As of August 2020, 3.81 billion of the total world population use social media i.e. half the world’s population. Tech giants today like Google and Facebook, My Space, YouTube, etc. introduced social media websites back in the first half of the 2000s with an intent to connect people through the internet which was something new in those times. These social media platforms become instantly popular among youth. These tech companies earned a database with millions of users and billions of dollars of revenue and profits in advertisements. Introduction of smartphones in the late 2000s by mobile phone manufacturing companies namely Nokia, Samsung, Apple, HTC, etc. emphasis was given on developing app-based social media platforms which saw the rapid growth of users on the social media platforms. These social media platforms empowered users to write blogs, update status, share photos and videos, and many other features to name a few. And today we are in 2021 and we are surrounded by information and news feeds through social media 24/7. Although there are numerous ways in which there has been a positive impact on us through the Internet and Social Media, I feel it is important to red flag dangers emerging out of social media and how it is impacting our citizens. According to stastia.com there were 696 million smartphone users in 2020 and are expected to grow up to 100 million by 2025. With 4G internet access at cheap rates and the availability of social media applications on smartphones, it has become easy for users to connect with the world. The monetization of social media has made it possible for creators like teachers, scholars, artists, journalists, lifestyle vloggers, etc. showcase their talent and share knowledge and information with their audience, and also earn money and fame for their work. The creators have a huge influence over their audience as people try to inculcate qualities in their lives from what they learn from the influencers or use the knowledge to elevate their careers. It has also paved a way for businesses to engage with their customers and a platform for businesses to promote and sell their products.
Today smartphones, applications, and software are enhanced with artificial intelligence algorithms that study search patterns of the users, which tech giant’s claim would make the user experience easier and which is true to some extent. But there is something that users are not told. Algorithms used in artificial intelligence are designed in such a way that they study what kind of messages are exchanged between two users, choices users make to buy products on the online shopping stores, type of videos and films users usually watch, google search patterns, etc. and ads are displayed accordingly. The conglomerates and companies which own these social media platforms have designed AI algorithms in a way that enables them to study human psychology. Service providers armed with user data can use it to make money by selling it to a third party. And the servers where this data is stored may or may not be in your country.
Mental health conditions due to excessive use of social media show rising numbers. A study conducted by the Indian journal of psychiatry in the year 2018 among medical students in Kolkata shows that “more than 90% of students use more than one social networking sites or instant messaging system. One-third remained active in SNSs all through the day and around 80% for ≥4 h. Use of SNSs during odd hours was reported by 55% of participants, and 23.5% expressed their inability to spend a day without SNSs. Nearly 24% reported depression and 68.5% had state anxiety. STAI and BDI scores were significantly (P < 0.05) higher among students who used SNSs for 4 h or more, used it during odd hours, or stated inability to spend a day without SNSs than their counterparts. ” Excessive use of social media may cause anxiety, depression, bipolar mood disorder, insomnia, suicidal tendencies. Every few days there is news where people live stream their suicide on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Also there are dangers posed to human life. Back in 2016, there was a social media phenomenon called the blue whale challenge where the game administrators tasked their participants to cause self-harm. Even in India, there were reports where teens committing suicide because of participating in the blue whale challenge. Also, there is a risk of the user’s account being hacked. Users also pose the dangers of phishing attacks and social media fraud. Recently a famous Indian journalist claimed to have been the victim of a phishing attack where she claimed that she was taken for a ride in the name of being appointed as professor at University of Harvard.
Social Media poses a great threat to national security. In July 2020 Indian Armed forces were prohibited to use social media applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, and 87 other applications. As the enemy targets men in uniform through the honey traps and various other ways. National security poses a grave danger of being compromised. There are such cases reported where the soldiers have been targeted. It is often seen social media being used to instigate violence during protests. The most important reason the internet was taken down in Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370 and 35A was to avoid anti-national elements from instigating violence by spreading fake news through Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, etc. In February 2020 social media was widely used to perpetrate riot plans and instigate violence by spreading fake news. It was also used during the so-called farmer’s protest against farm laws. And on 26th January 2021 social media was used to spread fake news even by some journalists and anti-national elements to spark violence in the national capital on Republic Day.
It is important we use social media responsibly and use it to share knowledge, learn new things, and showcase our talent. It is also important that we have control over the excessive use of social media as it is a threat to mental health. It is not only important for parents and children but also adults to be away from virtual life on the internet and inculcate healthy habits such as physical activities outdoors. It is important for a human being to make use of electronic gadgets and advanced technology to do something constructive for themselves and the country. As our parents always say anything done in excess is harmful to self as well as society.