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Much like the Force, social media has a dark side. The stated purpose of many social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and more is to bring people together and create a community. Facebook’s mission statement says that it wants “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” And while people do use Facebook and other social media to keep in touch with friends and family living far away, there’s also a downside.

What’s the Problem with Social Media?

Netflix’s new documentary, The Social Dilemma, outlines the dark side of social media in its current form. The first issue is the AI algorithm that social media platforms use to introduce people to new content. While these algorithms do have their benefits in that they can guide people towards content that they want, they also represent privacy concerns. On top of that, social media sites earn money by keeping people engaged on their platforms as much as possible. This means there’s a risk of social media addiction.

How Do Social Media Sites Impact Privacy?

The way social media sites are able to provide content users like is by gathering information about those users. If Facebook knows to show you content about the giant panda, then the Facebook algorithm already knows that the giant panda is your favorite animal. The algorithm knows your birthday, political leanings, your favorite books, even where you’ve been.

The social media site gathering this information about you may not be a problem by itself, but social media sites often sell user information to third party companies, which can be done without users’ consent or even their knowledge. Sometimes data is stolen by hackers, bots, or malware. On top of that, accounts designed for phishing can trick people out of their private data.

What Are the Psychological Side Effects of Social Media Usage?

As the usage of social media grows, so too does the risk of social media addiction. While thousands of people spend hours on social media, their social media usage doesn’t necessarily negatively impact their lives. The people struggling with social media addiction overuse social media and are dependent on it to the point where it impacts their daily lives.

Even people who aren’t completely addicted to social media can experience negative psychological effects. It’s easy to think that everyone else’s lives are so much better than our own because we’re only seeing them through the filter of what they choose to post on social media.

What Can We Do to Make Social Media a Better Place?

There are some steps people can take to protect themselves online. Social media sites typically have privacy settings that they can adjust. Both users and companies can be careful about what information they post online. It’s also important to be wary of what others post. There’s a problem of unverified information spreading across social media sites in the form of fake news. Companies can help by ensuring that their content isn’t contributing to the problem.

Social media is a great way for people to keep in touch with each other and for companies to reach their customers. If we can work towards eliminating the problems that exist with social media, then it can be a truly great place to communicate.