In today’s day and age, people live in a digital world. Even within the past 5 years, social media use has increased by a dramatic 93%. There were over 3.81 billion users of social media sites in 2020 on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram Twitter, and Snapchat to name a few. Such popularity has inevitably introduced both pros and cons of social media’s influence on people’s everyday lives including sexuality.
Emotional Pros and Cons of Social Media
Social media undoubtedly has had an impact on people’s emotional well-being, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all been bad. The anonymity associated with social media allows individuals to open up about topics that they may otherwise not feel comfortable discussing. This can of course be turned into a negative idea but having a safe space to engage in self-disclosure can be really beneficial for someone’s emotional health.
This can be especially helpful for anyone struggling with their sexuality as they can get advice or hear stories from strangers via social media posts without any elements of embarrassment or discomfort. Social networks give people the space to create a supportive social group and community where everyone can encourage each other to be their best, true selves.
While some sides of social media can be really helpful and supportive, other sides can foster an incredibly toxic environment. A study conducted in 2014 linked social media users with mental health issues including symptoms of depression, changes in self-esteem, and found many were addicted to social media.
For those struggling with some aspects of their sexuality – particularly in high school age populations – social media may unfortunately give rise to cyberbullying. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at an increased risk of cyberbullying which can have detrimental effects on someone’s emotional health.
Romantic Pros and Cons
One major advantage of a social media platform is the opportunity it provides for keeping people in contact and sharing life updates. This is especially useful within the context of a long-distance relationship.
Having the ability to stay in contact with a partner beyond phone calls and text messages is an aid that allows so many people to continue building their relationships. Social networking sites can even be a great way to develop a new relationship or connection and meet new people that you otherwise would not have had the opportunity to meet.
In addition to creating and building relationships, social media can even help with maintaining security in a relationship. Depending on the level of publicity the couple is interested in, something as simple as updating the couple’s Facebook accounts’ relationship status for their Facebook friends to see can help with the sense of security within the relationship.
On the flip side, if a couple has differing opinions on sharing their relationship publicly, it can cause some problems. People may get upset if they feel their partner does not post them at all or as much as they would like them to, and this can cause conflicts within the relationship. This can even impact someone’s self-esteem if they are constantly wondering why their partner will not show them on social media.
One of the major cons of social media is its competitive and comparative nature. Since the individual chooses what to post, it is often only the best parts of their life (or their relationship) that get posted. It can be so tempting to compare your personal relationships to what is shown on your news feeds; however, no relationship is perfect despite what is shown on social media.
The images that are shared do not always represent what is happening behind the scenes. It can be damaging when it appears as though everyone else’s lives are full of perfect relationships and experiences when in reality, they are just posting the highlights and leaving out the not so perfect parts.
Sexual Pros and Cons of Social Media
One of the pros of social media is its unique opportunity to share information that may not be accessible to people otherwise. Take Modern Intimacy for example! Through social media, we are able to share unstigmatized information about sex, relationships, and mental health to thousands of people no matter where they are in the world. Hopefully, sharing sexual health information is helping to foster a more sex-positive digital and real world.
Specifically, the sharing and posting of sexual media helps educate individuals about their sexual likes and dislikes in a safe environment.
There are also negative effects of sexual media. Social media can give anonymity to potential sexual predators. They may capitalize on this idea of “secrecy” and use it to send unsolicited pornographic content or sexts to vulnerable populations such as children or share private information on revenge porn websites. This has a lot of potential to lead to sexual exploitation and grooming.
Sexual media may also encourage risky adolescent sexual behavior which is linked to an increase in STI rates and unintended pregnancies. Being exposed to explicit sexual media too early can be really harmful for the adolescent population. Children should absolutely learn about sex, but social media has the ability to perpetuate inaccurate and potentially harmful information.
Financial Pros and Cons
Social media can be a powerful tool that promotes and empowers business owners – especially business owners that are a part of a minority group. It can also help individuals gain an edge in the competitive employment market by using social media to network and connect with individuals (like potential employers) in their field of interest without needing to have face to face interactions beforehand.
While social media can definitely help individuals get a job, it could also be the reason an individual cannot get a job. A digital footprint follows a person forever and future employers can use this information during the hiring process. Depending on the content that is posted, social media can harm someone’s financial position by making it hard for them to find or maintain a job thus impacting their personal life as well.
Finally, social media is very fast-paced, and different things become “trendy” very quickly. Reintroducing the idea of competition and comparison within social media, unhealthy spending habits may be encouraged in an attempt to keep up with current trends. This can encourage compulsive spending and has the opportunity to be devastating financially.
Social media isn’t inherently “good” or “bad.” There are so many different ways that individuals can be impacted by social platforms – both positive and negative. Either way, social media can have many influences our personal lives and even our sexuality.