Three billion people, around 40% of the world’s population, use social media and spend an average of two hours every day sharing, liking, tweeting, and updating on social platforms. Without question, social media has had a profound impact on billions of lives. Our lives have become increasingly more public as we all share information on a variety of networks. As seen in Appendix A, “over 78% of the U.S population has a social network profile. This behavioral shift has reverberating effects– not just in how we spend our time, but in how we feel about ourselves”(Kerpen).
In today’s society, we are addicted to our phones, computers, tablets, and other technological devices. We spend too much time on our devices checking social media pages and it can really take a toll not just on yourself, but on the relationships you have.
Over the years, social media has become one of the most powerful tools of technology. Social media was originally created as a networking tool, but has become so much more.
People across the world can connect through numerous screens with the use of the internet and social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. While that may sound great and all, being connected to over a billion people through a screen can become addicting and overwhelming. The constant checking of social media can actually drive you insane. For some reason I often find myself glued to my phone and I have to constantly check for updates no matter where I am.
The sad thing is that I’ll check an app, close it, and then reopen it not even a second later. Sometimes we are unaware of what we are doing, almost like a subconscious habit.
It’s crazy to think that a form of technology could be as addicting, in a sense, as a drug. Spending countless hours refreshing your feed is draining and it literally sucks the life out of you. I’m not necessarily bashing social media, I think social media could be a great thing and I am somewhat of an addict, but I think we need to learn how to put our phones down once in a while. Taking a break from social media is as refreshing as taking a cold shower on a hot day. By having almost the entire world attached to their phones through social media, it can take a toll on romantic, personal and professional relationships. Whenever I am either waiting for class to begin or out somewhere, a healthy majority of the people are sitting around with their noses dug into their phones. These people, even myself I must admit, are staring at and pouring their energy into a tiny screen rather than talking to the person directly in front of them. We as a society are forgetting the fundamental components of communication and are becoming more reliant on our devices. The majority of people on their devices are likely browsing on social media, and while it might feel good, anything without moderation becomes unhealthy.
People use social media to vent about everything from customer service to politics. This growth of social media reports an impact in many aspects of life. According to a study published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior, “people who report using seven or more social media platforms were more than three times as likely as people using 0-2 platforms to have high levels of general anxiety symptoms”(qtd in Brown). Much like any other user, I get anxiety from an array of instances such as what my friend replied, how many messages are there, or the number of likes or retweets I recieved. In Appendix B, it illustrates that 80% of Americans check their phone within an hour after getting up/before going to sleep. Personally, I check my phone immediately after getting dressed and just prior to going to bed. Research has found that this can inhibit the body’s production of the hormone melatonin, which facilitates sleep. The blue light, which is emitted by smartphone and laptop screens, is said to be the worst culprit.
Social media platforms have been linked with issues regarding self-esteem and well-being. Both issues are connected by people feeling envious. Envy can be seen a destructive emotion as people compare their lives to others, and oftentimes become jealous. Longtime blogger and social media manager at Starr Restaurants states, “In the beginning, when I first became active on social media, I spent a lot of my time comparing myself and achievements to what I saw others doing. This stripped me of my confidence when I didn’t think I ‘measured up’”(qtd in Kerpen). The more time people spend on the site, the worse they feel later on, and the more their life satisfaction declines over time. A study concluded “When Facebook users compare their own lives with others’ seemingly more successful careers and happy relationships, they may feel that their own lives are less successful in comparison”(qtd in Brown).
The proliferation of social media into our lives has continued on an upward slope, having people checking their phones quite habitually. Although research has associated social media with a number of physiological problems including anxiety, its most serious issue is addiction. Usually, when we think of addiction, the first thing that comes to mind is tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, but a few researchers argue that tweeting and spending time on social media is almost as addictive. This could be referred to as the ‘fear of missing out’, which causes people to constantly check their phones for notifications. A study was conducted, “24 Hours: Unplugged”, in which researchers found that American college students struggle to function without their media connection to the world. Journalism professor and director of the university’s International Center for Media & the Public Agenda, Susan D. Moeller stated, ‘We were surprised by how many students admitted that they were ‘incredibly addicted’ to media” in the university’s news report (Johnson). This internet or social media addiction is happens to be a biological basis as “The researchers found that there were significant differences in the gray matter and white matter—measures related to the structure and functions of neurons—between the addicted adolescents, and their ‘healthy’ counterparts”(Rosen).
The use of social networking sites have become the cornerstone of modern communication and connection as it allows users to create a sense of belonging and redefine their way of being. Despite all the drawbacks or cons regarding social media, it remains one of the best way to stay informed and connected. As we have recently lost cable tv, I have no way to watch any of my sports games. But sites such as Twitter or Reddit enable me to stream those games which is a big plus for me. I use Twitter to stay politically engaged and Snapchat to contact my friends. Social media “promote[s] self-education–users can find out what they want quickly and this can expedite the teaching and learning process.” It also enhances connectivity and is an important component of business as it involves networking. Social media “allows teens an aspect of control over their image”(Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview). With ability to write or post whatever, they feel in control of their public image. Social media also enables friends to reconnect and stay in touch, regardless of their location.
Dr. David Buch, Chief Medical Officer of Carrier Clinic sums up social media, “As with any healthy relationship, use of social media should have its boundaries.” The key to enjoying the benefits of social media while avoiding its problems is to use these powerful tools sensibly, constructively, and in moderation. Social media is being used in ways that shape politics, business, culture, education, careers, innovation, and more. Social media has single handedly changed society and altered the way we view ourselves and other people. If I were to step outside, most people would be on their devices or would be clutching one as if it was a newborn child. Although this could pose a concern for our future, there is also some good in social media.