a. What challenges did you overcome throughout this inquiry project? How did you go about overcoming these challenges?
Many of my troubles throughout this inquiry project were linked with the difficult premise of the idea; like many have mentioned, it is never a tool’s fault that it is misused, it is always the fault of the user. To be completely honest, I fully believe in that opinion. Like so much other technology out in the world, social media is a tool that us humans currently use for many of our social needs, especially now during the COVID-2019 pandemic. We direct message our friends, post our lives on our stories (however boring they may be at the moment), and complete a myriad of different tasks, all with this super software. But in truth, that is exactly the issue with social media. Like many others tools, many people now completely rely on social media for a vast amount of engagements (too many if you ask me) and they become sucked into the echo chamber that is people on the internet; not limiting ourselves, such is the human way. Because of all this, I had to try to balance the true effects of a balanced use of social media and overuse. For example, when looking for the psychological effects of social media, I found that most of the information on the internet was based on individuals that overused social media. This caused it to be incredibly difficult to distinguish the effects of social media and the effects of overuse of social media, two vastly different topics. Another example of this was when I was looking into the effects of social media on our communication skills, where a similar pattern emerged; individuals that overused social media tended to start to impoverish the language(s) they spoke. I found that people that limited their use of social media or that payed attention to also get enough real life social interaction had little to no change in their communication skills; their richness of vocabulary, syntax, and grammar skills had stayed relatively the same. Due to the overall lack of information on the topic of balanced social media use, to overcome this challenge I had to try to make as large a distinction as I could between the effects of overuse and of regular use (which was often incredibly complicated, as there is no set line between the two). To do this, I referred to much of the information I gathered to apply to mainly people with low self control, such as teenagers, who cannot limit themselves from overusing social media. These individuals seemed to have a very hard time being able to separate themselves from social media and rarely understood that social media interaction was very different and not nearly as healthy as real life social interaction, causing systemic overuse and hurting the psyche, as well as diminishing social skills.
b. How did this inquiry change the way you think?
To be absolutely honest, if my mother or father ever read my posts they would definitely say “Oh, you’re one to talk”. Okay, yes, I do admit that I overuse social media at times and I find it quite difficult not to once you get into the immense ecosystem of it all. The posts, the stories, the group chats, the private chats, all of it is so enthralling and fun to use that hours can easily pass while you sit there on the couch with your phone in your hand. Fortunately however, I believe that this inquiry project has helped me understand the individuals that constantly use social media, like the classmates that sit there in their seats for the entire block sending Snaps to their friends and direct messaging people on Instagram. It is truly addicting and you just cannot seem to be able to stop. Before I completed this inquiry project, I would look at those classmates and think “Wow, they are so lazy” (yes I am sort of a hypocrite). To be honest I still think a little like that, but my research has changed a large part of my opinion. Now I believe that the individuals mentioned were simply sucked into an ecosystem of technology that they were not ready to handle, that they have been absolutely ensnared by the tool instead of using the tool as it was intended. For example, now when I see a classmate with their eyes glued to their phone while they should be working, I feel more sad than annoyed; I know understand that they are the victim in this situation and that down the line this will come back to bite them. Another example of this is when I see people that post over twenty times on their Instagram story each and everyday. If you have ever encountered someone like this, you will have probably thought that they are desperately grasping for attention and they likely are. Similar to my last example, I no longer find these types of people annoying, but more depressing. These individuals feel such a dire need to show themselves off, as well as their thoughts and their lives. Like psychology has been telling us for sometime now, having non-social time is healthy. Having a need to always post, to always feel the immediate satisfaction of receiving likes and comments has quickly become almost a mental disorder in and of itself, and I now understand that people that suffer from it may have a very hard being truly social now that they have been trapped.
c. How did this investigation impact your future decisions?
This investigation will impact my future decisions by making me think more about how I stay social. If there is one thing I learned from this inquiry project it would be that social media can be incredibly addicting. Someone that lets themselves get sucked into the ecosystem might have a difficult time maintaining a balanced social life afterwards. This is why, from now on, I will be focusing a lot more on how much time I spend on social media and how much of my social life is dependent on it; I will try my best to balance my social life between social media as well as real life interactions. While real life/in-person social interactions might not be the best option at the current moment, this alteration centers more around my somewhat distant future, when our lives are back to normal, not the new normal. An example of what I might do when normality is restored is maintain a decently stringent rule for my social media use; I will be able to spend a maximum of one hour on social media everyday. Of course, this is not the best, most comprehensive, or efficient way to fix my overuse of social media, but I truly believe that it is better than nothing (I sometimes actually opt to stay home and use social media instead of going out with my friends, yikes). Another example of my planned balance of my social interactions will be to speak to at minimum three people a day. Numerous years back, I was a seriously socially awkward and shy individual. While over the years I believe I have improved on that front, I still suffer from quite common bouts of shyness and social isolation, so forcing myself to speak to others on a daily basis could be quite an effective way of keeping my social life in check.
d. What impact will this investigation have on others locally and/or globally?
I think this investigation will have an effect on others locally as well as globally, due to how widespread social media is. The main ways I believe my investigation will impact others is by guiding them to balance their social lives, like I mentioned in part c. While I expect that there will be many people that will disagree with my opinion and my advice for a myriad of different reasons, some likely being that they themselves are already addicted to social media, I think that a large amount of individuals will agree with what I have said. More specifically, this inquiry project can impact people’s self esteem and happiness. For example, if the folks that agree with my conclusion that social media can be damaging if overused, they might be more inclined to distance themselves a bit from social media, if not altogether. While this change may not be for everybody and may not provide any positive change for certain people, the research that I have done has told me that too many people, especially teenagers, overuse social media, resulting in anxiety, feelings of not being enough/being boring, etcetera. If this investigation helps even one person that is feeling unhappy or socially isolated due to social media, I will be thrilled. Another example how this investigation may cause an impact on others locally and globally are the rules I mentioned in part c. While distancing yourself from social media may be helpful, especially if you chronically overuse the platform, doing so will likely only cause even more social isolation if you do not pair it with other social interaction, more specifically in-person interactions. Like I discussed before, maintaining a minimum amount of people you hold yourself to talk to each day can be a super helpful way of forcing yourself to be healthily social (of course, after COVID) and can help people that are suffering from social awkwardness or shyness in particular, either from social media “withdrawal” or just pure and simple traits that you were born with. Keeping yourself accountable and not letting your social life become dependent on social media is absolutely crucial if you intend on avoiding many possible health risks, such as anxiety and low self esteem, as well as loosing critical in-person communication skills that are lost when introduced to long amounts of non-use.