Today, billions of people around the world actively use social media, which has affected many aspects of human life: mental health, relationships, business, criminal investigations, employment, news, and even revolutions. This is why social media essays have become so popular in academia.
Just like any other essay, social media essays may be assigned to teach students academic writing skills, but it’s vital that students analyze the positive and negative effects of social media and prevent the dangers it may pose.
In this post, you will find everything you need to write a social media essay:
- interesting social media essay topics
- tips on how to structure an essay and write a social media essay introduction
- links to and short reviews of credible sources you can cite
Critical reflection on the topic will definitely help you get a good grade and become a more conscious social media user.
Social Media Essay Topics
You can choose social media as a focus of your argumentative essay on technology or for your sociology research. It also works great for a pros and cons essay and a cause and effect essay with an open topic. Consider the following topics for your paper:
- Advantages and disadvantages of using social media (individual person perspective)
- Positive and negative effects of social media (human society perspective)
- The adverse impact of social media we should fight against
- Great things we owe to social media
- The effect of social media on identity. Modern phenomena of fake identities and having different online and offline identities.
- The impact of social media on youth
- The role of social media in education (other education essay topics)
- The role of social media in cyberbullying
- The role of social media in promoting healthy/unhealthy lifestyles, beauty image
- Are social media sites productivity killers?
- Does social media promote radicalization?
- The impact of social media on doing business
- The process of hiring in the age of social media
- Hate speech on social media: To censor or not to censor
- Is social media corrupting the idea of democracy? (Consider the role of Facebook in Brexit, the election of Trump, etc.)
- Is social media addiction a real thing?
- Should people be taught to be cautious about what they post online? Should children/ parents get special training on this?
- Does social media promote or harm real-life communication?
- Is social media used for mass surveillance? Why it shouldn’t/should better be used this way?
- It’s all about likes: Can Black Mirror be right about our future? (Analyze the episode “Nosedive”. Can today’s trends lead us to the anti-utopia portrayed in the episode? What can we do to prevent it?)
After a few tips on how to approach writing a social media essay, you will find some great sources that will help you to get started on this or that topic.
How to Write a Social Media Essay
When I tutor essay writing, I recommend starting with a careful reading of the instructions and creating an outline that will guide your research. Such an outline will not have any factual data, but it will show you how many words you can devote to this or that section, which will be a great help in structuring your essay.
Thus, reserve 20% of the required word-count for introduction and conclusion (10% for each), and divide the rest by 3 – an optimal number of supporting points to develop in the body. This will help you know how much information you should find for your essay and make sure the supporting points are developed equally well.
If you write an argumentative essay, make sure that you argue for one clear position:
- social media has a positive/ negative effect;
- social media makes us more productive/kills productivity;
- social media sites corrupt democracy/social media threats to democracy are exaggerated
- it is necessary to censor hate speech on social media/ social media expressions should not be censored ….
If you write an essay on the pros and cons of social media, make the presentation balanced devoting the same attention and word count to advantages and disadvantages. Restrain from making your own judgments on whether the pros or cons ‘win’ unless you are asked to do so in the assignment.
Social Networking Essay Introduction
An introduction should capture readers’ attention, set the background and tell what the essay will be about. Here are a few ideas about what hooks to use:
- use the latest social media usage statistics (126 amazing social media statistics and facts can help here)
- use a story that made the headlines, which is relevant to your narrowed topic (for example, the story about the Blue Whale challenge, the revelation of foreign influence on elections via social media, some fake news that went viral, one of Oobah Butler’s pranks, telling how a prominent person urges to regulate social media, etc.)
- paint a picture of social media usage.
Make your introduction naturally lead to a compelling thesis statement that will communicate the main message of your essay.
When looking for the sources to cite in your academic essay on social media, focus on
- books and research articles,
- authoritative journals and newspapers,
- articles posted on websites ending with .edu or .gov., or at least the ones that have the author’s name and the date of publication (avoid citing .com websites, especially when there is no indication of the author or the date; never cite wikis)
Remember to carefully paraphrase and cite your sources to avoid plagiarism. Remember to include your evaluation, reflection, and conclusions along with the cited facts and ideas. Failing to do so is considered plagiarism even if all the borrowed thoughts are carefully paraphrased and cited.
Pros and Cons of Social Media Essay
There are many pros and cost of social media you can speak about in your essay. At school, you may still be expected to dwell on them basing on your own experience and basic internet research without the need to cite credible sources. You might find a wealth of popular articles on the topic online, so this might not be a problem.
For college and university students, it won’t be appropriate to cite popular “advantages and disadvantages of social media” articles. Still, you can use clearly named pros and cons as starting points for further research. You can also follow the links from such articles; often, these lead to credible sources you can cite.
Here are the examples of positive and negative effect of social media you can discuss in your essay (You are sure to find support for these claims, as I deliberately avoided unsupported claims and assumptions about how social media “could be used”)
Positive Effects of Social Media
- Ability to connect to people all over the world, maintain relationships with friends, make new useful connections
- Using social media people can express themselves and increase their self-esteem
- Easy and instant communication channel
- Easy access to information, ability to spread information (it’s especially important when the government doesn’t let the truth be told on the conventional media channels)
- Greater participation in the discussion of social and political life of your community; an easy way to join a social initiative
- Business growth opportunities
- Ability to research brands, read feedbacks, assess how each brand communicates with its fans
- Participation in various types of communities that correspond to your interests; make it easy to follow personal role models and leaders of thought
- Reduces loneliness of senior citizens who are socially isolated
- Effective response to crises worldwide
- Help in employment
- Successfully used for fundraising and initiatives aimed at diffusing social stigmas
Negative Effects of Social Media
- Exposure to manicured lives and pressure to look good
- Enables cyberbullying
- Facilitates online sex crimes against minors, related sexual assaults and child sex trafficking
- Gives the platform for radicals to spread inflammatory hate speech (note the lack of censorship on social media)
- Promotes a fear of missing out that further causes a range of adverse consequences
- May cause addiction in the vulnerable population
- Has been confirmed to cause anxiety and depression; does not necessarily cause, but is positively correlated with the suicide rate
- Security risks (photos showing your children and home may be used by criminals for attacks; social engineering, which helps criminals get confidential or sensitive data from unsuspecting users or employees)
- Effectively used to manipulate public opinion, affect elections and promote social division
- Used by oppressive regimes to stifle protests and target dissidents
- Limits exposure to diverse views and may cause a distorted view of public opinion (social media serves you the type of content you that you like and agree with; this may cause you to think the views are widely shared, which might not be so)
Here are some credible sources you might want to consult and cite:
1. The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health
The article from the Centre of Mental Health reports on the links found between the social media use and mental health issues such as loneliness, anxiety and lower life satisfaction. The value of the article is that it shows some of the passways: lack of the expected gratification, negative impact on sleep quality, fear of missing out (FOMO), and unreasonable expectations social media promotes.
2. New Studies Show just how Bad Social Media is for Mental Health
Those who argue for social media benefits, often use the association between higher social media use and mental health issues to show the argument of opponents is valid (a great rhetorical technique). The case is, association doesn’t prove anything, as it may work both ways: more use of social media promotes adverse outcomes or people with mental health issues use social media more.
2018 Forbes’ article by Alice G. Walton marks a new twist in the debate on the topic. Namely, Walton reports on the latests two studies that show not only association but causation relations that exist between social media and adverse psychological states. The studies measured the participants’ psychological states before and after experiments and confirmed that:
(1) limiting social media use to 30 min per day result in significant reduction of depression and loneliness, especially for those who entered the study with the higher levels of depression,
(2) when women interacted with social media pages of someone they perceived more attractive than them, they felt more dissatisfied with their own bodies (those who felt bad about their body image before the experiment started feeling even worse after it)
3. Social Media Addiction
The Washington Post article by Griffiths and Kuss is valuable to a social media essay research in a number of ways. First, the researchers confirm the association between social media and
- a significant detrimental effect on many aspects of life including relationships, work and academic achievement (indicative of addiction),
- detrimental psychological states such as anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder,
- problematic and dangerous behaviors, for example, checking social networking sites (SNS) when driving.
Second, the researchers provide several ideas about how to prevent excessive use and, thus, addiction, which will be very helpful if you are writing a problem and solution essay.
You may also refer to the 2017 review of scientific research on the topic the authors cite in the article. The paper singles out 10 lessons learned from empirical research, which have some great ideas and facts in them. For example,
- Social networking is a new way of being, which means that it “does not necessarily refer to what we do, but who we are and how we relate to one another”. It helps people satisfy their basic human needs in safety, association, estimation, and self-realization.
- Fear of missing out (FOMO), smartphone addiction, and nomophobia (“no mobile phone phobia”) may all be part of SNS addiction.
- Older and younger generations use and perceive SNS sites very differently. They also differ in how problematic they perceive their usage behaviours to be.
4. Social Media Addiction is not Natural or Normal – But is it Really a Disease?
In a great opinion piece, Roisin Kibert cites interesting statistics and facts that show how addictive social media is nowadays. The author suggests that social media deliberately keeps us hooked and its algorithms (echo chambers) lead to narrowing of perspective and black-and-white thinking, which is common for personality disorders and depression.
Since we recognize the use of social media as ‘unnatural’ and addictive, should the government regulate it? Should it be classified as a disease? Kebert suggests that a practice adopted by 3 billion users may be neither effectively regulated or medicalized; thus, we might do better approaching it as another whirl of evolution.
5. Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences
The article by M.Anderson and J.Jiang is based on the latest Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens and sheds much lights on what social media means for teens omitting the sceptical lense of grown-up population. The statistics shows teens feel the influence is rather positive than negative: social media helps to feel more connected, interact with diverse people, and feel the support of others. It also makes the majority of teens feel included, confident, authentic and outgoing. Nonetheless, social media does make many feel overwhelmed with drama and pressured to post content that makes them look good and gets many likes.
6. Teen Cyberbullying and Social Media
Rawhide has collected the statistics, which is less optimistic: cyberbullying is very much widespread on social media and most teens remain silent bystanders and join in when they come across online harassment. Cyberbullies teens suffer such stress and anxiety and are 2 to 9 times more likely to think about suicide.
7. Liberation Technology
The book is a collection of contributions from prominent scholars and practitioners showing how social media can be simultaneously the tool of liberation and oppression. In particular, social media has been instrumental in freeing Egypt and Tunisia and documenting human rights abuse in Kenya; it has also been used to stifle protests and target dissidents in China and Iran.
8. Hard Questions: What Effects Does Social Media Have on Democracy?
The article by an official Facebook representative is valuable in two ways. On the one hand, it cites the ways how social media can negatively affect democracy: enabling foreign influence, spreading fake news, creating echo chambers when people are only served the viewpoints they agree with, political harassment, unequal representation of the population in public political dialogue.
On the other hand, it shows that social media (Facebook) is aware of the problem and is working out the ways to minimize this negative impact. This can help you argue that social media is not bad per se, just not mature enough to predict and prevent all forms of malicious use.
9. Social Media, Political Polarization, and Political Disinformation
The review of the scientific literature will be particularly helpful for anyone writing a research proposal, as it effectively summarizes previous research and shows many gaps in our knowledge of how social media is linked to political polarization and disinformation.
10. Social Media is an Existential Threat to Our Idea of Democracy
In a powerful opinion article from the Guardian, John Naughton discusses Russian interference into western democracies via social media and shows how seamlessly troll factories undermined trust and polarized the US society. According to Naughton, social media provides ample opportunities for exploitation; if we don’t do anything about it, we can never be sure that what we see online reflects a reality, which further makes liberal democracy not viable.
Writing a social media essay is sure to be an incredible experience. Whatever topic you choose, it will definitely make you reflect on your own social media use and perceptions. If you need help writing a winning social media essay, I would love to help you on an essay tutoring session by editing your rough draft. Otherwise, you may refer to my trusted partners for custom writing services.