Angela LeePeriod 1Historical/Political Perspective Historically, social media is a fairly recent phenomenon, allowing the masses to be interconnected online.
In the early 2000s, when MySpace first introduced the concept of socializing through online profiles, it paved the way for the rise of current social media giants including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. In 2017, nearly 1.97 billion people globally reported using social media, and that number only continues to grow (Vries 1). A study done by PEW Research center shows that use of social media has increased by over 900% from just 2005 to 2015, over the course of ten years starting from Facebook’s initial launch in 2004 (Perrin 2). Teens account for a sizeable and growing part of the demographic of social media users. A recent survey conducted by CBBC Newsround found that ninety-six percent of teens, defined as a person aged from thirteen to eighteen, had at least one social media account (Coughlan 3). Social media is becoming an increasingly large factor in determining one’s self-image, especially for teenagers.
Historically, exposure to social media has changed teen self-image mainly by impacting self-esteem, which in turn has influenced mental health and consumerism. Changes in self-image can also be seen politically, as the widespread availability of news and political information on social media encourages teens to become more politically engaged. Social media has prompted several adverse effects, one of which is higher dissatisfaction with oneself and lowered self-esteem. Teens often rely on their peers for support, and as examples as they mature (Bornstein 14).
Findings from a study done by the Netherlands Youth Institute indicated that there was a positive correlation between social media use and negative self perception. As time spent on social media increased, so did the level of self dissatisfaction among participants. Greater amounts of time spent online also resulted in increased peer feedback in the form of likes and comments on posts, fostering a vicious cycle of using social media to increase feelings of affirmation (Vries 31). Over the course of half of a decade, teenage satisfaction with their own body-image has decreased, which researchers attribute to the increased opportunities to make comparisons between one’s self and others through social media (Burns 5). As children reach adolescence, cognition and social skills continue to develop, which results in a more profound sense of identity. However, since social media allows users to curate profiles which only reflect what the individual wants others to perceive, teens are led to believe that unrealistic standards are important and attainable goals. According to ChildWise, a UK research group that studies adolescent behavior, the percentage of teenage girls who reported being unhappy with themselves has steadily risen over the course of the past five years. In a survey carried out in 2011, more than seventy-three percent of teenage respondents reported being satisfied with their body-image.
When this same survey was repeated in 2016, only sixty-one percent of respondents felt content with their body-image, showing a downward trend over time (Ehmke 8). As teen-self image continues to be influenced by social media, it has changed both teenage consumerism and the way companies in the U.S. market their products. Today, teens have power over approximately $600 billion worth of purchases.
Currently, over $15 billion is spent on advertisements targeting the teenage demographic each year. Historically, this figure has nearly tripled since 1992, showing that teens are now a bigger target for advertisers. Margo Maine, PhD, who founded the Eating Disorder Coalition for Research, says that teen girls are often the target of the diet, tobacco, and alcohol industries, who realized that they could capitalize on insecurities regarding body-image (American Psychological Association 11). Social media advertising on platforms such as Instagram is geared towards a younger audience, and while more indirect than other forms of advertisement, it has been successful in making teens more brand conscious. A survey done by Deloitte Digital showed that forty-seven percent of youth reported that social media had an influence on their purchases.
They are also three times as likely to use social media as a part of their decision making process as compared to previous generations (Rohampton 3). In politics, social media has assumed an important role by providing news and political information. Social media sites have become a vital addition- if not a replacement for traditional news outlets. This has brought about changes in how politicians interact with their audience.
Social media is filled with political news and information, which is convenient and accessible to teens. This is valuable to sparking the future generation’s interest in politics and in allowing for more engagement among the youth. Data from the Belgian Political Panel Study discovered that while viewing more online content generated a moderate interest in political affairs; time spent viewing online news had a strong correlation with interest in politics. In discussion groups created by the University of Nottingham, participants were asked to talk about their interest in politics.
In the discussion, the majority of participants cited social media as the source of their political knowledge, and agreed that they were more likely to read articles that were shared by their peers (University of Nottingham 6). This shows that social media not only increases knowledge of contemporary issues, but also lets users positively influence one another to become more involved in such topics. In a national survey conducted by the MacArthur Research Network, thirty-four percent of participants from the ages fifteen to twenty-five reported taking part in politics online. On social media, participants exhibited engagement through liking, commenting, or sharing new stories, joining a group that focuses on social/political topics, or taking part in a demonstration or protest (Kahne 11).
Besides being able to provide a platform for discussion, social media is able to give politicians and legislators the opportunity to directly reach their audience without going through a media outlet. One example of how politicians are able to take advantage of this is by asking supporters to donate money, and getting the word out through social media. Raising a large sum of money quickly, usually in twenty-four hours or less, is known as a “money bomb”. In November of 2007, U.
S. representative Ron Paul was able to raise more than $4.2 million for his presidential campaign in one day. Being able to raise such an amount in a short period of time made national headlines, and boosted Paul’s popularity. Several other politicians, including Rand Paul, and Florida representative Alan Grayson, were able to establish themselves as strong candidates by using this method. They were able to demonstrate being well-liked by the general public by asking their individual supporters to pitch into these “money bombs”.
Successful funding not only gives an edge to politicians who haven’t secured corporate donors, but can also give the candidate greater news coverage (Kreighbaum 1).