The Irony of Social Media

Sam Tarter

My chapter is dedicated to my mother, Laurie, who has always warned me of the dangers of social media.

Keywords: Irony, Social Media, Cancel, Harm, Lies


Social media has become a dominating force in today’s modern society. A recent study shows that nearly half the global population, 3.78 billion people, use some type of social media platform (Statista 2020). Applications such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Tik Tok currently dominate the social media landscape. As of 2020, the average social media usage per day by individuals reached a new high of 145 minutes (Statista 2020). This is a statistic that has been increasing year to year. Research has shown that social media has become an effective business tool; companies have turned to these platforms to establish brand trust, promote marketing campaigns, and lure in online shoppers. With recent technological developments and increases in both usage and money spent on social media domains, I wanted to focus this essay on my concerns with current trends and issues these platforms pose for our world’s population.


One rhetorical term which exemplifies my sentiment of social media is the term irony. Merriam-Webster defines irony as “a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected” (Merriam-Webster). This definition is extremely applicable to the current state of social media usage in our world. The irony of social media is that social media companies are aware of social problems, such as depression and mental health, caused by their applications, yet they still promote the use and expansion of their platforms.


One aspect of social media, which is arguably its most ironic, is how happy users portray themselves. Research has shown that there is a notable correlation between the rise of social media and increasing rates of depression amongst teens and young adults. In a 2017 study done by the Child Mind Institute, research shows that “over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the number exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the suicide rate for girls in that age group increased by 65 percent.” This correlates to a trend where “smartphones were introduced in 2007, and by 2015 fully 92 percent of teens and young adults owned a smartphone” (Child Mind Institute). This is especially concerning, as social media usage and smartphone technology have continued to increase significantly since this study has been done. Still, millions of social media users portray themselves as living a perfect life, even though social media is directly related to their depression. Social media “influencers” have made casual users of these platforms question their self-confidence and morals. The fact that social media companies know their products cause harm adds to the severity of the situation. This is a terrible thing for children who still have developing brains and maturing intelligence.

At the end of the day, social media is run by corporations who care mostly about their own profits. The companies that promote their social media platforms are well aware of the depression which their product is causing. It is clear that social media companies know the harm they are doing to our nation’s and our world’s teenagers and especially young women. In a recent testimony from a Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen claimed that Facebook had knowledge of the damage that their application has on our youth. The former Data Scientist leaked an internal Facebook study which found “that 13.5% of U.K. teen girls in one survey say their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting on Instagram and Another study found 17% of teen girls say their eating disorders got worse after using Instagram” (NPR). She made harsh accusations throughout the hearing and boldly claimed that “It is clear that Facebook prioritizes profit over the well-being of children and all users” (NPR). Haugen’s speech was extremely eye-opening. Her efforts point out the true irony behind companies such as Facebook. While they promote happiness, love, and social justice, companies like Facebook prioritize profits and increasing user rates. It is clear from testimonies like Haugen’s that social media companies are well aware of the harm caused by their products to children and teens. It is no coincidence that just days after Haugen’s hearing the official homepage of Instagram was updated with a link containing “emotional health” support. These efforts are laughable by Instagram and the irony is transparent. Social media companies clearly have no intention other than seeking profits, while their consumers continue to see increases in depression and serious other mental health issues.


There is irony behind the motives of giant social media companies. While they promote themes of happiness, love, and social justice on their platforms, these tech giants have much darker intentions of manipulating their users to increase profits. Courageous whistleblowers such as Frances Haugen have exposed domains such as Facebook and Instagram for prioritizing profits over mental health. Hopefully, testimonies like these will eventually wake up these mammoth-sized social media entities. Maybe one day the manipulations of these companies will be obsolete, and their giant followings can be used to spread goodness throughout our world. Hopefully, these corporations will wake up and realize that profits do not mean everything. The health and wellbeing of these corporations’ clients should be a far greater concern than their earning’s call. For the time being, social media is a major contributor to rising mental and emotional health issues. If these companies do not find a successful way to slow down depression rates among their users… then I am very concerned about the fate of our world’s next generation.


Works Cited


Allyn, Bobby. “Here Are 4 Key Points from the Facebook Whistleblower’s Testimony on Capitol Hill.” NPR, 5 Oct. 2021. NPR, ngress.


“Daily Social Media Usage Worldwide.” Statista, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.


“Statista – The Statistics Portal.” Statista, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.


“Does Social Media Use Cause Depression?” Child Mind Institute, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.


Definition of IRONY. Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.


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Feeling Rhetoric Copyright © 2022 by Sam Tarter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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