If one observes the people around them in most any public setting, chances are, many have their eyes gazing in a sort of hypnotic trance, being absorbed into the glow of their phone screens. Our modern society has become disturbingly dependent on the various forms of technology, one of which, being social media. Social media has completely transformed the way we connect with others, almost to where we no longer need to communicate with anyone in person. Why take the time out of our busy schedules to have a face-to-face conversation when one could accomplish nearly the same thing through a smartphone? That is the alarming mindset that many people have adapted to, especially the younger generation, and it is the very thing that makes social media so dangerous. Although it can be a great way to stay in touch with old friends, or keep up with important information, there are several negative factors of social media that interfere with having authentic social experiences, and more people should be aware of these potential harms. The addictive properties of social media are one of these negative factors. When most people think of addiction, images of drugs or alcohol come to mind, along with their dangerous physical and mental effects. Some may not consider social media to be a real addiction because it does not present itself in the same manner as other common substances. However, repeatedly engaging in anything despite its negative consequences could still be considered a form of addiction. Though it may not be especially life threatening, the compulsive use of social media is still worth some concern.
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According to an article discussing this topic, the chemicals in our brain are to blame for some of social media’s addictive properties. When one receives a notification on their phone, the brain is flooded with the chemical dopamine, causing feelings of happiness. the brain enjoys this rush of dopamine and causes one to check their phone again and again in order to re-create that rewarding feeling. The article states that 72% of teens sleep with their phones nearby, 60% text while doing homework, and 72% feel pressure to respond to notifications immediately. These statistics show the strong association one makes between social media and pleasure, and how difficult it can be resist checking those notifications. Even if it is something as insignificant as a like on Instagram or a comment on Facebook (Carro). Another factor equally as concerning, is that social media may cause a decrease in social skills. As a result of its addictive properties, it seems as though more people are becoming overly comfortable with communicating through social media instead of talking in person. Out of one thousand teenagers ages thirteen to seventeen, 61% prefer talking online instead of in person (Loveland). Although some may say social media is overall more convenient, could interacting too much through technology damage a teen’s social development? With this idea in mind, researchers from UCLA conducted a recent study to test pre-teen’s ability to interpret non-verbal cues, which is a crucial factor of good communication and social skill. For 5 days, half of the children were sent to a nature camp that lacked access to any screen-based media. They were then compared to the other half of the participants who continued with their normal use of media, which averaged over four hours per day. Both groups took a pre- and post-test that required them to read emotions from photos and videos containing no audio. The results showed significant improvements with reading non-verbal cues in the group that was removed from social media.
The control group, however, showed little to no improvements. This study is an excellent example of how social media may be more of a barrier in socialization rather than a positive source of interaction. As a result of all these negative factors discussed, social media may also have the potential to be harmful to one’s mental health. The addictive properties, combined with the lack of social connection, could spiral in to a loop of isolation. This can be risky for anyone’s mental state, especially that of an unsecure teenager. Psychologist Ethan Kross and others conducted a study on the mental well-being of Facebook users. The results confirmed there is indeed a link between mental health problems, and social media. The researchers write, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it (Kross et al.). Overall, there are few inventions that have affected our lives as profoundly as social media. It is assumed that teens will continue to successfully adapt to their environment as they always have in the past. However, I think its possible that the very quality that makes teens so adaptable also makes them vulnerable. Social media undoubtedly has an abundance of positive uses that have been a great advance in technology. But without being cautious, it can manipulate one into spending more of their time aimlessly scrolling online instead of interacting with others. This is what causes the confusion between a real, meaningful connection and an artificial, digital one. It is important that everyone, especially teens, should be more aware of the gimmicks of social media, and the potentially harmful affects it has on their wellbeing.
The Dark Side of Social Media. (2019, Apr 10).
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