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The Effect of Social Media: A Review of the Literature

Jayla Harrison

Hampton University


Social media is the way of life. It is essentially a lifestyle and without it, most of our generation

would be lost. It is used in many ways. Social media has political, education and entertainment

uses. This literature review will inform the reader of the uses of the internet and social media,

who uses it the most demographically, if social media impacted the rise of bullying specifically

cyberbullying and lastly what are the different ways the younger generation uses social media as

opposed to the older generations. Surveys and statistical data will contribute to the research of

the effect of social media.


The Effect of Social Media: A Review of the Literature

Social media is the backbone of our country. Not only is social media a form of

entertainment but it is a major news source. All major networks and celebrities have Twitter

accounts that tweet live issues every second. Its becoming obsolete to watch the news or read

the newspaper when its so much more convenient to just click on an article.

Social media is best defined as any form of online communication. It has many different

uses based on the audience using the website. Some may use it to direct message a friend or post

a cute selfie, while others get on the internet to pay off their credit card bills. Either way it

goes; internet use is a way of life, often very time consuming. Everyone uses a form of social

media but what are the true effects of social media on society? To explore uses and the real

purpose, a series of questions need to be taken into consideration:

1. What are the uses of social media?

2. Who is effected by social media the most?
3. Did social media effect the rise of cyberbullying?
4. What is the difference between social media in younger generations as opposed to

older generations?

The following review on literature will: suggest differences in use of the internet between

younger and older generations, provide insight on the target audience of social media, discuss the

internets impact on bullying, and describe the most common pastimes when on the internet.

What are the uses of social media?

While teenagers seem to be glued to their phones, they are almost never doing anything

truly productive. Many people get on their phones to pass time or simply to just entertain

themselves. Not read up on the latest news but simply to scroll down a timeline. Figure 1 depicts

the different ways the internet is used monthly. Based on ten randomly chosen participants, 10%

use the internet for educational purposes, 80% get on the web for social networks such as Twitter

or Snapchat, and 10% of the participants use the internet to be productive and pay bills or

services; that was the older audience of course (see Figure 1).

The chart entitled, In a typical month, what do you most often use the internet for?

As the most common response was Twitter or Snapchat (social media networks), there

were only 10 participants and this information and not be used to generalize society as a whole.

Since those two networks are used to follow your friends and be updated on the latest in celebrity

gossip or gossip in general, the internet seems to be used to keep up with the latest trends not to

improve or increase productivity. According to Ladegaard (2012), More than half of Norways

five million population is on Facebook. For many of them, the social network has joined the

ranks of the communication tools that are used on a daily basis. This is the way of the world.

Who is effected by social media the most?


Living in a time where no one can breathe without being on the internet it would be

interesting to know which age group it effects the most or even which ethnicity makes more use

of the world-wide web. Research has been done to answer these questions.

The Census Bureau conducted a study to show what population uses internet the most.

Surprisingly, age group 35-44 years old, with 82.5% getting on the internet daily. Ages 35-64

years old had the second highest percentage coming in with 78.7% and ages 15-34 coming in

third with 77.7% (File and Ryan 2014). Internet and social media is a new era technology but the

older crowd that didnt grow up in the technology age seem to be making more use of it as of

2013. As for ethnicity, Asian Americans make up 86.6% of internet users, White Americans

make up 77.4% and lastly African Americans make up 61.3% of the average internet user (File

and Ryan 2014). Based on this research, age group and demographics have a lot to do with their

influences on daily life.

Did social media effect the rise of cyberbullying?

With every advantage, there comes a downfall. While the internet helps people connect

with old friends or coworkers, many teenagers have been on social media up to no good. It is

very common to be bullied in middle school into high school but cyberbullying is the real

situation at hand. Figure 1 illustrates a survey conducted by the author to show approximately

how common cyberbullying is today (See Figure 1). The chart entitled Has anyone ever said

harsh comments about you on the internet?.

Out of ten randomly chosen participants, 60% have not been bullied while 40% have. While

these are just answers from a few people, this data does not depict the views of society. Many

people may say, why not just log out if people are talking bad about you?, but it is not quite

that simple. According to Borges, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwich committed suicide after months

of harassment by two girls in her sixth grade class (2013). The cause of this tragedy was a 14-

year-old girl tormenting her; telling her to drink bleach and die and saying she should kill

herself. (Borges 2013). These instances create a stigma that teenagers use the internet for bad

purpose and without reason.

What is the difference between social media in older generations as opposed to younger


While younger generations may have different prerogatives, older generations use the

internet for a wide variety of reasons. Facebook seems to be the social media of choice for the

older generation as well as other websites. When older generations use the internet they generally

get online to pay bills, or even get on the internet at work, as they may work in cubicles or have a

job that requires computer use. 57-year-old, Vanessa Griffin, was asked what she gets on the

internet for and she says, to get on Facebook and see what Trump has done now or maybe to

pay off my credit card bills and to check my pay stub this week. When someone from the

computer age was asked, Ive been on the internet since 1998, said a 24-year-old informant

in Hilsens study. Ive grown up there. (Ladegaard 2012) Two different generations have two

completely different mindsets and reasons to search the internet.


In conclusion, the internet and social media has been around for ages and continues to advance.

Everything that needs to be done can be done via the internet. There are multiple uses for social

media and it is geared towards many different audiences. It is obvious that social media is not

just for teenagers but it also appeals to the older crowd and multiple ethnicities. While it can be

used for productivity it is also linked to bullying which can cause bias in the research done on the

usefulness of the internet. Further studies will be done to keep up with the usage of social media

but for now it seems to get the job done; whatever that may be.


Borges, N. (2013, October 15). The Rise Of Cyberbullying: The Case Of Rebecca Sedwick.

Retrieved March 20, 2017, from


File, T., & Ryan, C. (2014, November). Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013.

Retrieved March 20, 2017, from


Ladegaard, I. (2012). Young and old use social media for surprisingly different reasons.

Retrieved March 20, 2017, from