How has social media affected our psyche?
Like I mentioned in my first inquiry research round, social media has slowly transformed into an integral part of many of our lives. When we depend on social media applications to stay up-to-date on current events and with friends, as well as, for some of us, being part of our jobs, either for pay, at school, or for volunteer work, you can see how easily it can become what we revolve our lives around, something that can badly damage our psychological health.
As we all know by now, human beings are incredibly social animals and individuals that lack in that aspect may experience increased stress, anxiety, depression, decreased feelings of self-worth, lack of comfort and joy, increased loneliness, and may even lose years off their lives. But with social media at our fingertips, many have taken this concept too far, focusing all their time on being virtually social. Because only in-person social interactions trigger the hormones that help keep away the aforementioned negative effects, spending too much time using social media applications can actually increase feelings of isolation, dissatisfaction, frustration, sadness, and loneliness, instead of making you feel more connected. Overuse of social media can also increase the possibility of having numerous mental health problems including issues with depression and anxiety .
The other possible psychologically negative effects that you may experience if you incorrectly use social media are plentiful. One of the most known ones are feelings of inadequacy on the subject of your social life or appearance. While most of us know that images on social media can and are commonly edited to look better than they actually are, we may still feel inadequate due to pictures and videos we see of others. Another effect that is very similar to the feelings of inadequacy is FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. As we see other individuals on social media experience their lives, we may feel like we are missing out on fun activities and that we are leading worse and more boring lives. Strangely enough, the flipside of this can also occur, and that is the self-absorption that can easily be caused by social media and its endless posts on inner thoughts and selfies , as well as immensely unhealthy feelings of jealousy . Due to this and a number of other factors, including increased feelings of safety from criticism and confrontation, as well as the ease of such activity on the platform, individuals who may have never bullied someone in their life might start cyberbullying on social media . Forbes also notes that social media can be incredibly addicting, with some health experts even calling it the new smoking; just like smoking, there is published research that shows that many individuals experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using social media applications .This happens because use of social media releases dopamine, a “feel-good chemical” which activates the brain’s reward center .
Of course, social media has its positive effects as well. If used properly, social media can help you communicate and stay up to date with family members and friends who may not live nearby, create new friendships and relationships with individuals with like interests, and share personal projects, such as drawings. Social media can also help you supply others who are in a bad spot with emotional support, as well as seek some for yourself, and because of its popularity, social media is also very useful when raising awareness on vital issues occurring across the world, as well as educating yourself on any number of topics. Do watch out for misinformation however .
All in all, the effect of social media on our psyche is a double edged sword. Even though it can be helpful and keep us connected when used correctly and not overused, use of the platform can easily turn into an addiction, an unhealthy coping mechanism that we use whenever we feel awkward, alone, or anxious. To know if your social media use has turned unhealthy, Help Guide notes to look for a number of points, and these include “spending more time on social media than with real world friends, comparing yourself unfavorably with others on social media, experiencing cyberbullying, being distracted at school or work, having no time for self-reflection, engaging in risky behavior in order to gain likes, suffering from sleep problems, and/or worsening symptoms of anxiety or depression” . To extend my knowledge on this subject, in my next research round, I will be focusing on how social media has affected our communication skills. While this post touched a little on that topic, my next post will go much more in depth into how social media has changed the way we communicate with other human beings, and if the quality of our communication has increased or decreased now that social media is at the forefront of so many of our lives.
Image: Search Engine Journal