Social Media’s Influence on Eating Disorders:

            Social media has been a way to influence users in multiple ways. Social media has it all, from inspirational quotes to motivation captions. However, social media can also promote further awareness of pro-eating disorders. It is then that social media is no longer influential, but now a toxic place for people who struggle with this mindset. Two online articles further explain how social media impacts eating disorders. The first one, “How Pro-Eating Disorder Posts Evade Filters on Social Media,” written by Louise Matsakis, emphasizes that even though social media companies ban hashtags that relate to eating disorders, similar hashtags continue to appear and replace the prohibited hashtag. The second article, “Thin, white, female: How people document eating disorder recovery on Instagram,” written by Andrea LaMarre, argues that hashtags related to eating disorders have been found to be associated with healthy eating. Here, I then argue that social media brings more focus on eating disorders through the means of hashtags.  

Social media companies have been trying to limit content related to eating disorders, but users have found ways around this. For example, social media companies have recently banned certain hashtags because they were intertwined with posts that had images corresponding to eating disorders. However, social media companies attempt to ban these hashtags was soon derailed when users would misspell the original hashtag. Matsakis states that “[a] separate 2016 study from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that pro-ED users simply began to intentionally misspell or alter terms: “#thinspiration” became “#thynspiration,” “#thinspire,” or “#thinspirational.” Basically, a study confirmed that users with eating disorders would purposely misspell hashtags to replace the hashtags that were banned. This was not what social media companies were going for and thus ruined the purpose of banning the hashtags in the first place. In continuation, when users would search for these types of hashtags related to eating disorders, social media companies have made it to where two things happen. Matsakis continues saying that “[w]hen users search for tags related to eating disorders, such as #bulimia, the sites either block results entirely or surface a pop-up message asking if they want to seek help.” Basically, when users searched for these banned hashtags, a message would appear to give them the option of seeking help. This is a step towards the right direction but while Matsakis is focusing much of her attention of how users misspell the original hashtag in order for their hashtag to be allowed on social media, she overlooks the deeper problem that misspelling hashtags would not be happening if social media companies did not ban the hashtag in the first place. Banning hashtags brings more attention to eating disorders instead of individuals who struggle with this mindset. Even though I think awareness is much needed and extremely beneficial for this certain cause, banning hashtags brings a different kind of awareness. This kind of awareness brings more attention to certain hashtags instead of the individuals who are struggling with eating disorders. While it is important for social networks to be aware of these hashtags, it is also important for them to realize banning these hashtags may bring more attention to the hashtags and not enough attention to the individuals who suffer from eating disorders. And it is then that social media brings more attention to eating disorders through the means of hashtags.

Moreover, it was discovered that posts with hashtags associated with healthy eating also had hashtags associated with eating disorders. Although social media companies had good intentions of banning hashtags related to eating disorders, their plan was not well thought out. To prove this, a recent study examined roughly 1,056 posts that were related to eating disorders. LaMarre gives the following results, “[o]ur analysis revealed how easily health can become entangled with particular ways of eating. Often, hashtags like “#EatingDisorderRecovery” were used alongside “#CleanEating” and “#HealthyFood.” In other words, it was found how easy it is for health to be associated with eating disorders. Hashtags with healthy eating also had hashtags mixed in with eating disorders. On the other hand, Matsakis takes it one step further and recognizes that social media companies have a difficult task in finding hashtags that promote eating disorders. Matsakis states, “The New Media & Society study underscores how difficult it can be for tech companies to find problematic content and to decide what should and shouldn’t be removed.” In short, whether that hashtag is directly or indirectly related to eating disorders, it is difficult to discern what should be allowed or banned. And while social media companies have good intentions, banning a few hashtags will not solve the issue of eating disorders being intertwined with hashtags. Although I agree with both LaMarre and Matsakis, I still insist that social media is an issue because instead of putting focus and attention on individuals with eating disorders, we are sidetracked by the hashtags that surround eating disorders. Both LaMarre and Matakis provide ample evidence on instances where the hashtag is the main focus, but they both overlook the individuals that are using these hashtags.

Therefore, this is what social media companies need to do instead. Social media companies need to realize it is important not to ban all hashtags that are related to healthy eating because as LaMarre observes, “Some users did engage with Instagram… particularly when it comes to health…[t]hey used hashtags in unexpected ways, for instance tagging a photo of a dessert “#HealthyEating.” They commented on others’ posts, offering reassurance and community t [to] others.” In short, users would use a hashtag on a post that contained an image of something we normally would not consider healthy (i.e. a piece of dessert). Others would then comment on this post with words of encouragement for the user who posted this photo. This is important because if social media companies banned this hashtag, users would not be able to find a community who share common ground in what healthy eating looks like. LaMarre’s suggestion is similar to a point that Matsakis makes. Matsakis insists that social media companies should not ban users from their platforms for merely posting content related to eating disorders. She states, “platforms [should] refrain from cancelling a person’s entire account, and instead consider deleting individual posts. That way, they’re not abruptly cut off from other users who may be supportive.” Here, Matsakis is saying that social media companies should not ban users because they will then no longer be part of a community that will help them. Social media companies should instead delete the individual posts that are associated with eating disorders. In conclusion, then, the world of social media has put much focus on eating disorders and more specifically, hashtags have been the main source of influence on eating disorders. Social media companies need to stop banning these types of hashtags as it may hinder users to connect with those of a similar mindset. Overall, I am still a firm believer that social media puts much emphasis on eating disorders. We should focus as much time on the individuals who struggle with eating disorders as we do on the hashtags that surround eating disorders.

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When Wanting Privacy Becomes Ironic:

The wanting for personal privacy is not a new phenomenon, but the reason behind wanting privacy has changed greatly over the years. Within the world of social media, our personal information has become corrupted because of hackers. This has scared most people into searching for ways to achieve personal privacy. But personal privacy is hard to come by in today’s society mainly because of how easy it is to obtain people’s information. Two online articles that were both published for the New York Times, help further explain the privacy deficit we are experiencing within social media. The first one titled, “We Want Privacy, but Can’t Stop Sharing,” written by Katie Murphy, emphasizes that although we argue against our privacy being taken away from us, we still continue to share our lives on social media out of fear that we might be criticized by others. Meanwhile, the second article titled, “How Privacy Vanishes Online,”  written by Steve Lohr, argues that we can try to protect our privacy but it is useless until we realize that what we post has the possibility to be used against us. Furthermore, I argue that the demands for privacy are ironic because the people who are demanding something to be done are the ones who expose themselves on social media platforms the most.

Reducing what you do on social media will further reduce your risk of having your information being hacked into. With the rise of social media, it has become easier to obtain people’s identity, which makes it harder for you to protect your information. Many people assume that their personal privacy is safe if their social media accounts are not open to the public. But according to Lohr, this might not be accurate. He states, “In social networks…You may not disclose personal information, but your online friends and colleagues may do it for you.” In other words, your friends on social media networks have access to everything you share and then some. Because of this, they can release information that you thought was safe. But this issue can be resolved by people acting as if what they post online is how they would act in the public eye. Murphy recognizes, “[P]eople are coming to understand how their online data might be used against them. You might not get a job, a loan or a date because of an indiscreet tweet or if your address on Google Street View shows your brother-in-law’s clunker in the driveway.”  Basically, Murphy is showing that online data can be used against you in several ways. From Twitter to Google Street View, the evidence found online that can be used against you is endless. If Murphy and Lohr are right that our social media followers and online data can be used against us, then we need to reassess the popular opinion that being careful online is how you keep the hackers out. Because as the above quotes show, being careful will not cut it. You can still have your information hacked into.

Moreover, limiting what we post online has become more about what others will think and not about what we want. We have the desire to limit what we post on social media but do not because we are worried about what others will think. According to Murphy, “Sabine Trepte, a professor of media psychology at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, said, “they continued to participate because they were afraid of being left out or judged by others as unplugged and unengaged losers. So the cycle of disclosure followed by feelings of vulnerability and general dissatisfaction continued.”  In other words, people continued to stay online simply because they were afraid of what those around them would think. Even though social media was making these people feel exposed and discontent. In today’s world, staying off social media makes a bigger statement than being on social media. No one questions you if you have a social media account, it is only when you do not have an account that you start getting questions. This is ironic because those who want their privacy to be protected and are still on social media are condemning those who are staying off social media. Murphy provides another example of how people treat those who are not on social media. She states, “When people want privacy there’s often this idea that, ‘Oh, they are hiding something dirty,’ but they are really just trying to hold onto themselves,” Professor Nippert-Eng said. She gives the example of a 65-year-old man who in his youth harbored the fantasy of being a rock star and still spends hours blissfully practicing his guitar in his basement: “He doesn’t want anyone to know, because he doesn’t want anyone to wreck it for him.” In order words, people often assume that because someone wants privacy, it automatically means that they are keeping a secret. This is not the case because as the example above shows that people want privacy simply because they do not want their life exposed. Not exposing their life on social media, for them, is one way to make sure their hopes/dreams will not be later used against them. While I agree that social media tends to wreck things, the blame should not be completely put on social media, but on ourselves. Exposing very detail of your life is a definite way for all your wanted best-kept secrets to be used against you. We should all be like the 65-year-old man and allow some parts of our lives to remain a mystery.

In conclusion, we need to stop trying to fight for our privacy when we are constantly posting not so private things onto social media. The only ones who can complain about their privacy are the ones who are not exposing their life on social media. In addition, we need to be careful that we are not belittling those who are not on social media. They are the only ones who are brave enough to pull the plug completely. I am still a firm believer that we will not see improvement in the privacy deficit until we stop fighting against it and just be careful in what we are doing on social media. �_

Strict Surveillance:

Regarding the book, Exist West written by Mohsin Hamid, not only are Nadia and Saeed under the constant threat of terror, but also unknown authorities are constantly controlling the characters Internet and electrical connectivity. This affects the characters in one of two ways. First off, the authorities have the power to turn off the internet which now results in the characters having no access to knowing what is going on around them as well as not having the means to distract them from their terrifying reality. Secondly, when there is limited or no access to the internet or electricity, the characters do not seem to notice, and they continue to live out their lives normally. When they do have little to no access, the characters will often just talk between themselves as a distraction. In my opinion, this does not feel relevant to today’s world simply because we are overly consumed with our Internet and electricity connectivity. In addition, we have no idea what it is like to be under strict surveillance from unknown authorities. We cannot live without the Internet. When we do have limited access to these luxuries, we do not know what to do with ourselves. Talking face-to-face is a lost form of communication. I am convinced that we as Americans need to become more like Nadia and Saeed in the way of not being overly consumed with the Internet. As for electricity, so many people cannot afford electricity, so those who can financially afford this form of comfort need to be more grateful and not take it for granted. In conclusion, Americans are fortunate to not live in a state of terror and not have limitations on the Internet and electricity. The sooner we realize that people around the world are not as fortunate, the better.

The Negative Impacts of Social Media:

People often view social media as a way to stay in touch with others, as well as a way to be informed with what is happening in our world. But social media is more than this: it is a social network that has been causing depression and anxiety within young adults as well as negative impacts on our brain.  Most cases of depression and anxiety within young adults are because of social media. And if these issues are occurring now, I cannot begin to imagine what issues will start occurring later as social networking continues to expand. In this blog post, then, I will evaluate the negative consequences of social media by using two online editorials that help back up my reasonings. One article is called, “Is social media ruining our kids?”  written by Sreedhar Potarazu. In this article, Potarazu elaborates on how social media is having a negative impact on children. Meanwhile, a second article called, “Teens: This is how social media affects your brain” written by Susie East, emphasizes that social media has had a negative impact on our brain. I argue that even though it is true that social media has had a negative impact on our society, today’s generation can handle these changes but those in older generations may not be able to.

The negative impact of social media has caused an increase of depression and anxiety within teens and young adults. Potarazu puts this theory into numbers by providing the following statistics, “The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.” These statistics are utterly horrifying and portrays what most teens go through daily, quite accurately. In my opinion, the increase of depression and anxiety is because social media is has made staying in touch with people, way too easy. Social media is a good way to stay in touch with people, but sometimes this easy access is not beneficial. We now know what our friends are up to, which means we know whether we were left out of a group gathering. This can make one feel left out, lonely, and rejected. I can personally vouch for these feelings because I have been there.  If these feelings or posts keep reappearing, these feelings may turn into something more serious.  In addition, social media gives us the ability to compare our lives to the ones we see on social media platforms. A person’s perfect lifestyle on social media, makes us feel insecure about our own lifestyle. This can result in us becoming discontent with our own lifestyle. And once again, if these feelings persist, depression and anxiety might occur. If we would just keep in mind that no one posts the ugly side of their life onto social media, we might see a decrease in depression and anxiety within young adults. But this mentality is hard to adopt when these posts are constantly being thrown in your face.

    Our brain’s development has also been negatively affected because of social media. The most noticeable change is our brain’s plasticity, the area where it grows and changes. As East herself said it, “For example, one study showed that the white matter in an adults’ brains changed as they learned how to juggle over a period of several months. “They found that if you scan [the brains of] adults before they learn how to juggle, and then three months later, you can see changes in the brain structure,” says Dumontheil. Time spent on social media could, therefore, also cause the brain to change and grow.” Here, East provides an example of how our brain reacts when it is introduced to something new. The something new in this scenario is learning how to juggle. When a person learned how to juggle, changes within the brain occurred. At the same time, this could also be applied to social media. Our brain has changed to function around the world of social media. Before, it had time to grow and adjust. But now it has had to adjust in an instant. As Potarazu puts it, “Children are growing up now in a world where they expect immediate response, gratification and notification. Their brains no longer have time to evolve; they must adapt to change in an instant, and the results are distressing. The difficulties of growing up have never been so public.” Everything must be quick and fast. We expect things to be quick and fast and so we also expect our brain to catch on quickly. But this might not be a huge issue. Both Potarazu and East fail to mention that our brain’s capacity is different from those of our ancestors. With our current world being engulfed with social media, those who are born within this generation are so used to social media being a part of their life, their brain has already adjusted to social media. Whereas, the brains of older generations are not accustomed to this form of technology, so their brains are the ones that are having to adjust to the changes. But nevertheless, these changes are occurring and will continue to occur within our brain as long as social media is around.

    In conclusion, there is a resolution to help this situation get better and not worse.  Potarazu provides four remedies that he thinks will help with our children’s addiction to social media. I am only in agreement with one of his solutions. Not that the other three are not useful, but I think the following solution is the easiest to apply to our own life. He suggests. “Create more structured forms of social media that prevent children from going “all in” at the start…A graduated mechanism that enables young people to ease into social technology might help prevent the abuses that lead to anxiety and depression.” Here, if our children would have more limitations when they could access the internet, we might start seeing a decrease in depression and anxiety. The same thing applies to adults, children are not the only ones who are addicted to social media. So, in short, everyone needs to be more conscious of how much they are on social media platforms. The less we are on social media, the less we are bombarded of other people’s life and the less stress we put on our brains. With being on social media less, we can then be more present with our own life. 

Introduction:

Recently, I read the book Exist West by Mohsin Hamid for my English Composition Class. I have almost finished reading it entirely and so far, it has been a very compelling read. While reading, the one thing that stood out to me was the social justice topic of social media/the internet. This topic is presented throughout the book in several ways. In parts of the book, social media is portrayed as a valuable resource. For example, the two main characters, Nadia and Saeed, would use their phones to connect with each other, to download music for enjoyment, and to keep up with the news. However, social media was also portrayed as being with someone and yet still worlds apart. This is because we are more connected to our phones instead of connecting with the people around us.  Examples of this are when the characters were in the same room, sitting side by side, and yet they were mentally far apart. In addition, I choose this social justice topic for two reasons. First off, it is a topic that I can relate to. And for me, the more relatable a topic is, the easier the writing process becomes. Furthermore, social media has played a huge role in my life. Even though I did not grow up with social media nor the internet for the first twelve years of my existence, I cannot imagine my life without it. And people everywhere would agree that they also could not live without social media/the internet. Secondly, I am constantly trying to limit myself in how much I check my social media accounts. I figured the more I have to write on this topic, hopefully, the outcome would be I am using social media less and not more. So, to sum it up, my topic for the next several blog posts will center around social media and the internet. And just maybe, the more one has read on how useful and problematic social media is, they would also want to use it less.