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A recent study in China has found that a rising portion of social media users have said that social media has made their lives definitively worse. In terms of numbers, last year 6.7% of people said that it makes their lives worse whereas this year, 12.2% of polled users, which is almost double from the previous year, have reported that it makes their lives worse. Only 64.7% of polled users reported positively on social media.

The most common given reason is that social media takes away from time that could be used for studying. Other reasons include concerns of privacy and fear of negative health effects. So does this trend spread across other cultures? East Asian cultures tend to place very high value in education which explains the concern of taking time from studying but even among other cultures, education is valued to varying degrees and all of the concerns hold. In a report done in 2014 by the American Consumer Satisfaction Survey Index, U.S. web users rated overall internet use at 78% satisfaction. Social media sites ranked a full 10% lower at 68% satisfaction. Even with all of the hubbub over the business practices of Internet Service Providers like Comcast, ISP’s came in at 70% satisfaction. This time, the most common reason given was the constant barrage of advertisements. However, other primary concerns included, again, that of privacy and health effects.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Moyan Brenn

So how can social media increase satisfaction from their users? None of the concerns brought up can very easily be resolved. Social media sites benefit from increased use but the simplest answer for many of the issues is less use from the users. Time is being take from studying? Go on social media less. Health issues from excessive use? Use social media less. Privacy issues? Don’t post so much information online a.k.a. use social media less. Don’t like advertisements from websites? Don’t go on those websites.The challenge that social media now faces is how to solve these issues and increase satisfaction without having their users just simply “use it less”.

In order to solve the issues social media sites first need to analyze why people go to social media sites in the first place. Is it to connect with real life friends? Is it to make online friends? Is it simply a place to share thoughts and/or pictures with others? Once social media sites discover the reason behind why people go to their sites, they can begin to utilize that to their benefit. For example, if a user goes on social media to connect with real life friends but is concerned about privacy, the sites should make a visible effort to show that their information and posts are only viewable by said friends. And I say visible effort because perhaps that is already what’s happening in the background but the user doesn’t know about it and as such will still have those concerns.

It appears that although social media is still growing, the general trend is that its growth and satisfaction are becoming lower and lower. And although there doesn’t seem to be a replacement or even possibility of a replacement in site, social media sites need to tackle these issues lest the sites become a necessary evil rather than a benefit to people’s lives.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Sean MacAntee

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