Like any tool, social media can be used for good or bad purposes, and can sometimes result in unintended consequences. There are some examples of people who use social media in extremely positive ways, including Jimmy Choi. Jimmy uses TikTok to educate future generations about Parkinson’s, raise money, inspire hundreds of thousands of people, and even redesign a common healthcare tool.
The Downsides to Social Media
In the last couple of years I’ve often felt down on social media. That’s in part because so much of the recent content has been negative. The term “doomscrolling,” seeking negative news or content online (often on social media), has only become popular since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Doomscrolling has been fueled by anxiety about the pandemic itself, plus heated and venomous arguments over politics and social justice issues.
Social media platforms have also played a significant role in amplifying misinformation (about both politics and public health) and contributing to anxiety and stress, especially among teens.
According to The Social Dilemma by Netflix and Inside TikTok’s Highly Secretive Algorithm by the Wall Street Journal, the way social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok make money biases them toward sharing negative and/or extremist content. That’s because they are trying to get and keep users’ attention as long as possible.
Upsetting, frightening or otherwise negative content is “sticky” given that our brains are wired to respond to (and thus avoid) negatives as opposed to focusing on more positive, upbeat content.