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Social Media and Its Effects on Girls Essay

Pages:12 (3470 words)



Topic:Social Media

Document Type:Essay


Today, tens of millions of Americans are turning to various social media platforms to keep in touch with loved ones, friends and coworkers during the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic adding to the legions of users around the world that have already used these services in the past. In fact, current estimates indicate that nearly 4 billion people use at least one social media service and experts predict that at least half of the world’s population will be using these services by mid-2021 (Kemp 2020). Although people of all ages and genders are using social media, young people in particular have embraced these communication platforms in a major way, with a majority of these consumers using social media systems on daily basis. Against this backdrop, identifying and explicating the effects of social media usage on girls has assumed new importance and relevance as described in the statement of the topic which follows below.

Statement of the topic

In response to its increasing ubiquity, there has been growing interest among policymakers and health care practitioners alike concerning the effects of social media use on various population groups, including young females. This interest has been fueled in large part by the fact that the use of social media platforms by girls has become especially pervasive. In addition, current trends indicate that this usage will continue to increase well into the foreseeable future to the point where there are more users of social media services globally than there are not (Reinberg 2019).

Furthermore, a large majority of young female consumers are already using popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook (Reinberg). Moreover, the competition between these major social media services and upstarts such as Instagram and Snapchat has intensified in recent years in ways that have further added to the debate over the effects of social media use on young people today. In this regard, Valkenburg and Piotrowski emphasize that, “These developments raise a great many questions. Does the use of social media lead to superficial relationships and loneliness—or does it boost self-esteem and social skills? What effects does extensive media multitasking have on youth? Does it make them lose their ability to concentrate and contemplate?” (218). These timely issues also directly relate to the research questions that guided this study which are set forth below.

Research question

This study was guided by the following overarching research question: “What are the positive and negative effects of social media use on girls? In addition, the following four supporting subquestions also guided the research.

Four subquestions and key words and how their evolution into their final form

1. What are the most common negative effects of social media use on girls?

2. What are the sources or causes of the negative effects?

3. What are the most common positive effects of social media use on girls?

4. What are the sources or causes of the positive effects?

For the purposes of the analysis that follows below, “girls” are defined as any female that has not yet reached the age of majority in the jurisdictions in which they reside.

Relevant keywords for this study included “adolescent,” “girls,” “social media,” “Facebook,” “Twitter” and “YouTube.” In addition, serendipitously identified research materials that were relevant to the above-stated research questions were also consulted and the results of this review are provided below, beginning with an overview of the current situation, followed by an analysis of the negative effects and then the positive effects of social media usage on girls today.

Literature Review

Background and Overview

While the controversy over the precise effects of social media on young females continues, there is no debate that such usage has increased significantly over the past several years. Indeed, according to the most recent estimates, the number of Internet users increased by nearly 300 million new users (an increase of about 7%) in January 2020 compared to a January 2019, bringing the global total to around 4.54 billion people (Kemp 2020). Of these Internet users, approximately 3.80 billion are also regular social media users and these numbers continue to grow (Kemp).

Throughout the mid-20th century, American parents were concerned about their children spending too much time watching television, but this concern pales in comparison to the amount of time that the average young person spends online at present. In fact, current estimates indicate that the average Internet user already spends nearly 7 full hours online each day, meaning that young people in the United States are investing about 100 days of their lives each year online (Kemp). More to the point, Kemp also stresses that, “We currently spend more than 40 percent of our waking lives using the internet. What’s more, the world’s internet users will spend a cumulative 1.25 billion years online in 2020, with more than one-third of that time spent using social media” (3). Taken together, it is reasonable to posit that spending this amount of time online in general and using social media platforms in particular will have a number of profound effects on young users, and these issues are discussed below.

Social Media’s Negative Effects on Girls

The negative effects of social media use on girls can be generally grouped into three categories: (a) body image pressures; (b) online bullying; and, (c) adverse responses to anthropogenic and natural disasters, including global pandemics and each of these effects is discussed in turn below.

Body image pressures. Despite efforts to address this issue by promoting a healthy body image rather than a thin one, young women in the United States are still under an enormous amount of pressure from the mainstream media, their intimate partners and their peers to conform to an idealized body image that remains elusive for many. In fact, in their quest to achieve and maintain a “Barbie doll” appearance, many young women succumb to various eating disorders that threaten their long-term health (Shahtahmasebi and…

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…a crisis (like a pandemic). The first is how vulnerable they were in their own lives before the crisis. The second is how much news they consumed during the crisis. Chronic news exposure may create vicarious trauma and PTSD” (7). Conversely, under-use or non-use of social media platforms may result in unhealthy behaviors such as violating stay-at-home orders or social distancing guidelines (Hutchinson).

One of the more insidious aspects of social media platforms is the manner in which these services customize content for users. This means that the artificial intelligence applications that are being used to customize social media content will increase coverage of negative news items if those are the preferred articles sought by users while users that prefer positive coverage will be exposed to these types of articles. In other words, social media platforms create a sort of computer-generated self-fulfilling positive or negative prophecies for users. In this regard, Hutchinson points out that:

Mentally strong people understand how social media operates and limit their exposure. They know that social media platforms like Facebook are unofficial news channels and deliver news tailored for you (some of it fake) based on your behaviors and preferences gleaned over the last decade. Algorithms are used to give you the news that you will most likely consume, and that the news skewed toward your preferences (emphasis added). (8)

In sum, social media algorithms generate content that is geared towards users’ preferences in ways that concentrate bad news when this is what is routinely reviewed and vice versa, meaning that the tendency for young people to spread unfounded rumors and fake news is significantly accentuated (Hutchinson).


The research showed that social media use by girls can have both positive and negative effects depending on how these resources are used and how much time young women invest in their use. On the one hand, the research was consistent in showing that some of the negative effects of social media use included mental health issues related to an idealized female body image that is unattainable by most girls as well as being victimized through cyber bullying attacks. In addition, the potential for the negative effects of manmade and natural disasters is also intensified when girls rely on social media platforms exclusively for the most accurate and up to date information. On the other hand, though, the research also showed used judiciously and appropriately, social media platforms provide some significant positive effects as well, including academic assistance and socialization activities that would not otherwise be available to them. A particularly noteworthy finding that emerged from the research was the fact that social media platforms “learn” about users’ preferences for content, meaning that negative or positive content will be presented depending on what users routinely review. This means that girls who are already vulnerable to the negative effects of social media will experience even greater adverse effects while those users who prefer positive content will enjoy more positive outcomes. In the final analysis,…

Sample Source(s) Used

Works Cited

Ali, S. (2018). “Social Media Usage among Teenage Girls in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.” Global Media Journal, vol. 16, p. 31.

Chukwuere, Joshua Ebere and Chukwuere, Precious. (2017, December). Cyberbullying of female students: An exploration of literature study. Gender & Behaviour, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 9983-9991.

Goodwin, Robin, Palgi,Yuval, Osnat, Lavenda, Yaira, Hamama-Raz and Ben-Ezra, Menachem. (2015), “Association between Media Use, Acute Stress Disorder and Psychological Distress.” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, vol. 84, no. 4, pp. 253-254

Granello, Paul F. and Zyromski, Brett. (2018, September-August). “Developing a Comprehensive School Suicide Prevention Program.” Professional School Counseling, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 37-42.

Hutchinson, Tracy S. (2020, April 19). Ten things mentally strong people do during a pandemic. Psychology Today. [online] available:

Kemp. Simon. (2020, January). “Digital 2020.” We Are Social. [online] available:

Redden, Crystal V. (2018, December). “The Media's Influence on Female Relational Aggression and Its Implications for Schools.” Canadian Journal of Education, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 374-381.

Reinberg, Steven. (2019, August 14). “Here's How Too Much Social Media Can Harm Girls.” WebMD. [online] available: heres-how-too-much-social-media-can-harm-girls#1.

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