It’s easy to blame social media for all the modern world’s problems. Increasing isolation from diverse perspectives? Probably Twitter. The inexplicable popularity of Minions? Facebook. Stubbed your toe? Posting an Instagram selfie while walking. But sometimes, there really is a direct line between a problem and the wannabe celebrities causing it. And often, it’s exactly as ridiculous as you’d expect. Here are some ways social media is having a very negative influence on the world around us.
Hiring managers want people with social media presence
We’ve all heard stories of people being fired for using social media to complain about their bosses or post selfies with dying patients. So it might seem like the safest move, professionally speaking, is to simply stay off social media entirely. You can’t get drunk, decide it’s a good idea to break into an office, teach the roaches to twerk, then livestream it all on Facebook if you don’t have Facebook.
It turns out that’s a bad idea too (staying off social media, not twerking roaches). A poll of over 2,300 hiring managers found that nearly three out of four screened applicants’ social media, and 57% said they were less likely to call someone in for an interview if they had no such accounts. They like knowing as much as possible about a candidate beforehand, but they also assume that anyone who doesn’t have an online presence these days must have some twerking roaches in their closet.
Since “less likely” to get an interview can often mean no chance, this can be a make-or-break career choice for highly competitive jobs and industries. You could always set up an account and not use it, except unused social media pages are also considered red flags. Unless you have superhuman self-restraint, there’s no winning. Might as well warm up the twerking lessons.
Influencers are faking sponsored content
“Influencer” is a weird job that exists now, but it’s not like you can go to Instagram school and get a master’s in being cute. Becoming an influencer is often the result of a combination of dumb luck, good taste, and being rich & famous to begin with. Aspiring influencers have little to go on, so many of them post fake sponsored content in the hopes that it will convince companies that you have enough clout for them to pay you to hawk their stuff for real. Yes, “selling out” and “street cred” are synonymous now. Welcome to the 21st century, it’s terrible here.
This puts brands in a weird position. They don’t want to turn down free publicity, but when someone is presenting themselves as a spokesperson, they do like to have a modicum of control over what they say. The last thing they need is some up-and-coming YouTuber announcing that his rant about white genocide was sponsored by their company. At the same time, they worry that if they ask someone to please stop recommending them, there’s a whole internet out there eager for stories of people wronged by corporations. “All I did was tell people to buy their product and they sent their lawyers after me! Can you believe it?”
There is a silver lining here – the number of people willing to promote brands for free has significantly driven down the price of sponsored content, consequently reducing influencers’ ability to make a living off it. Hopefully this whole ridiculous thing will finish eating itself and we can all quietly forget it ever existed.
Nature sites are being ruined by being made popular by Instagram
Thanks to geotagging — embedding information about where a photo was taken, whether accidentally or on purpose — taking selfies with exotic animals puts all those adorable emus in danger by leading poachers right to them. Well, we’re going to assume that all the emus are gone, because geotagging is now ruining nature itself.
It typically goes like this: Someone posts a photo of a majestic waterfall or mountain view or whatever people like to look at. A bunch of people share it, awed by its beauty, and some of those people think, “Hey, I would also like to see that waterfall or mountain or whatever.” If the post is geotagged, they can find out exactly where it is, so all that’s left to do is buy a plane ticket and some hiking boots. The next thing you know, a hot spring in Colorado has to shut down for a while to clean up a staggering amount of human feces.
What makes these sites attractive is that they’re secluded and peaceful, but that also means they are not equipped for 40,000 people to show up overnight. That’s not an exaggeration. It used to be unusual to see someone who wasn’t one of the couple hundred locals hiking the trail at Kanarraville Falls in Utah, but thanks to a social media explosion, 40,000 people visited in 2015. It caused a number of disasters, including damaging the water system of the whole town of Kanarraville because people kept walking on the water line.
Ironically, the number of people visiting a site can destroy what made it popular in the first place. A part of the Colorado River called Horseshoe Bend used to see maybe 1,000 visitors per year. In 2017, it topped 4,000 per day, necessitating the construction of a parking lot to the tune of over $200,000 to accommodate the traffic. The tourists turned Red Tracy prophetic – they literally paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
Parents are shaming their children in public
Public shaming is nothing new, but for a while, marching your daughter down to the town square and locking her in the stockade for exposing an ankle was frowned upon. Now the world is your town square, and it’s eager to reward you with likes and shares of your video of your child running to school in the rain as punishment for bullying other students on the school bus, no doubt teaching them a valuable lesson about empathy.
The internet runs on shade as much as it does on electricity, but we forget that a dumb kid who made a mistake is not the same as an adult going on a racist rant. That adult has a fully formed prefrontal cortex and no excuse. But public humiliation can permanently rewire a child’s brain. The consequences can range from lifelong psychological problems to leaving them open to predators on the internet looking for vulnerable kids.
And the knowledge that such humiliation was at the hands of a parent, the person they should be able to trust most in the world, makes it exponentially worse. There are around 35,000 kids now dealing with this kind of trauma, but hey, at least we got to laugh at their funny haircuts, right?
Social media is bringing chaos to courtrooms
Complaining about the kids these days being surgically attached to their phones is generally the territory of old men wearing unfashionable pants, but when people can’t stop tweeting long enough to serve jury duty, we have to concede that they may have a point. Between capital murder convictions getting overturned due in part to jurors tweeting during deliberation to extensive appeals also due to tweeting, it’s become an enormous headache for everyone involved. Even something as minor as being Facebook friends with a family member of someone involved with the case has been used as grounds to file for mistrial.
You would think this would stop after one case because the offender would be put in the room with striped sunlight, but it’s complicated. Lots of people think skipping out on jury duty is no big deal, and while they’re totally wrong, people are worried that those selected will be even more likely to fail to report if they think they’ll be harshly punished for scrolling through Facebook when a murder case gets boring. If you have a solution, make sure you pass it on to a judge, because they’re out of ideas.
Not that judges are totally blameless. Apparently feeling that she didn’t have the platform she deserved despite sitting on a platform at the front of the court, Ohio judge Shirley Strickland Saffold began posting comments about her own cases under the username “Lawmiss” on a local newspaper’s website. When discovered, she was asked to recuse herself from a specific case. She refused, bringing the proceedings to a halt until a higher court ordered her to f**k completely off. She sued the newspaper that broke the story for $50 million. So do not legally step to a judge, no matter how obviously wrong they are.
Social media isn’t completely evil, of course. It’s a great way to stay in touch with family & friends a long distance away, or get news headlines & sports scores in just a few seconds, among other good things. But as with anything that comes along, there are good uses, and ways it can be hot garbage. Let’s do our best to find the good things and avoid messes like these.