The social media we are using today has not been around for a long time. In fact, Facebook was first created in 2004 and Instagram was created in just 2010. I remember having accounts for both of them by the beginning of middle school. I am nineteen years old now and am apart of the first generation to have grown up in the world of online interactions. I have personal experience with how addicting these apps can be, and how it can affect our everyday lives.
With certain reasons I have developed, I am lead to wonder if my generation will end up regretting using social media as frequently as we do now.
Before I even realized that I had an addiction to social media, I would spend hours each day scrolling through my feed. It seemed normal because that is what all my friends did as well. But my mother has pointed out before that teenagers these days can not even go anywhere unless they have brought their phones.
She explained how growing up without social media was so much nicer. I used to think that would have been a nightmare, but now I envy the time period she grew up in. I have realized how much time I have wasted on my phone rather than pursuing other hobbies or even spending quality time with family or friends. I feel like it is much harder to be the most productive when these apps are distracting on my phone.
Even when I should have been asleep, I would be up for a portion of the night on my phone. It was hard to grow out of the mindset of social media being a top priority, but now that I am out of it I feel so much more relieved and less stressed. I am free to just be me without having to create my identity online. I am also teaching myself to have more self control with how much I spend on these apps so I am able to spend my time more wisely.
I am concerned for my generation’s future from all the negative effects that social media provides. These apps are changing the younger population’s mindset on how we view ourselves, our friends, and the world around us. The best way I can describe what I feel is going on today is that most young people who use social media are in a virtual popularity contest to see who can have the most seemingly perfect lives. I admit I am a victim of this mindset, so I want to dive deeper in what could cause myself and this generation to think this type of way.
People keep increasing the amount of time they spend on social media. Right now, the average person will spend five years and four months of their lives on social media if they spend at least two hours on the sites daily, which we all know is not too hard to do. (Asano, How Much Time Do People Spend on Social Media? [Infographic]) In a study that was done by Flashgap said “…87 percent of millennials admitted to missing out on a conversation because they were distracted by their phone. Meanwhile, 54 percent said they experience a fear of missing out if not checking social networks.”
When people go out to social events, they are usually distracted by their phones and are not getting the most out of their experiences with the people they are around. It is very difficult to try to have a conversation with someone when they are only half paying attention to you. This has happened to me many times before when trying to talk to some of my friends, all I can say is that it is very irritating when this happens. I also find it annoying when people are too worried about capturing selfies and photos to be able to brag about what they were doing on social media.We are not living in the moment anymore. It is starting to interfere with our real life social skills because we are so caught up in the online world and not what is happening in front of our faces. (Uptin, Social Media Is Making Millennials Less Social: Study)
The biggest issue I have with social media is how addicting it can be. Over the years I have heard many people, including myself, say about how we want a break from social media, but can never figure out why we can not successfully stay away from it for long periods of times. There are many factors that play a part on why this happens to us. A big contributor to this problem is called dopamine, which is a chemical that our brains produce when we do something that gives us pleasure. It is also known as, “the happy chemical.” This occurs when we see likes, comments, or any type of notification on our social media accounts.
We receive sort of a rush when we see them and want the feeling to keep occuring more often. It does not help that our smartphones can have every single notification pop up on our lockscreen for us to see every time. Social medias keep updating themselves to become more and more addicting. An example would be that facebook keeps creating more reasons for people to get a notification by adding more features in our settings. I even noticed that I was getting “friend suggestions” as a notification, they are trying to find anything for us to stay on their app longer. Have you ever noticed that your likes notifications on Instagram come in mass quantities? Well this is because they are trying to get you more excited to produce even more dopamine. They take advantage of people by making it seem like they are being “rewarded” whenever they click into the apps. These apps make it seem like society is accepting you, which causes you to keep looking at your phone for reassurance. (Haynes, Dopamine, Smartphones & You: A Battle for Your Time)
More studies today are showing that it may be possible that social media can increase levels of depression and anxiety. Some also may wonder if people with depression and anxiety are using social media more as an outlet to express their feelings. Either one of these observations may be a possibility, but we do know that there is research proving that there is a connection between social media and depression. When social media started becoming popular amongst society, many cases of these disorders began to rise drastically. A way that social media can make a person sad is basically the opposite of how it can make someone happy. If someone opens up an app and sees that there are no notifications for them, they do not get the dopamine that they are used to receiving, therefore leaving them with disappointment. If social media may possibly be a reason of why depression and anxiety levels are increasing, then what does that mean for our future? (Waldemar, Does Social Media Cause Depression?)
Most people tend to post only the positive parts in their life, so when we scroll through and see how perfect everyone’s lives are, we feel ourselves compare our lives to others. Our lives are not perfect, there are positive and negatives times. But when we only see the positives, we think that their lives must be perfect and we begin to get jealous.
Always being on these apps, I was constantly comparing myself and my own life to everyone’s posts that I would see all the time. I think it is a good place to get inspiration from, for me I always looked at different artwork accounts, but it unfortunately got to the point where I would even judge my own artwork compared to professionals that I followed which made me feel like I was not good enough. Obviously I realized that there are always going to be people more talented than me, but seeing so many people that are so advanced and always posting new content can definitely can cause insecurity issues. This example can relate to other people in many different ways, depending what they are into. We will constantly be seeing others who are a step above us in any aspect, causing us as humans to be more competitive to get at their same level or above. Maybe the competitiveness can be good in ways of helping us have more drive to reach our goals, such as striving to be a better artist. But we are losing the ability to ever be satisfied with how we like to live our own life and being grateful about what we do have.
If you were to ask a group of teenagers in high school if they have ever been bullied online by someone, you would see that a good portion of people have experienced this. Cyberbullying has shown to increase risks or worsen symptoms of depression amongst teenagers. Since cyberbullying is so common on social media, it has become a factor that has been linked to many suicide cases. Stephanie Pappas stated, “Seventeen of the 36 studies analyzed looked at how common cyberbullying was, and the researchers found that a median of 23 percent of teens reported being targeted.
About 15 percent reported bullying someone online themselves. This being said, if cyberbullying continues to be this active on social medias, then more teenagers will progressively be at risk to develop mental health issues in the future. Many people do not realize how serious cyberbullying should be handled to help prevent these psychological traumas occurring in victims. She also points out, “Regular, face-to-face bullying may double the risk of depression in adulthood, and bullying’s effects can be bad or worse than child abuse, studies show.”Bullying in person or online can can still leave the same effects on a victim. Both can cause emotional issues that can increase depression to a person being bullied. Cyberbullying is happening all the time to a large portion of teenagers. This was not the reason that social media was created. We need to find a way to help lower cyberbullying and take consequences seriously to the people who are doing the bullying.
From what I have observed while growing up, most of us feel the need to post on a regular basis about what we are doing and who we are with to let everyone else online know that we are being social beings. This makes me question why we feel the need to post about this all the time.
Is it because we want to brag to others that we are not just sitting around the house doing nothing? Are we trying to compete with others on who looks like they have the most friends? Or are we just trying to reassure ourselves that we are fitting in with everyone else in society? This type of thinking may seem bizarre, but it is more common than we think it is. If one of the reasons to spend time with someone is to post about it online to boost one’s own self esteem, then that can only lead to major insecurity issues and friendships that are not entirely real. A similar thing occurs when people go places and constantly post about where they went online. I am not saying people should never post pictures of places they have visited, but it becomes a problem when you are only visiting that place to get a good picture. I have recently witnessed an example of this is when I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art a couple weeks ago.
While I was walking around, I looked over and saw a teenage girl getting her picture taken by a famous piece of artwork. She was wearing a very hipster outfit, posing with her booty popped out while her fingers were going through her hair. I sort of laughed a little when I saw this because I figured that she was not there to observe the art, mostly just to get a flashy picture with it to show everyone that she visited there. If people continue to have this mindset of competing for seemingly perfect lives throughout the future generations, then relationships and places are not going to be as appreciated as they used to be. We need to start putting the phone down and live in the moment. I would be a hypocrite if I told people to never take pictures, so what I am trying to say is to not make the picture a first priority when you are with friends or arrive to a place. I have learned to wait to take a picture until I have already enjoyed the experience. A picture should be meant to keep for memories, not bragging rights for all the followers. We need to be less concerned about what others think our social statuses are, because in reality, no one really cares what we are doing with our lives.
Sometimes I wish I was born in a different time period because I am jealous of the days when people only used house phones with cords as their way of communication. People back then had more privacy because they were not posting every single activity they did each day for the whole world to see. I feel like it would have been so much less stressful not feeling like you have to worry about how nice your “feed” looks to impress random strangers for self reassurance. It must have been nice to be judged based on your personality instead of how popular your social media accounts were. Whenever people got together or went places, it was for completely real purposes and reasons. Friends did not worry about having to get the perfect selfie while hanging out and enjoyed their time together making memories instead. I guess I could just say that it would have been much better experiencing my teenage years without social media.
As time passed, we adopted some slang into our everyday conversations. I believe this is because of the lack of communication skills caused by online interactions. We also shorten phrases when messaging instead of typing out the full sentence. Such as “ttyl” refers to “talk to you later” and “brb” refers to “be right back.” I get concerned when I hear people actually speak like this out loud when talking to someone. I think at the rate it is going right now, more slang words and phrases are going to be added to our vocabulary and in a very long time there will be a whole new version of speaking. People will look back at these times now and think, “Wow, people in the early 2000’s spoke so proper back then.” I predict that the language we speak today is going to evolve into something totally different, it just will be many generations until it gets to that point.
These problems that we are beginning to deal with today are only going to get worse as technology improves at a fast pace. I predict that future generations will find it difficult to do certain tasks that were easier to do before social media. For example, it is hard to have good communication skills when we are so used to talking online. If teenagers these days want to confront someone about an issue, most of the time it is going to be posted on social media or confronted through a text message. This is not good because it gives us an easy way out instead of finding the courage to have a real life, mature conversation. Most teenagers tend to hide behind their screen now because they are not developing the skills to be able to have uncomfortable conversations in person. This will help lead to more of an “immaturity” in society. In the past, everyone used more formal language when speaking to others.
So the question is will our generation end up regretting using social media in the future? I believe a significant amount of the population will if they do not educate themselves now and be aware of the risks that no one talks about. Social media consumes a good portion of our time that we can never get back. We are going to start losing focus on what is actually important in our lives. I envision that society is going to continue to increase rates of anxiety and depression. When we compare our own lives to how perfect others seem online, we are going to feel pressured to eliminate all the hardships in our lives which is impossible to do. We are setting expectations of our lives too high on social media.