PM
I think the underlying business models and the incentives behind the models are flawed. And the features designed in most social products are to keep the users hooked to the platform. So whatever the intentions might be, the incentives that are rewarded makes the difference in the product.

One design choice for example which could be imagined differently and will have impact across social products is:

- Recommendation systems could be easily changed to increase the serendipity effect and to break the echo chamber loops of the consumers but it is never implemented because the incentive for a product manager to do this is not there. He or she is supposed to increase the engagement, not put the engagement in jeopardy by introducing serendipity.
Jean MachucaFeb 6, 2021, 3:24 AM
Probably off-topic but this is my point of view. If we make a recap of the latest 20 years we can find two generation groups of social networks: in one side of the street (1st old generation) we have ICQ, MSN Hotmail, Latinmail, MySpace, Hi5 are the ones that I most remember. On the other side we have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, VK, WhatsApp. But now I see emerging social networks that are more closed than open focused in private groups like Slack, Discord, Teams, Zoom. I mention all of these tools like social networks because of they are somehow social, and they share a network. So my conclusion is that almost every 10 years we are experiencing a kind of disruptive change in the way we try to be connected and communicate between us. Coming back to topic, I think issues that provoke more harm than good in social networks will be always present if we don’t understand the basics of privacy and data ownership.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 6, 2021, 3:08 PM
Those are very interesting points by both of you Nataraj and Jean. Talking about earlier forms of social media like MySpace, MSN, these tools fostered your own participation and content creation.

In short, I believe earlier forms of social media were dependent on your own creativity. Some earlier social media platforms were dependent on building pages with HTML. At the same time, there were way fewer recommendation algorithms at play. It was on the user to create and search for the most interesting profiles on the platform.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 9, 2021, 4:46 PM
I remember the early days of MSN and after school, MSN became the new playground. This is where everyone would meet with their friends and talk and "hangout" after school. If you weren't on MSN, you weren't cool and you would be left out of things discussed on MSN the day before.

In short, MSN itself changed the way my generation socialized growing up. I fear that modern social media and the smartphone have done the same thing but at a much larger scale. Giving children endorphin rushes when they see the amount of likes grow on a picture just seems dangerous to me. Anyone agree?
Amy TomFeb 9, 2021, 5:03 PM
I think the problem doesn’t lie in the smartphone, but in the applications - specifically from tech giant Facebook (and Instagram). They have the HUGE power to change the way youth grow up and what they value. My 15 year-old cousin removes photos that don’t get enough likes on them and will only keep his top 9 most liked photos. Remember when Instagram started experimenting with removing the ability to view the total number of likes? Completely disrupted the dopamine that you get from “likes”
SidraFeb 9, 2021, 5:16 PM
Limarc Ambalina I agree with you on the point that smartphones and social media have induced this addiction and craving for validation among youth. Also, it is easier to fool, bully, stalk, and catfish innocent people through technology.

However, there is a bright side as well. Just a decade ago, I couldn’t even imagine that I can share thoughts and socialize with people around the world. Technology has connected me with some amazing people from whom I have learned a lot. This small device in my hand has broadened my perspective about many things and given me the confidence to connect with people.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 10, 2021, 8:16 PM
Super interesting points! Amy Tom I like the direction Instagram is taking as well and perhaps Facebook should be doing the same. Sidra, of course I agree that there is a bright side to social media and the amazing evolution of the smartphone. However, I think that you may have confidence to connect with people because you didn't grow up with this technology. You learnt how to socialize and connect face-to-face and therefore have both the skills to connect with people offline and online. I don't think this can be so easily be said for all the children growing up with social media as a prime form of commnication.
Amy TomFeb 11, 2021, 5:44 PM
Sidra that’s a great point. Aside from the potential harm that social media is causing youth and to go back to the original question, I believe my smartphone has improved my socialization abilities. This is especially true during the pandemic with social distancing when it’s not possible to see people in person. I have had video chats that lasted hours and hours; I would not have had these experiences without my phone, or at least without unified communications and Internet
SidraFeb 12, 2021, 5:31 AM
Limarc Ambalina your concerns are genuine. Our social life is evolving due to tech - kids judge each other on the number of followers and likes (This reminds me of Nosedive from black mirror). COVID-19 has made things worse. There is a need for balance.

Amy Tom I can relate to you! But perhaps we need a balance?