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Study ranks social networks for their impact on youths’ mental health

(SOCIAL MEDIA) A recent study shows the impacts that various social mediums play on adolescents and kids mental health. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of negatives.

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Social media expectations

It’s no secret that social media puts a lot of pressure on everyone who uses it – be beautiful, be exciting, be perfect.

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And a new report by the UK-based Royal Society for Public Health found that of all the social media apps out there, Instagram does the most damage to young people’s mental health.

Status of Mind

The study, dubbed #StatusofMind, surveyed a group of nearly 1,500 people between the ages of 14 and 24, aiming to shed some light on how popular social platforms affect things like anxiety, depression, body image, and self-identity.

Major platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter all turned out to have an overall negative effect on mental health in that demographic, but Instagram was the worst – especially for young women.

The uber-visual app encourages women to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality,” according to report author Matt Keracher.

An anonymous female survey respondent drove the point home: “”Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect.’”

The dilemma

The word ‘unattainable’ is thrown around a lot – as in, the standards on Instagram are unattainable. But it doesn’t feel like it when you see plenty of users apparently achieving that ‘unattainable’ perfection. When you’ve been scrolling through enviable pics for a while, it’s easy to forget how curated and filtered they are.

Instead, it starts to feel like both a personal connection to someone’s life, and an alienating, impossible standard.

To combat this creeping acceptance of Instagram as reality, the Royal Society for Public Health calls for warnings or labels on all posts, across platforms, that have been manipulated digitally, whether it’s Photoshop or a simple filter.

“We’re not asking these platforms to ban Photoshop or filters but rather to let people know when images have been altered so that users don’t take the images on face value as real,” said Keracher. With a reminder on most every post, though, no matter what the label says or looks like, it could soon start to blend into the background.

The report also suggested that pop-up warnings should appear when users have been on a platform for more than two hours.

Respondents who spend more than two hours a day on social media sites were more likely to report poor mental health.

“Platforms that are supposed to help young people connect with each other may actually be fueling a mental health crisis,” said Shirley Cramer, Royal Society Chief Executive, in the report.

Making strides

While 70 percent of the surveyed young people are in favor of the usage warning, it probably isn’t so simple. Social media is addictive, just like cigarettes and alcohol. Your brain craves the validation of likes, the feeling of being included. A pop-up could easily be ignored, ineffective.

There may not be a perfect answer yet, but the intentions of the study are good.

“We really want to equip young people with the tools and the knowledge to be able to navigate social media platforms not only in a positive way but in a way that promotes good mental health,” added Keracher.

here to stay

One thing is certain: social media isn’t going anywhere. Though there are demonstrated negative affects on mental health, there are also plenty of benefits of using social media – many use the apps as outlets for self-expression, and for forging connections with new people.

Professional YouTuber (what a job!) Laci Green is a strong proponent of mental health education.

“Because platforms like Instagram and Facebook present highly curated versions of the people we know and the world around us. It is easy for our perspective of reality to become distorted,” said Green. “Socializing from behind a screen can also be uniquely isolating, obscuring mental health challenges even more than usual.”

Notably, YouTube was the only platform in the study that was found to positively impact young people’s mental health. It’s harder to filter and curate a whole video than a split second snapshot.

Equip kids, don’t just shelter them

Ultimately, education is a promising route towards promoting good mental health, says the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists president, Sir Simon Wessely. “I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives,” said Wessely.

“We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media — good and bad — to prepare them for an increasingly digitized world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”

#socialmedia

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Social Media

Twitter to start charging users? Here’s what you need to know

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media is trending toward the subscription based model, especially as the pandemic pushes ad revenue down. What does this mean for Twitter users?

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Twitter and other social media apps open on a phone being held in a hand. Will they go to a paid option subscription model?

In an attempt to become less dependent on advertising, Twitter Inc. announced that it will be considering developing a subscription product, as well as other paid options. Here’s the scoop:

  • The ideas for paid Twitter that are being tossed around include tipping creators, the ability to pay users you follow for exclusive content, charging for use of the TweetDeck, features like “undo send”, and profile customization options and more.
  • While Twitter has thought about moving towards paid for years, the pandemic has pushed them to do it – plus activist investors want to see accelerated growth.
  • The majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from targeted ads, though Twitter’s ad market is significantly smaller than Facebook and other competitors.
  • The platform’s user base in the U.S. is its most valuable market, and that market is plateauing – essentially, Twitter can’t depend on new American users joining to make money anymore.
  • The company tried user “tips” in the past with its live video service Periscope (RIP), which has now become a popular business model for other companies – and which we will most likely see again with paid Twitter.
  • And yes, they will ALWAYS take a cut of any money being poured into the app, no matter who it’s intended for.

This announcement comes at a time where other social media platforms, such as TikTok and Clubhouse, are also moving towards paid options.

My hot take: Is it important – especially during a pandemic – to make sure that creators are receiving fair compensation for the content that we as users consume? Yes, 100%. Pay people for their work. And in the realm of social media, pictures, memes, and opinions are in fact work. Don’t get it twisted.

Does this shift also symbolize a deviation from the unpaid, egalitarian social media that we’ve all learned to use, consume, and love over the last decade? It sure does.

My irritation stems not from the fact that creators will probably see more return on their work in the future. Or on the principal of free social media for all. It stems from sheer greediness of the social media giants. Facebook, Twitter, and their counterparts are already filthy rich. Like, dumb rich. And guess what: Even though Twitter has been free so far, it’s creators and users alike that have been generating wealth for the company.

So why do they want even more now?

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Social Media

TikTok enters the e-commerce space, ready to compete with Zuckerberg?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Setting up social media for e-commerce isn’t an uncommon practice, but for TikTok this means the next step competing with Facebook and Instagram.

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Couple taking video with mobile phone, prepared for e-commerce.

Adding e-commerce offerings to social media platforms isn’t anything new. However, TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance, is rolling out some new e-commerce features that will place the social video app in direct competition with Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and Instagram.

According to a Financial Times report, TikTok’s new features will allow the platform to create and expand its e-commerce service in the U.S. The new features will allow TikTok’s popular users to monetize their content. These users will be able to promote and sell products by sharing product links in their content. In return, TikTok will profit from the sales by earning a commission.

Among the features included is “live-streamed” shopping. In this mobile phone shopping channel, users can purchase products by tapping on products during a user’s live demo. Also, TikTok plans on releasing a feature that will allow brands to display their product catalogs.

Currently, Facebook has expanded into the e-commerce space through its Facebook Marketplace. In May 2020, it launched Facebook Shops that allows businesses to turn their Facebook and Instagram stories into online stores.

But, Facebook hasn’t had too much luck in keeping up with the video platform in other areas. In 2018, the social media giant launched Lasso, its short-form video app. But the company’s TikTok clone didn’t last too long. Last year, Facebook said bye-bye to Lasso and shut it down.

Instagram is trying to compete with TikTok by launching Instagram Reels. This feature allows users to share short videos just like TikTok, but the future of Reels isn’t set in stone yet. By the looks of it, videos on Reels are mainly reposts of video content posted on TikTok.

There is no word on when the features will roll out to influencers on TikTok, but according to the Financial Times report, the social media app’s new features have already been viewed by some people.

TikTok has a large audience that continues to grow. By providing monetization tools in its platform, TikTok believes its new tools will put it ahead of Facebook in the e-commerce game, and help maintain that audience.

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Social Media

Your favorite Clubhouse creators can now ask for your financial support

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Clubhouse just secured new funding – what it means for creators and users of the latest quarantine-based social media darling.

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Woman talking on Clubhouse on her iPhone with a big smile.

Clubhouse – the live-voice chat app that has been taking the quarantined world by storm – has recently announced that it has raised new funding in a Series B round, led by Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.

The app confirms that new funding means compensation for creators; much like the influencers on TikTok and YouTube, now Clubhouse creators will be able to utilize features such as subscriptions, tipping, and ticket sales to monetize their content.

To encourage emerging Clubhouse creators and invite new voices, funding round will also support a promising “Creator Grant Program”.

On the surface, Clubhouse is undoubtedly cool. The invite-only, celebrity-filled niche chatrooms feel utopic for any opinionated individual – or anyone that just likes to listen. At its best, Clubhouse brings to mind collaborative campfire chats, heated lecture-hall debates or informative PD sessions. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m actually obsessed.

And now with its new round, the video chatroom app will not only appear cool but also act as a helpful steppingstone to popular and emerging creators alike. “Creators are the lifeblood of Clubhouse,” said Paul & Rohan, the app’s creators, “and we want to make sure that all of the amazing people who host conversations for others are getting recognized for their contributions.”

Helping creators get paid for their labor in 2021 is a cause that we should 100% get behind, especially if we’re consuming their content.

Over the next few months, Clubhouse will be prototyping their tipping, tickets and subscriptions – think a system akin to Patreon, but built directly into the app.

A feature unique to the app – tickets – will offer individuals and organizations the chance to hold formal discussions and events while charging an admission. Elite Clubhouse rooms? I wonder if I can get a Clubhouse press pass.

Additionally, Clubhouse has announced plans for Android development (the app has only been available to Apple users so far). They are also working on moderation policies after a recent controversial chat sparked uproar. To date, the app has been relying heavily on community moderation, the power of which I’ve witnessed countless times whilst in rooms.

So: Is the golden age of Clubhouse – only possible for a short period while everyone was stuck at home and before the app gained real mainstream traction – now over? Or will this new round of funding and subsequent development give the app a new beginning?

For now, I think it’s safe to say that the culture of Clubhouse will certainly be changing – what we don’t know is if the changes will make this cream-of-the-crop app even better, or if it’ll join the ranks of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook in being another big-time social media staple.

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