It seems like new social media outlets are popping up everyday. Yik Yak, for example, is a new anonymous forum where users can post whatever pops into their minds. Similarly, Whisper allows you to post your deepest secrets without your name attached.
These new forms of social media have altered how young adults learn, communicate and behave. It’s changed our manners and attitudes towards each other, for the better and the worse.
According to Pew Research Center, 93 percent of teens ages 12-17 go online, as do 93 percent of young adults ages 18-29.
Eighty-one percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are wireless Internet users, according to Pew. The impact of the mobile web is reflected in young adults’ computer choices. Two-thirds of 18-29 year olds (66 percent) own a portable laptop, while 53 percent own a desktop monitor. Young adults are the only age group for which laptop computers are more popular than desktops, and it shows in how commonly one can see young adults toting a laptop wherever they go, ready to surf the web virtually any time, in virtually any place.
Inevitably, this means millennials are attached to our phones and devices. In an average college dining hall, most students have their phones on the table next to their plates. When we’re feeling embarrassed to be alone, we pretend to be busy on our phones so as not to acknowledge the “lost puppy” feeling we’re experiencing. The sheer pervasiveness of social media has borne a multitude of effects. We’ve compiled a brief list of the pros and cons of social media and its effect on behavioral health.
Pros: Most young adults use online networks to extend the friendships they already have from other areas of their life. Social networking sites provide arenas for young adults to feel connected and learn from each other, no matter the physical distance. Social media can provide a supportive environment to explore romance and friendships.
Anyone can share their taste in music, movies, games and other aspects of teen culture. Social sites can provide support online that they may lack in real life.
Young adults who are feel marginalized by in-person society may find comfort behind a screen, sharing their story with a supportive (and sometimes more anonymous) community. Online searches are a great way to learn about things one might be otherwise embarrassed to ask about. A 2010 study found that 17 percent of teens who use the Internet do so to gather information on health topics they’re not comfortable asking about, like drug use or sexual health.
Cons: Many young adults report having a negative experience on social networking sites. Social media opens up the world cyberbullying which can lead to depression and anxiety in victims.
Texting can be used to harass or bully overtly. It can be harmful because the sender doesn’t have to see the consequence of their message, which allows people to say hurtful things.
Many young adults regret sending certain messages and pictures, like the ones involved in sexting. (Sexting is when young adults send sexually explicit message or photos to peers). Young adults in relationships may feel pressured to sext, leading to relationship abuse or stalking.
Online solicitation and predation is an issue for all ages though young adults and adolescents are particularly susceptive to it.
There are many horror stories about sexual solicitation, but many sites are dangerous in other ways. One may fall victim to a scam, accidentally open up a phishing virus or put themselves in danger when they go to meet someone in real life.
Privacy policies can be confusing and often go unread. Many young adults are unaware of what can happen to their private information, like how it can be sold to advertisers.
Since social media is relatively new to the world, the effects of its use on behavioral health are not well documented. Policymakers are still grappling with how to combat the problems associated with social media as well as educate younger children and teens to use social media in a safe, healthy way.
Annie Johnson is a senior at Wake Forest University from Topsfield, Mass. She is a communications major with minors in journalism and film studies. She aspires to be a writer and editor at a niche media outlet, particularly in pop culture or entertainment. When she’s not writing or watching movies, she enjoys traveling, running and taking long naps.