Social networks are a trend that has been developing as a boom over the recent few years. People are increasingly attached spending more and more time on sites like Facebook, communicating with their friends in a virtual way. Although social networks are a relatively new phenomenon, and it is early to draw global conclusions, it is more than clear that a number of negative effects on society are noticeable already. First of all, social networks are time eaters, i.e. they make people spend a lot of their productive time in an unproductive way. Secondly, this way of interacting with friends outs face-to-face communication, which is healthier in all ways. Thirdly, they make people dependable on external opinions and estimation. Fourthly, being isolated can cause a number of mental issues and depression. Finally, social networks can be dangerous in terms of security and make people vulnerable to assaults and virtual crimes of all kinds.
Thus, no one will deny that the Internet and social networks in particular are time consuming. Whenever a person signs in, he or she is likely to lose touch with the real goals that they have and spend time in an unproductive way. It is especially visible at work, which is constantly delayed as a type of procrastination because of constant urge to check what is new on Facebook. As an example of how this affects business statistics can be provided about the money that the employers have to spend to compensate for the hours that their workers spend on social networking. In 2009, “according to surveys carried out in the UK, an average Joe spends around 40 minutes a week which leads to around €1.56bn annual income decrease. Over half of the 1460 office workers surveyed claimed that they use social networking sites for their personal use during office hours” (Horsten, 2009). It is obvious that now, three years after, the situation is even more concerning. Spending times networking is negative not only for the employers but for the employees who achieve lower results at work, slow down their progress in studies, in creating new projects, and so on. Besides, this time can be spent more productively in communicating with the family or friends.
Speaking about the clash between face-to-face communication and the virtual one, it is worth noting that this aspect of networks is probably the most devastating one for society as it is used to be. It is obvious that face-to-face communication is healthier in all ways, meaning both physical and mental health. No way being alone with a computer and one’s own imagination for a long time can boost productivity and improve the quality of living. Moreover, many people become sociopathic because of constant abuse of social networks. In terms of psychology, it is easy to communicate online because many of social fears are blocked. One can be the person that one chooses to be, so it is easier to be likeable. There is no need to solve conflict situations and take vital decisions when communicating in social networks. Thus, like muscles that haven’t been used for a lot of time, interpersonal skills get atrophied. For example, as researchers note to illustrate the issue, "Intending bloggers scored higher on psychological distress, self-blame and venting and scored lower on social integration and satisfaction with number of online and face-to-face friends”(McKinney, 2011).
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Another negative aspect of social works lies in the field of psychology too. Experts claim that sites like Facebook make people increasingly dependent on the opinions of other people. Whenever they post their stories or photos, they expect to be approved and are addicted to “likes”. Hence, absence of external approval can cause anxiety and frustration, and low self-estimation as a result. Thus, they cannot be completely satisfied with lives because instead of doing what they like they would prefer conforming to other people’s expectations. People want to seem better in social networks than they are in real life, which clearly does not help cope with their psychological issues. The shocking example of a social network user, who committed suicide because her posted photos did not attract the expected attention of friends, confirms this idea. Surely, the social network was not the main reason of depression, but it obviously can be the last straw when a person is already frustrated and isolated. Experts believe that social networks do increase the overall level of dissatisfaction and inclination to depression. False values are shaped, so people are developing false expectations. Thus, as research demonstrates “the bloggers were also less satisfied with the number of on and offline friends they had. Notice how that's not quality of friends - that was fine -- but sheer number. Wanting quantity over quality in friendships shows that you don't understand that word” (McKinney, 2011)
Finally, it is worth saying that people overestimate the security level provided by social networks. Most of them, especially teenagers, are not aware that making their private information public can harm them in one or another way. It is not a rare case that people place sexually explicit images on the web without realizing that they give a chance to abusers. It is not always possible for parents to control their children who become victims of virtual assault by people whom they meet online. Such people can be much older than them but create fake profiles to pretend to be their age in order to get access to them. One of the most innocent effects might be losing job opportunities because of controversial content of the social networks account, which is made public. This can be not only photo content but, for instance, the use of bad language or politically incorrect statement. In many cases a person would have no idea why his or her candidacy was rejected but in fact such reference check is a common practice in many companies.
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All in all, social networks can have negative effects on individuals and society as a whole. The main problem about them is their contribution to isolation and alienation of humans from each other. As a result, they prefer to live in a fantasy world and avoid dealing with real-life issues. So, coming back to reality can be painful and frustrating for them, causing depressive mood. Other issues include unproductive work and time management and abuse of private information by virtual criminals.