Student speaks up concerning social media in letter to editor

The New York Times Building

Dear Farhad Manjoo,

As a young adult who enjoys vintage movies and has taken history classes, I have realized since social media’s introduction, society has changed astronomically for better and for worse. Unlike previous generations, people easily connect with others through memes, trends, online videos, and advocate for social reform virtually. Yet, it is more common for family members to be isolated in their room than having a warm-hearted movie night together due to today’s addictive technology. Consequently, there are hidden effects causing society to be more disconnected than ever in history. With its societal damage in mind, minimal technology usage and open conversations about its manipulation must be publicly relayed to prevent a technological dystopia and save future generations from a depressing lifestyle.

American statistician Edward Tufte states, “There are only two industries who call their consumers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.” Clearly, the term “user” indicates like illegal drugs social media is addictive to the mind. In the documentary drama, The Social Dilemma by Jeff Orlowski, former engineers who became aware of social media’s societal damage from powerful technology companies such as Google, Facebook, and Instagram reveal employed engineers from these corporations are “behind the screens” or are carefully analyzing every user’s touch to depict their personality, using their psychology against them. The algorithm answers the popular question why an advertisement about an item or subject recently discussed oddly appears on a user’s social media feed. Former Google design ethicist, Tristan Harris admits the incredible process is intentional. Why? The more a person stays engaged on their phone, the more profit these companies make. Due to the disturbing algorithm, victims are manipulated to stay on their phone longer than intended, resulting in isolation from reality. Instead, people could be thriving: connecting with others in public, discovering themselves through hobbies, enjoying nature, and being productive rather than looking down. Nonetheless, people’s mental healths are worsening because social media substitutes the human body’s necessity: natural human connection. Moreover, social media triggers people to feel insecure about their beauty, lifestyle, and successes because users romanticize themselves and what they’re doing often, which is not human nature. I was a victim of this trap. Social media made it inevitable to compare my appearance, achievements, and uneventful weekends to other social media posts. Due to social media, I did not appreciate myself and was convinced to gain self esteem by dieting when all that did was damage my mental health, hurt my relationship with food and, at times, family. But, I’m not alone. Too many men, women, boys, and girls suffer with low self esteem because of social media’s influence on their psychology. Arguably, poor self image existed before social media. For example, in the 2004 film Mean Girls by Tina Fey, a clique of three pretentious teenagers called The Plastics point out their insecurities in front of a mirror. However, the Plastics did not experience the distress people endure today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Generation Z’s development rate of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts continue to increase since the release of social media because it causes disturbance such as distractions from tasks, uneasiness about not attaining unrealistic beauty standards, and wariness to take risks. Parents wonder, “What is going on with our kids?” Social media is the root of this chaos.

I will admit, society would not be progressive if social media did not exist today. Thankfully, the LGBTQ+ community is gradually being welcomed and police brutality brings attention worldwide because of the ability to post in seconds. With this, social media allows opinions to be easily expressed and encourages activism, inducing progressivism. However, people’s selectivity in who to follow on social media creates misinformation in society’s collective knowledge about current events and politics.  … The selectivity causes various voices to be censored, grudges, and a disgrace in current politics. 

All in all, many social issues such as disconnection, low self esteem, and fake news have risen since the release of social media. Essentially, society is deteriorating. So, if the software industry won’t accept change, the people must change the software industry. Therefore, society must be informed about social media’s consequences and to turn off notifications, set screen time limitations, advocate for social reform verbally, or completely disregard social media to reunite humanity and help future generations experience wonderful, interesting lives.


Gabriella Longo