2. Young People and Social Media

Within this chapter, we will try to put in context the phenomenon of social networks within integrated development of a young person. First, we will define elementary terms and changes that incorporation of social media into our lives brings. The last subchapter discusses whether social media is harmful or stimulating for young people and what are the advantages and disadvantages. We will also reveal the truth behind prejudices and stress, how the lifestyle of young people is changing because of social media.


2.1.1 What is social media?

Social media = “forms of electronic communication (such as Web sites) through which people create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, etc.” (Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary)

Young people discovered social media first. But now also adults can’t imagine life without social media. It became our way of communication, branding ourselves through online personas, building online communities and just spending free time. Whether it’s Facebook, Google+, Instagram Snapchat or some other social media app, it is slowly but firmly incorporating into every aspect of our lives.

The Rise of Social Media (Ben Brommell)

“Social networking is the practice of expanding the number of one’s business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals.” (Whatis.com)

Social Networking in Plain English(Common Craft)

You’re asking what is the difference between Social media and social networking?

To make it simple social media is the way to connect (more of a one-way communication) and social networking mean building relationships (two-way communication).  Read more about the difference in a blog of Fauzia Burke at Huffingtonpost.

jess3_briansolis_conversationprism4_web_1280x1024Source: Brian Solis & JESS3

If you are new to the field of social media, we recommend to check out online dictionaries:

2.1.2 Social media in numbers

Every year the number of social media users is increasing and Statista is predicting that in the year 2020 the number of users will increase from 2,14 billion to almost 3 billion people.


There are so many different social media and last few years Facebook is the most used one.


And with that many people online and with the consideration that an average human spends 1.72h online, no wonder facebook and other social media is one of the biggest sources of information these days.

The Social Media Revolution 2016 (Click-Thru Consulting)

2.1.3 Changes (in everyday life, worldwide, future)

Changes in everyday life

With a regular use of social media, many aspects of everyday life changed. First of all, we changed the way we communicate. It would be completely unheard if you would leave in the middle of a telephone conversation, but it is completely normal to leave while chatting and respond the next day. With different communication, styles came also changes in socialization process and community building styles.

How Social Networks Have Changed The World! (Alex Moore)

Worldwide changes

Modern technology has brought us many things: from easy access to information and quicker communication to increasing loneliness, from improving our productivity and efficiency to job losses and it made so many changes that sometimes it is hard to point a finger and decided whether we benefited as a society or it just brought us new problems in with that changed reality. But for sure it had a direct result in the availability of enormous quantities of data. Availability of big data is influencing the way we think and study and extracting knowledge from it will become more and more important.

Did You Know 2016 (mesjms)

Big data = “an accumulation of data that is too large and complex for processing by traditional database management tools” (Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary)

“Modern technology is simply an advancement of old technology, the impact of technology in modern life is unmeasurable, we use technology in different ways and sometimes the way we implement various technologies ends up harming our lives or the society we leave in. What we call modern technology is technically not so new in most cases.”  (Use of technology)


As the previous video said, we are currently preparing students for jobs that doesn’t exist jet, using the technology that hasn’t been invented jet in order to solve problems we don’t know they are problems jet. So the only thing we can really predict for future is that we have no idea what to predict. We can only guess about new trends that are coming.

Social Media Trends for 2016 (MtoM Consulting, LLC)

2.2.1 Influences on people as individuals

As any new change social media has some advantages and some disadvantages. It is easy to see just one side, but nothing is black and white, so we would like to present both.

Social Media: Advantages and disadvantages (krismarfil)

Positive influences:

  • Spreading messages out there in minutes: It is hard to conceal that something happened because people saw it and can share it on their social media. “What happens in Vegas, stay on social media!”
  • Meeting new people with similar interest. It is easy to find groups that have a similar interest and join them.
  • Speedy communication: Communication has never been this fast before.
  • Geeting fast feedback: Either business wise or personal, you can put it out there and people will tell you what they think.
  • Getting answers: Asking questions and getting answers from help communities, teachers or other people.
  • Global marketing: You can now market and sell your products from home.

Negative influences:

  • Waste of time: People spend enormous time just browsing and searching social media, with no real intention or purpose.
  • Personal details get revealed: If you are not careful with your personal information, it can be exposed to everybody. And revealing personal information on social media makes you more vulnerable to crimes like identity theft, stalking, etc.
  • Harassment: You can easily become a target of a cyberbullying or harassment.
  • Impact on productivity: Many companies have blocked social media in the offices since the work productivity suffered.
  • Addiction: Feeling that you are the center of attention can be a soothing for every ego, but it can be also addictive.

Marc Maron: The Social Media Generation Animated (Jess the Dragoon)

2.2.2 Influences on society

Global spread of social media has enabled increased access to information and education to millions of people, which empowered them to become part of political processes in their societies. Voices that could not be heard in governmental and other mainstream media are suddenly given a chance to address wide audiences. Even people not keen on active political participation have become political actors by supporting and sharing those newly empowered voices on social media. This new dynamic puts unprecedented pressure on all governments for democratisation, transparency, and accountability. Social media offers infrastructure to citizen’s initiatives to act, where governments fail, and for governments to work more efficiently with the help of their citizens, may it be on eradicating poverty, fight against corruption, protection of human rights, etc.

With its wide and instant reach, social media is a catalyst of social unrest everywhere where a government is unable or unwilling to listen to its citizens. It can even take down long-lasting authoritarian regimes, as we could see with the incredibly fast spread of Arab spring revolution (starting in Tunisia in December 2010). Victories of perceived underdogs Barack Husein Obama and Donald Trump in US presidential elections in 2008 and 2016 showed us the impact of an organised and targeted campaign on social media can have on political processes in stable democracies as well. In the case of the latter even in total opposition of a vast majority of mainstream media.

Does social media have the power to change the world? (devschooluea)

Newfound space for political influence, however, brings to us substantial risks of political misinformation and abuse in social media as well. We receive crazy amounts of news via social media and it is impossible to reflect on the quality of so much information. All social media is new, so there is little chance to check long term credibility of the source. Such an environment is prone to exposure to misleading and even completely false information – “fake news”, sensationalism and with it populism. With no authority to trust on what is true and what fake, we are inclined to believe the information that is closest to our way of thinking.

In a big chunk of the world freedom of speech is still limited and that counts for social media as well. In China, the state imposed the so-called “Great China Wall”, which does not allow you to seek information on free Tibet, Tiananmen square massacre,… on social media. In many countries (from Turkey to North Korea) any social media is blocked at least from time to time, so the impact of them on societal changes is limited accordingly.

2.3.1 Changes that effect young people

Communication has changed and there is no point denying it. We used to communicate in person. If you needed to communicate with somebody from a different country, you wrote them a mail. It took forever. With digitalisation everything changes. Communication became instant: in merely a second you can spread an information worldwide. How is this possible? Social media is so widespread, that everybody can communicate with everybody all the time. And with a bit more of a 2 billion social media users, sharing information can be almost instant.

See how social media is changing the way we communicate (Zurich Insurance Group)

How does this effect, young people? Since social media become such an important part of young people’s lives, it also influenced their thinking. Before young people were seeking approval in from their peers, but with the wide spread of social media, this need of beeing excepted transferred on the screens. It is getting more and more important to be excepted on social media.  And as explained in the next video getting likes it is very important. It gives you a feeling that everybody is paying attention to you and who wouldn’t like that?

How social media is affecting teens (The National)

The problematic part of using social media is from the young age on is that it changes your perception of the world, which in turn change your values and scientists now agree that using social media is changing also your brain. It can be a psychological addiction and it’s users have a hard time turning off. Interesting enough brain scans of these people are showing similar impairment of regions those with drug dependence have. Alarmingly this affects emotional processing, attention, and decision-making. This can be explained since the social media usage provides immediate rewards with a little of medium effort required, your brain begins craving for more and more of those neurological excitement. Interesting it is influencing also your ability of multitasking.

Communication on social medias it is also a bit more self-involved. Compared to 30 – 40% of talk about ourselves while chatting in real life, we spend around 80% of social media communication about our own experiences. Our body is even rewarding us with “dopamine” while talking about ourselves on social media.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards but to take action to move toward them.

5 Crazy Ways Social Media Is Changing Your Brain Right Now (AsapSCIENCE)

The other aspect of how the modern way of life influences our brain is making us more superficial as thinkers. The brain rewards us with dopamine for seeking new information.

The Internet is an incredible information rich environment.

For young people seeking information on the internet is a daily activity and this interrupts their focused calm thinking, which is essential for the way we learn. All the interruptions of the digital world (social media, emails, apps) are stopping our memory consilidation. It means transfering information from our short term working memory to our long term memory. And through moving information from working memory to long term memory we create connections and everything else that we know.

And the best things we can do for our minds is to find some time every day to unplug, calm down and focus our mind on one thing at a time.

What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Epipheo)

There is also a phenomenon of The Google effect. With the extended usage of the internet, our brain started to memorize where we find information insted of what is the information. This will happen more and more and is even more visable with young people where a relationship with devices are starthing from the birth. Not remembering pure facts can be in some situation very dangerous (like when a pilot forgets it’s initial training), but on the other hand, FMRI of the brains show, that searching for information online can make our brains more active than reading a book.

Is Google Killing Your Memory? (BrainCraft)

2.3.2 What needs of young peoples are beeing met on social media?

We used to form communities and satisfy our basic needs in local environments. But with the widespread of social media, communities outgrew local environments and become global. Previously we heard that young are joining social media to seek for fame. But that is not it. Young people are driven by two basic needs:

  • the need to belong, which refers to the intrinsic drive to feel close and accepted by others and gain social acceptance; and
  • the need for self-presentation, which is associated with the process of impression management.

Belonging somewhere

Beeing a part of a community, belonging is one of the most basic human needs. Young people are trying to fulfill it online. They are searching for the right group. Not every group is the one for them. Young people need to be a part of a community. Where they are appreciated, where they feel unique, loved and most importantly where they can be heard.  It is important to belong, to feel connected and to be a part of a community.


The second need is a more egocentric one. Online communication allows you to represent yourself in the best possible way. And for young people nowadays it is important to build a superb online personality, where they look better than reality. It is important to build up somebody unique, special and me memorable.  Through building up online personas, the process of searching for the meaning of life begins.



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