Commentary: Is social media toxic or are users the problem?

People+many+times+refer+to+both+their+phones+and+social+media+as+toxic%2C+but+are+they+really+the+problem%3F

Alexandra Felt

People many times refer to both their phones and social media as toxic, but are they really the problem?

The virtue of social media lies not in the hands of influencers, creators or the platforms themselves, it lies in the hands of its average users. 

Some very big creators and influencers perpetuate toxic behaviour and ideals through their social media accounts. This includes racism, sexism, homophobia, promoting unrealistic body standards, creating online drama and a plethora of other things. 

On the other hand, creators with platforms just as big use their platforms to promote positive messages and oppose  the toxicity of other creators.

Looking at Tik Tok, Instagram,YouTube or any other major social media platform as a whole, one side can be just as prevalent as the other. 

Additionally, recent studies have shown that social media use isn’t such a major cause of mental health issues in teens, despite what many people might think. The latter study by Computers in Human Behaviour followed 500 adolescents that were surveyed every year for eight years from the age of 13, and found that social media use wasn’t related to individual changes in mental health over the course of the study.

I would argue that all of these points make social media neutral, so the defining factor that makes it good or bad is the way the average user chooses to engage with it.

I would argue that all of these points make social media neutral, so the defining factor that makes it good or bad is the way the average user chooses to engage with it.”

— Alexandra Felt

Users are given control over what they see on social media. It is designed so users see things from the people they follow, and content is recommended based off of other content they’ve watched, read or liked. There is plenty of opportunity for any user to accommodate toxic or wholesome content — it’s a choice.

Users are what make any social media platform, content creator or influencer popular — my point being that anyone or anything can be toxic no matter where it’s found, but it is only given a voice by those who pay attention to it. Publicity is publicity, whether good or bad, and so even influencers who are widely disliked by the public are still rewarded, in a way, for their actions. 

For example, someone might say that a fight between two creators is toxic. Why is that? Well, the creators started it and they brought it on the internet, so it’s their fault. I disagree with this. Yes, they are the root of the problem, but no one would even be hearing about it if no one paid it any attention.

And as for social media itself, it is merely a stage for anyone to present whatever they might choose to. 

This just means that large groups of users are able to influence the kinds of content that are allowed to persist on social media, while individual users choose from available content. 

If there is a problem, it ultimately rests in the hands of users.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email