Social media can be addictive, toxic, waste time, and ruin our mental health (and privacy). It’s estimated that the global costs of mental health illnesses will increase to $6 trillion by 2030. Here are the worst social media apps:
- SMS/ MMS
Let’s explore each of these social media apps and why they’re problematic. We’ll also offer some tips on how to limit your social media use and provide alternatives, along with how to use social media safely.
Social Media Platforms Affecting Mental Health
Facebook is a social networking site that lets people connect with friends and family online. People use Facebook to share updates, photos, and thoughts with their friends.
While the platform can be an excellent tool for staying connected with friends and family, it can also be addictive and distracting.
A French researcher found that 69% of Facebook-addicted users showed anxiety symptoms, and 48% showed signs of depression.
Other studies showed a link between Facebook addiction and obsessive-compulsive traits. Users seem to experience a craving- the urge to regularly check Facebook (assimilated to compulsions).
Instagram is a photo and video-sharing app that allows users to share images and videos with their followers. Pictures and videos can be edited with various filters, and users can add captions to their social media posts.
Instagram can adversely affect mental health precisely because it facilitates comparison culture and a negative self- or body image.
Being constantly bombarded with images of people who look “perfect” can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
It’s also important to remember that Instagram is a curated platform. People only share the best, most filtered versions of themselves, creating an unrealistic expectation for how “normal” life should look. This idealistic viewpoint can be highly damaging for people already struggling with mental health problems.
TikTok is a social media app where users can create and share short videos with others on the app. It’s owned by ByteDance, the company that also owns the popular Chinese social media app, Douyin.
TikTok has been criticized for spreading the trend of physical shame and negatively impacting people’s bodies, conceptions about themselves, and society.
According to reports of watching TikTok videos every day, social platforms are flooded with unrealistic ideals of what the body should look like, affecting someone’s self-esteem.
Kaufman, an active TikTok body activist in 2020, said,
When I first downloaded TikTok, I saw a lot of very negative body image videos.
Twitter is a social networking app that lets you share short messages, called tweets, with other Twitter users. You can also follow other users’ tweets to see what they’re up to.
The short-form micro-blogging platform can make it difficult for users to keep track of the firehose of information. This speed of updates may cause a fear of missing out (FOMO) as users struggle to consume the torrent of posts on the social platform.
Like other social networks, Twitter is also a breeding ground for negativity. Users often fire off emotionally charged, mean and aggressive tweets, which increases levels of distress and feelings of anxiety and depression.
Twitter often battles a stream of misinformation and fake news, which is retweeted and spreads virally, adding to the noise and negativity.
YouTube is a website where people can upload videos they have made or watch videos that other people have made. Users can also comment on videos and share them with their friends. YouTube has a lot of different types of videos, including video clips from TV shows, music, short-form videos, movie trailers, and more.
YouTube allows users to rate and comment on videos. This can be a good thing, as it enables viewers to provide feedback and share their thoughts on videos. However, the comments sections of videos can also be dangerous, as they often contain hate speech, insults, and other harmful content.
Discord is a cross-platform VoIP and chat app following millions of users, especially gamers. It’s simple to use and lets you easily find, join, and chat with friends. It’s often used for gaming communities, schools, work teams, etc.
The Discord app can adversely affect mental health, especially when users engage in competitive gaming.
Gamers have a stereotype of slinging toxic communication during intense play. Players often resort to verbal abuse, offensive language, mockery, and bullying tactics to throw the opponents off-kilter. Such behavior is facilitated by the anonymity of the online platform, making it easy for people to say things they’d never say face-to-face.
Reddit is a social news website where users submit content in links or text posts. Other users can then vote on these submissions, and the posts with the most votes are placed higher up on the site’s front page.
Reddit can be bad for mental health because it can be a breeding ground for trolling, cyberbullying, and hate speech. People can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content and the lack of moderation. The platform’s anonymity also allows people to say things they wouldn’t say in person.
Additionally, Reddit can be a source of false information and questionable advice, which can lead to further confusion or distress.
Worst Social Networks for Privacy
It’s not just mental health that suffers on social media. Privacy is often overlooked when using social media.
Facebook (Meta) & The Filter Bubble
It’s worth mentioning Facebook again in this section on privacy. This company’s well-documented abuse of user data extends past data mining into algorithmically creating and trapping users in a filter bubble.
This overly personalized stream of information about the world glues users into the platform, stoking confirmation bias. Users’ beliefs and interests become a feedback loop the longer users interact with the platform.
Facebook’s systems continuously feed visitors anything that will keep them engaged instead of showing users a variety of different opinions.
WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app that allows you to exchange messages and call friends and family using your phone’s Internet connection. While unauthorized entities can’t read users’ communication content, the metadata collected from WhatsApp can determine relationships between people, their patterns, and personal information.
WhatsApp said that it would not be selling ads. However, no condition can stop the parent company, Facebook/Meta, from mining users’ information and usage data.
When combined with data from Facebook, WhatsApp’s metadata can help create a more accurate understanding of people’s behavior and social interactions. This can be used by Facebook to better profile people for targeted ads.
While not a traditional social media platform, SMS and MMS messages provide a communications network. The problem stems from the design of this 1990s technology.
This system was never designed with security and privacy. Its very nature lends to retrievable, clear-text content logged by one or more third parties.
When you send a traditional text message, your phone transmits the plain text message without encryption to the nearest cell tower. That transmission contains the destination number and the date and time of your text. The cell tower then forwards that information along to the recipient’s carrier. The sender and the recipient’s rough locations are also logged in the non-private chain.
Even if you securely store your phone’s data, law enforcement can efficiently obtain SMS and MMS records from mobile service providers. And because your text messages are routed through third-party carriers, there’s a good chance they’ll be stored in their databases permanently.
Clubhouse is an audio-only social networking app that launched in April 2020. It allows users to listen to other people’s conversations, interviews, and discussions about a topic of interest.
Compared to other well-known social media networks, Clubhouse collects less data about its users. Because it’s an audio-only app, it doesn’t require access to your camera or photos.
However, the app Clubhouse needs access to your phone’s contacts so you can invite people. Some people worry that the company uses its profile information without transparent consent.
LinkedIn is a professional networking app that allows you to connect with colleagues and other business professionals. It can be used to find jobs, identify potential clients, and build your professional network.
LinkedIn shares, by default, information about your current or most recent job title and company. It also shows the number of connections you have at that company.
Suppose you’re not comfortable with this level of disclosure. In that case, you can adjust your privacy settings to prevent this valuable information from being displayed publicly. You can also choose to keep your profile private so that only people you’ve approved can see it.
But what if you still want to use social media without all the problems I’ve discussed? Let’s explore some alternatives.
Alternatives To The Worst Social Media Apps
As more people become aware of the harm social media does, alternatives have been built to replace some of the well-known social media networks
- Signal or Session: an alternative to standard SMS and MMS
- Keybase or Element: an alternative to Slack and Discord
- Mastodon: a federated (distributed) alternative for Twitter and Facebook
- Minds: an alternative replacement Medium
These social platforms were designed with privacy and freedom in mind.
So, whether you’re looking for a new way to stay connected with friends and family or want to avoid censorship, check out the alternative choices.
Best Way To Use Social Media Safely
Like most people, you probably use social media every day. But are you using it safely?
Here are some general tips to help you stay safe online.
- Be aware of the privacy settings for each social media platform and use them accordingly to protect your information.
- Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want other people to see
- Delete cookies and browsing history regularly.
- Block anyone who is harassing you or making you feel uncomfortable.
- Report any inappropriate content or behavior to the social media site administrators.
- Use strong passwords and change them often.