Is Social Media Evil?

To call social media evil is quite daring. It would mean that social media has, for whatever reason, been purposefully designed to harm us. In order for us to even try to answer such a reproving question it's important that we understand both what has made social media popular and why it's so profitable.

Social media has really been around in some form or another since the early days of the internet. It was not invented with the arrival of Facebook and will not cease to exist with its demise. That's why it's important to look at social media as a whole, rather than getting fixated on one instance of it. As Shakespeare puts it "What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet." What really matters is what social media is at its very core, not what we call it or dress it up to be.

What makes social media popular is that it connects us with other people. People are friendly, people are mean, people are creative, people are unpredictable and people never cease to surprise us. This makes people interesting. People make social media interesting and it stays interesting because you never quite know what to expect from the other people using it.

For a lot of us this is all that social media is. It connects us with the people we care about and it stays interesting, so we continue to use it.

So few of us ever care to take a deeper look at what social media really is.

Currently, most social media platforms make money through advertisements. This means that they sprinkle the content we are interested in with just as much advertisements as we are willing to bear, selling our attention to whomever is willing to pay for it. The customers of social media platforms are the companies, businesses and people paying for their advertisements to be shown. You and me, the so called users of social media, amassed by the intriguing platform that is offered to us free-of-cost are only a product to be sold to the real, paying customers.

But is this evil? Not really; however, it may encourage evil design. Why? The more you scroll, the more they earn. Or, put bluntly, the more addictive a platform is, the more profitable it is.

Saying that social media is evil would be an oversimplification of a biased opinion. On the other hand, saying that social media is not evil would be naive. Until governments completely catch up with the digital age, social media platforms continue to make a profit using whatever methods they see fit. This leaves the choice of being evil up to them, with little repercussions regardless of how they choose to operate.

While our answer is largely inconclusive, I would advise caution. Historically we humans have been good at both choosing profit over the wellbeing of people and not realising that something is harmful until long after its introduction. For a long time we honestly didn't know or fully understand the effects of tobacco products on our health. However, even after we started realising the effects, the tobacco industry continued to mislead the public until they were forced, by law, to warn the public about the dangers behind their products.

Smoking did not stop, but it now comes with a clear warning and regulations that protect the health of the general public. I have a lot of questions about social media but my main question is "How should social media platforms be regulated to prevent them from exploiting human psychology in order to make more money?"

I believe that, generally speaking, the less rules we enforce on people, the better off they are. Over the years I have had to come to terms with the fact that we are unable to always make the right choices and that rules are helpful in keeping us from making bad choices. To think that we do not have to regulate the way social media platforms operate would be to think that we are beyond greed, and to think that humans will ever be beyond greed is naive.