22 Apr HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IS DAMAGING SOCIAL LIVES
THE FACEBOOK Role in Social Media Damages
In this grand era of Social Media, people are connecting with each other, but with that fact this question arises that HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IS DAMAGING SOCIAL LIVES ?
Despite having hit the headlines in 2018 for all the wrong reasons (1), social media behemoth Facebook remains one of the most popular ways to stay in touch with friends and family – as well as meet virtual strangers. In 2018, there were over two and a quarter billion accounts on the system. (2)
And that’s without throwing twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram into the mix – all common social media platforms. In its current, electronic form, social media has been with us for over twenty years, more or less since the website SixDegrees.com hit our screens. Other early platforms, now almost forgotten, were Friends Reunited, Myspace and Bebo.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA ANYWAY? How it is effecting Personal Life of people ?
When Facebook first began, back in 2004, it targeted a small, elite group of users and it does not make damage the social and personal life of the people. Now, a huge part of its appeal is that you can connect with others around the globe, whether they’re five thousand miles away or just next door. In its early days, Facebook was aimed only at those with a connection to Harvard University. Now, it’s highly probable even your granny uses it. (My more senior relatives regularly defeat me at the word game Words with Friends.)
In the early days of mobile phone technology, about the most enticing and visual use of the screen was a small, addictive computer game where you attempted to stop a rapidly moving, pixellated snake from crashing into virtual walls. As Smartphones got smaller, lighter and cheaper overall, they also became more common.
Now, there is very little you can’t do via modern Smartphones – order groceries; make a video call; switch on your heating; pay your parking; watch a movie. Occasionally you can even make an ordinary telephone call, or combine the two by using applications like WhatsApp.
We’ve all been there: when our phone goes off unexpectedly in the middle of a meeting, or a family gathering, or even a wedding. Once it was possible to check business emails from home, and Wifi became widespread, it became increasingly difficult to escape.
We’ve become almost incapable of functioning without a microchip within easy reach, whether it’s inside a Smartphone, tablet, or, more recently, voice activated assistants like Alexa and Siri. And Smartphone addiction is a real condition. (3). What originally started as a way to enhance the quality of relationships by connecting more and bring people closer together is now doing quite the opposite.
WHY IS IT SO COMMON?
In a reflex response which would have fascinated Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov (4), we have become conditioned to listen out for social media notifications. When we hear the ‘ping’ of an incoming message, how many of us race for our phone? If you need a way to pass the time in between appointments, or to pass those wearisome public transport journeys without having to interact with real people around you, social media offers an acceptable way of doing just that. We have always been social animals, seeking validation from others like us. And social media allows us to link with those of like mind, creating a virtual community online.
PHYSICAL HEALTH EFFECTS
It is, however, now well documented that our always-on, always-in, 24/7 digital world is not good for us, overall. The blue screens of our computer and telephone equipment are known to affect our circadian rhythms, particularly if we insist on checking our messages just before sleeping (5). That’s without contemplating the effect on our waistline, as we become much more sedentary: it remains difficult to walk and engage in social media at the same time. And just as Repetitive Strain Injury was something of an occupational hazard for those regularly using keyboards twenty years ago, ‘texting thumb’, or de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, is now a recognised medical condition. (6).
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH EFFECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION
We’re social animals. We need to belong. And the fear of missing out, or FOMO for short, is very, very real. We all like to think our way of looking at the world is the best and most valid; and one of the joys, and traps, of social media is that it can lull us into thinking our way of seeing the world is the only way. Responding to all those ‘Likes’ and ‘Requests to Connect’ releases the reward hormone dopamine into our bloodstream. (7)
And while we can smile indulgently in the early stages of the addiction, since all of us will have at least one friend incapable of getting through a fifteen minute conversation without checking their screen, the toll it can take on our ability to function emotionally can be sobering. In extreme cases, social media addicts have been known to neglect their daily duties and families, sometimes leading to tragic results.
So what can we do about it? Well, one of the first steps in realizing we have an addiction problem is to acknowledge it and take a stand with the new group to counter act FOMO which is JOMO (Joy of missing out). So start by keeping a log of just how long you spend on social media. (You can do this the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. – you don’t have to download an app.)
Make sure you have some ‘down time’ every day, even if it’s just an hour. And if you’re in employment, is this an area where your employer can help? In France, this issue was highlighted five years ago. (8)
Think about taking a little exercise, or doing something that doesn’t require social media input – read a book, bake a cake, work in the garden, take your neighbour’s dog for a walk. And if you’re in a position to take a longer break, there are still places in the world where it’s so difficult to get a signal you’ll have no option but to go “cold turkey”. As well as obvious locations like deserts and far flung rural areas, the mountains of Scotland and Wales or the moors of the English West Country are often reception and WiFi “dark spots”.
So own your social media addiction – and take the first step towards beating it.