A few years ago I remember writing that social media is slowly but surely contributing to the moral decay of America and that if I had some sort of button I could push that would magically end it all, I would almost certainly push that button. Granted this was before I ever created my first Twitter account and began paying Facebook for advertising space, my feelings on the matter haven’t necessarily changed over the years either. However, as it turns out, I am not alone.
According to a new Survey Monkey poll conducted by Axios for HBO, only 40% of Americans believe that social media represents a “net positive for society.” Meaning that 60% of Americans now believe social media is harmful to or having a negative impact on organized/civilized society. To gather data and asses results, Axios polled Americans based on political ideology, separating the answers of Democrats from Republicans and independents before cross referencing their answers for analysis. What they found was rather interesting. For example:
- 57% of Americans believe that social media is actually taking away from or hurting free speech and Democracy – up 14% from this time in 2017. Oddly enough though, Democrats were the only group of pollsters that believe social media is increasing or helping free speech in this country, but the opinions of independents and Republicans combined essentially drowned them out. To be more exact, only 48% of Democrats believe social media takes away from free speech, down 10% from last year. Comparatively, 69% of Republicans believe social media harms or detracts from free speech in this country – up 17% since 2017.
- 55% of Americans believe that that social media is being abused by politicians for political gain and that such abuse prevents law makers from adequately regulating the industry – up 15% from 2017.
- 65% of Americans polled stated that the invention of smart phones has made their lives easier or better.
- 51% of Americans said that their phones are the one piece of technology they “cant live without.“
- 63% of Americans say they sleep with their phones by their pillow each night.
As for why independents and Republicans believe that social media is taking away from internet freedoms and free speech in this country, they point to the “censorship” of political conservatives across Twitter and the closing of millions of Facebook accounts throughout the course of 2018 as evidence. As for why the opinions of so many Americans in general is falling in regards to social media, pollsters point to the recent Senate hearings and data breaches faced by Mark Zuckerberg and his company, which Americans now believe puts them and their privacy much higher risk. For example, well before Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress in 2018, a separate study from January 2017 found that 64% of all Americans have either had their identity stolen, or been a victim of some sort of data breach/leak.
However, there may be other factors at play here besides political ideology. As was once pointed out by Melissa Hunt, the associate director of clinical training at the University of Pennsylvania, there is a direct correlation between depression rates and the amount of time people spend in front of a computer or go online. Meaning that people whom tend to spend the majority of their time on a computer, tend to have higher rates of depression and suicide than those whom do not. Naturally then, it would make sense the Americans views of social media and online activity are beginning to sour the longer they are spending on it.
You can view Ms. Hunts study below or download it here: https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/pdf/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751