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Local Student's View: Curb the scourge of social media

From the column: "To alleviate negatives, it’s critical we teach the proper use of social media, implement age restrictions, and hold companies accountable for the misinformation spread on their sites."

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Patrick Chappatte / Cagle Cartoons
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Social media surrounds us more than ever before, influencing everything from our personal lives to politics. Its potentially volatile effects must be addressed sooner rather than later. Although there are many positives associated with social media, including worldwide friendships and family connections, there also are an abundance of often-overlooked repercussions, including self-deprecation, mental health issues, and the spread of misinformation.

To alleviate negatives, it’s critical we teach the proper use of social media, implement age restrictions, and hold companies accountable for the misinformation spread on their sites.

A well-known consequence of social media is its detrimental effects on self-image. Celebrities and influencers often manipulate photos of themselves using tools like Photoshop. When younger kids and teens see these engineered images that supposedly portray what the “perfect” man or woman should look like, it can have a mentally degrading effect, leading to various mental health issues: body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and more. To remedy this, we should implement age restrictions (I say you must be 12-plus to make a profile) and introduce mandatory social-media classes in schools. This curriculum could cover everything from explanations of unrealistic posts to the proper use of social platforms, including private vs. public accounts, cyberbullying, and more.

Beyond our personal lives, social media is often used for politics and persuasion. It’s common to hear people stating knowledge as facts when, realistically, their claims are far from the truth. Politicians like to spread falsities about their opponents to get a leg up, or companies will stretch the truth to gain customers. When the general public sees these supposed facts posted on the internet, they’re oftentimes conned into believing something that might not necessarily be true. Online, misinformation spreads like wildfire.

Unfortunately, the government can’t aid in stopping this deceptive spread. According to Julie Horowitz, writing for Carnegie Libraries, it is illegal for the government to implement censorship under the 1996 Communications Decency Act. However, social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook don’t have these same restrictions: They can allow posts as they please. If we hold these companies accountable for the inflammatory information spread on their sites, we could see much-needed censorship finally imposed. This should only restrict the false, suggestive, and otherwise-misleading statements, so as not to further restrict the freedom of speech. If companies followed simple censorship guidelines, we could see more reliable communication platforms worldwide.

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Millions of people are affected by social media every day. Whether you know it or not, it’s likely affected you as well. Technology and social media are becoming more and more accessible to younger generations, and we must protect children by implementing age restrictions and by offering social-media education in schools. Moreover, the facts found on these sites should be monitored to remove misinformation.

I don’t know about you, but I’m frankly quite sick of fake news. Ultimately, we must address the never-ending corruption associated with social-media use, as these platforms aren’t going away anytime soon.

Ally Spradau is a senior at Hermantown High School. She wrote this originally for a college-level composition class.

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Ally Spradau

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