The Serious Risks of Social Media and How to Avoid Them

Posted on: August 5th, 2019 by Pat Mesiti No Comments

Instagram, the social media website where you post photos, is trying something new. It is looking at what happens when it hides the number of likes on photos and other posts. If you have an Instagram account, you’ll get to see the numbers but your followers won’t – at least, not automatically. They can count names themselves.

This trial is taking place right now in six countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. Why is Instagram doing this? Some people believe it is because social media is affecting young people’s mental health and self-esteem. They think online ‘likes’ or clicks equals love. Instagram said this about the change, ‘We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.’

‘Likes’ are central to Instagram and other social media platforms, like Facebook. By hiding them, is Instagram making itself less appealing?

Getting online ‘likes’ makes some people feel good. It’s an affirmation that you are appreciated and respected. However counting likes can hurt some people’s mental health. It promotes social comparison. You don’t have to spend long online to find people who are better-looking and more successful than you. If you are old and ugly like me, you probably don’t care. You know your worth as a human and laugh this off, but social media can hurt young people, who are still trying to figure themselves out. As a father that is what worries me.

Vulnerable young people can be left feeling inadequate and unloved. A study by the University of Chicago ( found that  social media makes teenagers feel closer to friends (78 per cent), more informed (49 per cent), and connected to family (42 per cent). Yet many teens also report feeling pressure to always show the best versions of themselves (15 per cent), overloaded with information (10 per cent), overwhelmed (9 per cent), or the dreaded “fear of missing out” (9 per cent). This means that young people often just end up feeling confused by social media.

What will happen without likes on social media?

Without ‘likes’, comments will become an even stronger indicator of how people are interacting with a particular Instagram post. Comments can range from symbols (emoji) to an essay, and may have an even bigger impact on young people’s self-worth. Again I point that I am old and tough. I take social media interactions with a pinch of salt. Young people don’t yet have those reserves of strength.

The reaction among Australian Instagram users has been mixed. Many are unhappy, others think it is great. Let’s stay online and see what happens.

What impact has social media had?

Whenever you log onto the internet, you will see news about how social media has made talking to friends and doing business online easier or make it easier to connect with old friends. More than 3.2 billion people use social media around the world. This number represents about 42 per cent of the world’s population. The average person has more than one social media account. It is not uncommon to see someone with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube accounts and check them every day. In a recent study by eMarketer, they found that 90.4 percent of Millennials use social media, 77.5 per cent of Gen X and 48.2 per cent of Baby Boomers use social media. The average person spends more than two hours per day on social media.

But what are the risks you and your family need to be aware of?

1. Social Media Is Addictive

People can start to live their lives on social media and in recent years, social media has been named as one of the common causes of road accidents. Some users are so addicted they use it while driving or walking on a road. Researchers at Nottingham Trent University studied the psychological effects of social media and came up with the term “Facebook Addiction Disorder”. People with this addiction suffer from mental preoccupation, neglect of personal life, mood modifying experiences, and even delusions

2. Leads To Low Self-Esteem Issues

A lot of experts have argued that too much use of social media leads to low self-esteem issues. According to these experts, when you spend too much time on social media, you get to experience problems such as sarcastic comments and even cyber bullying which can lead to self-esteem issues.

3. Feeling of Isolation

There is a big difference between interacting with strangers and long-lost friends on Facebook than actually being with them in real life. Social media which is designed to connect people can actually disconnect. It lacks a physical connection which can lead to a feeling of loneliness and isolation.

4. Leads To Anti-Social Behavior

Social media with games, music, and videos encourages young people to stay online endlessly. People choose to hide on social media than go out and make friends. Too much time on social media can make one miss out on real life.

5. Can Lead to Over Snacking

Too much time on social media can lead to weight gain. When spending time on social media, it is easy to get distracted and overeat. You also miss out on exercise time.

6. Experience Cyberbullying

Cases of cyberbullying are on the rise. According to one study, one in three teenaged media users have been cyberbullied. Cyberbullying can lead to anti-social behaviour, loneliness, isolation, fear, and even depression and suicide.

7. Triggers Sadness

According to research, you are likely to feel more sad and less life satisfaction if you are spending a lot of time on social media, especially on Facebook. 

8. Can Lead to Depression

Researchers believe that the use of social media contributes to the rising cases of depression around the world. In the United States, the suicide rate has grown nearly 25 per cent since 1999. A study conducted at the University of Missouri in 2015 concluded that Facebook could lead to symptoms of depression. 

Social media, like any tool, can be used for good or bad. Since Facebook was introduced back in 2014, a lot of people has been able to earn an income by running online businesses.

I say always use social media for good, and talk to young people and children about the downside of social media. Remember life online is no substitute for getting out into the world and enjoying your life for real!


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Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.


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