Fake stuff spreads on so­cial me­dia

The Republican Herald - - OPINION - Froma Har­rop

Phony “news” sto­ries aren’t the only toxic con­tent be­ing spread on so­cial me­dia these days. Bad peo­ple are pitch­ing dig­i­tally touched-up rear ends and mod­i­fied thighs as real, dis­may­ing teens and young women un­able to at­tain what’s be­ing sold as per­fec­tion.

Pub­lic anger at the ills un­leashed by so­cial me­dia burns hottest on Face­book. Many also blame Face­book for stok­ing the mod­ern hell of FOMO — fear of miss­ing out.

An in­ter­est­ing study out of Britain sug­gests that for young women es­pe­cially, Face­book isn’t the most dam­ag­ing so­cial me­dia plat­form out there. In­sta­gram is.

The United King­dom’s Royal So­ci­ety for Pub­lic Health asked nearly 1,500 peo­ple ages 14 to 24 to score the five lead­ing so­cial net­works on mat­ters re­lated to health and well-be­ing. The is­sues in­cluded anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, lone­li­ness, body im­age and re­al­world re­la­tion­ships.

Face­book landed in the mid­dle. YouTube was rated as most pos­i­tive, fol­lowed by Twit­ter. Then came Face­book and Snapchat.

In­sta­gram ranked as the most neg­a­tive. As a photo- and videoshar­ing ser­vice, it fo­cuses on im­age. Young peo­ple have long ob­sessed on ap­pear­ance. That makes faked vi­sions of youth­ful beauty un­usu­ally cruel.

In­sta­gram bom­bards young women with pic­tures of flaw­less bodies in biki­nis. These phys­i­cal ideals are un­ob­tain­able, even by the models pos­ing in those doc­tored pic­tures.

Al­though these images are as bo­gus as the made-up po­lit­i­cal con­tro­ver­sies sown by Rus­sian bots, they haven’t raised the pub­lic’s ire nearly as high. That’s un­der­stand­able, but ma­nip­u­lated pho­tos di­rected at the young still rep­re­sent a harm.

The RSPH rec­om­mends that so­cial me­dia plat­forms put what amounts to warn­ing signs on pho­tos of peo­ple whose images have been dig­i­tally changed. More than two-thirds of young peo­ple sur­veyed liked that idea.

Set­ting aside the mes­sages be­ing beamed, the re­treat into so­cial me­dia it­self seems to be mak­ing young peo­ple sad­der. The hours lost chat­ting on­line are ob­vi­ously not spent in face-to-face friend­ships — or just in the sun­shine.

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh sur­veyed nearly 2,000 peo­ple ages 19 to 32 about their so­cial me­dia use. They found that those click­ing onto these plat­forms more than 58 times a week were three times like­lier to feel lonely than oth­ers vis­it­ing fewer than nine times.

A study pub­lished in the jour­nal Com­put­ers in Hu­man Be­hav­ior found that those who use seven or more so­cial net­works seem to be three times as likely to suf­fer from gen­eral anx­i­ety as those us­ing two or fewer plat­forms.

It could be that peo­ple who live on so­cial me­dia do so be­cause they are de­pressed or anx­i­ety-rid­den to be­gin with. What shocked me most was the rev­e­la­tion that some of us are on more than seven so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

Of course, no one has to be on so­cial me­dia. Some psy­chol­o­gists in­sist that it’s be­come an ad­dic­tion for many. De­spite some com­pelling com­par­isons of the way slot ma­chines and so­cial me­dia plat­forms are de­signed, the jury re­mains out on that.

But the dam­age caused by fake con­tent hits both ca­sual and fa­nat­i­cal users alike. Whether in the form of words or dig­i­tally ma­nip­u­lated pho­tos, doc­tored con­tent has in­vaded so­cial me­dia. In most cases, ma­nip­u­la­tors are not do­ing it for oth­ers’ ben­e­fit. They’re just play­ing with their heads.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.