Asked what role social media plays in their lives, our readers noted ways in which it affects their interpersonal relationships, news consumption, faith life and health. They ranked interpersonal relationships as the area of their lives most positively and negatively affected by social media.
Thirty-six percent of respondents said social media affects their relationships positively, allowing them to keep in contact with friends and relatives who live far away. But another 26 percent of respondents were wary of social media, saying it has negatively affected their interpersonal relationships. “Sometimes I read what I think are hateful comments from people from whom I would never expect it,” said Jan Casper, from New Berlin, Wis.
“People lack filters on social media, so that sometimes shines a light in dark places.”
Twenty-six percent of our reader sample said social media negatively affected their news consumption, citing misinformation and bias. Another 26 percent, however, said it has positively affected their news consumption.
Julie Lai, a millennial respondent from San Diego, Calif., said that social media makes news more accessible. “My family did not watch the news or talk about politics growing up,” she wrote. “However, because of my internet use, I am more aware of current events than anyone in my family.”
But Ms. Lai’s view of social media is not altogether rosy. She also views it as a source of anxiety. “While social media helps me to communicate better with friends, I would say the area of my life that has been more negatively affected by social media is my self-esteem,” she wrote. “As a teenager and young adult, it was and is very easy to be caught up in managing my image online and feeling like ‘likes’ are some indicator of worth.”
Readers also mentioned increasing political polarization, which has coincided with the rise of social media. For DeAnne Hall, of Oswego, N.Y., the last presidential race was a turning point. “People lack filters on social media, so that sometimes shines a light in dark places,” she wrote. “The 2016 election cost many relationships.”