By Adeline Bisese & Summer Williamson
It pulls you in, it addicts you; you let it control and dictate your every move. Social media is a rabbit hole of entertainment purely designed to appeal to your esteem and draw you in. It is touted as a superior means of connecting friends and acquaintances, but as the populus’s addiction and obsession to digital media grows, are these platforms really a benefit to our society?
The attraction of social media is rooted in the neurons of the brain. As notifications ding and chime, the brain releases chemicals, most commonly: dopamine, the hormone associated with reward and motivation. Each notification presents the chance to interact, which means every time you oblige a response, dopamine levels in your brain increase and recharge the addictive compulsion. It is far too similar to the philosophical concept of Pavlov’s dogs. Interacting through social media becomes habitual as the frequency of checking for notifications and browsing through feeds increases.
While social media allows people to perform the vital action of communication and develop personal connections, more and more studies have accumulated evidence that its negative effects outweigh the positive. These platforms have been shown to cause detrimental effects on self-esteem, mood, social connections, memory, sleep, attention span, mental health, and safety. Eventually it leads to lowered self-esteem and the feeling of isolation.
Social media poses, perhaps, the greatest threat to the self-esteem of its audience. Viewing, and ultimately comparing yourself to the glorified lifestyles and carefully constructed personas of whom you follow creates space for self-doubt which manifests as envy. Comparisons made to these online friends only works to assuage insecurities and develop unreasonable expectations. When self worth is derived from judgements solely made on a few heavily filtered photos selected for aesthetic appeal, you sacrifice happiness and confidence. Abstaining from social media and in the least, consciously monitoring your usage of it, leads to more feelings of satisfaction.
While social media was designed to connect people to one another and strengthen communication, it has begun to contradict its original purpose. Communication has become more consistent and nearly instant, but the constant influx of response has become a major distraction. People prefer to socialize through their phones rather than in person, and have tendencies to disregard their surroundings and the people in them.
The distraction of the media prevents us from being in the present and forming valuable memories. Often, people find themselves spending excessive amounts of time attempting to capture a perfectly pleasing photo to post rather than truly absorbing what is around them. Upon retrospect, there are mental blind spots and unsatisfying experiences.
Browsing through profiles and into collections of posts from the past can stimulate feelings of nostalgia, but it can also cause negative memories to resurface. Social media allows you to return to periods of your life, but only in the distorted, glorified forms selected to be shared with the world. It can falsely alter how you perceive your life.
Studies have shown that the brain activity social media stimulates has created health issues regarding sleep. Many people have habits of using their phones prior to falling asleep, however, due to the blue light that phones produce, the production of melatonin is suppressed. This inhibits sleep from easily occurring naturally. The best method of resolving this is to avoid the usage of your phone at least half an hour before going to bed.
Along with creating problematic sleeping habits, social media has caused difficulties regarding attention spans. It has opened a chasm of endless distractions so easy to get lost in. Social media provides an infinite surplus of instant information that continually feeds into the temptation to be quickly entertained. If you find that your productivity is being hindered by time spent on social media then silence your notifications, put your phone on airplane mode, or simply turn the device off.
A decrease in mental health has recently been connected to the excessive use of social media. Not only is it linked to unhappiness, but the growth of anxiety and depression as well. Many people experience unhealthy amounts of stress as unsustainable standards and expectations are set by the media. During the month of March, 2018, a survey of 1,000 members of Generation Z reported that 41% experienced depression, anxiety, and sadness due to the use of social media. In a study done by Pew Research Center, it was confirmed that social media, despite its provision of entertainment, induced more stress than it relieved.
Stalking, cyberbullying, and threats are crimes commonly committed through social media. As people expose more and more elements of their lives on social media, their risk of becoming victims to these unlawful acts has increased. However, crimes such as stalking have often normalized through media. Netflix recently aired a new series You which portrays the stalking of a young woman through the eyes of the stalker. In addition to the growing threat of stalking, cyberbullying is another crime committed through social media. The problem with cyberbullying is knowing when it becomes a legal matter. It is difficult to define when comments turn truly hostile. People tend to allow actions to turn into threats before any legal action is taken.
Another offense carried out through social media platforms is the buying of contraband and illegal services. The dark web has a large list of crimes, but 33% of all of those crimes internet crimes are performed through social media. Of those crimes 50% are against minors. Along with those chilling statistics, a surprising 25% of all Facebook users are under the age of ten. There is a one in four chance of finding a child under the age of ten when using the media platform
Acts of fraud are facilitated through social media platforms as well. In a 2011 court case, a judge declared that using another person’s Facebook is considered identity theft. This ruling was given after a teenaged boy logged into a girl’s Facebook account and proceeded to post obscene comments. The boy was sentenced with ninety days to a year in a juvenile detention facility. Due to the ease at which criminals can log into other’s accounts it is not wise to give out personal information such as passwords or usernames to anyone. Along with keeping an eye out for unusual activity on a personal account, precautions should also be taken to eliminate false accounts. If a person creates an account using someone else’s name, it should be reported.
Vacation robberies aren’t just from Home Alone. For many people, robbers will steal from them while they vacation. People are being robbed while they are away from home because of their presence on social media platforms. Some social media apps will share your location to everyone on the app. Criminals use the information gathered from online sources to locate homes, places of work, and current locations of people. In fact, the website you are currently viewing this article on tracks the location of your IPN. Because it is easy to locate the origin of servers and other media tracking devices, 78% of burglars use social media to locate potential victims. For this reason, it is important to turn off location when using certain apps and choose the apps allowed to use location wisely.
It is not necessary to totally reject social media and delete all of your accounts, but its effects on your well being should be taken into consideration. If you are experiencing any of the negative consequences above, then it would be best advised to ween yourself from using the platforms for set intervals of time. A small change in your usage of social media could do you much more good than imagined.