Social media is a tool that is used all over the world. We connect with others, access to different information, and many more things in free. Yes! The word free that I used just now is a major issue for all of us as it affects our mental health.
You ask how? See, if you are not paying for the product, then you are a product. There are all these services on the Internet that we think of as free, but they are not free. They are paid by advertisers. Why do advertisers pay for those companies? They pay in exchange for showing their adds to us.
Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are competing for people’s attention. It is their business model to keep people engaged on the screen. We now know that many of the major companies hire individuals called attention engineers who borrow the principals from Las Vegas casino gambling, among other places, to try to make these tools as addictive as possible.
Social media is not a tool that is just waiting to be used. It has its own goals, and it has its own means of pursuing those goals by using your psychology against you.
How Social Media Affects us?
Social media was not designed by a child psychologist who is trying to protect and nurture children. They were just designed to make algorithms, that were really good at recommending the next video to you or good at getting you to take a photo with a filter on it.
Numerous studies from the US, the United Kingdom, Canada have linked this high Social media usage with anxiety, depression. But the scary thing is that high social media use is everywhere I know: my friends, my family, even when you are having dinner teens are mostly distracted by these apps.
90% of 18-29 years old are on social media. We spend on average two hours a day on social media. Anything we do this often is worthy of critical observation. You might not feel it right now but anything we spend this much time has lasting effects on us.
So let’s discuss these effects which if left unchecked have the potential to convert into major mental health. issues.
Don’t be confused. Just like in cricket the highlights are the collection of the best moments. Social media is our highlight, we only share good pictures to show so-called perfect life. But we struggle with insecurity because we are constantly comparing ourselves with others.
It was there even before social media, like watching a celebrity on television but social media takes it to another level. It is happening all the time and directly links to you. By watching someone’s photos you are unconsciously or consciously comparing yourselves with them.
There is a Snapchat dysmorphia which means by having plastic surgery they want to look more at how they look in Snapchat filters.
Being Outcast or F.O.M.O
F.O.M.O stands for fear of missing out. It is actually social anxiety from the fear that you are missing a potential connection, event, or opportunity.
A collection of Canadian Universities found that seven out of ten students said they would get rid of their social media accounts if it were not for the fear of being left out of the group.
40% of online adult users have experienced online harassment. 73% have witnessed it. The unfortunate reality is that it is much worse and much more likely if you are a woman, LGBTQ, a person of color.
You have to understand that these small moments happen over and over again, over time, that is when we have a big problem. You have to recognize the everyday examples as well. Because if they go unchecked and the effects unnoticed, we are going to have many people committing suicides in the coming years.
The effects are not always easy to recognize. Maybe you are not able to focus on something because of the notifications that you need to check. This kind of need eventually becomes an addiction without your noticing.
Social media is designed in a way where you will get addicted. With every like, you get a shot of dopamine. To feel good again we check likes one more time. We become anxious if we do not have access to it. Doesn’t it sound like any drug addiction?
The Canadian Association of Mental Health found that grades 7-12 students who spent two hours a day on social media reported higher levels of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
When you upload a photograph of yourself on Facebook, Instagram, or any other websites, that’s a moment when our mind is very vulnerable to knowing what other people think of the new photograph I just uploaded. And when we get to know new likes on our profile photo, these social media apps knowing this, could message me and notify you about you have new likes on your picture. It knows that you will be vulnerable to that time because we all care when we are tagged in a photograph.
We know that by using social media a chemical called dopamine is released. It is the same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke when we drink when we gamble. In simple words it is addictive.
Because of social media addiction, people sleep for fewer hours which leads to sleep deprivation. That’s why it is advised to stay away from electronic devices one hour before going to bed
Today’s generation doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress. They are not turning to a person in stress they are turning to social media which offers temporary relief.
According to researches, we know that people who spend more time on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on social media.
People who commit suicide, you go and look at their Instagram, you would have no clue that they were depressed. People look like they have a much better life than they really do. If you look at everyone on Instagram you might start the comparison, all these happy, beautiful people and I am not that happy or good-looking.
We have to understand that some of the happiest looking people on social media, in reality, some of them are the saddest people in real life.
Social media have the potential to influence people’s thought. What we are witnessing now is a global assault on democracy. Most of the countries that are targeted are countries that run democratic elections. The most famous example of this is the Cambridge-Analytica scandal.
You might think about how social media is an existential threat? All you did with your was scrolling, clicking, using it, so where is the existential threat? There is the supercomputer on the other side of your screen, pointing at your brain, got you to watch another video. What is wrong with it? It is not about the technology being the existential threat. It is the technical ability to bring out the worst in society. This is the existential threat.
If left unchecked or not having appropriate laws social media can create a civil war in the future.
It means the amount of time you spent concentrating on something without being distracted. Social media is decreasing our attention span. We get easily bored and want something new to watch or do.
The effect of a decreased attention span is you won’t be able to concentrate properly for a longer time. It will affect your performance at school or work, you won’t be able to complete daily tasks efficiently by missing out important information.
How To Escape Social Media Addiction?
1- Delete Social Media
This is the best method I can suggest if you want to live a mentally healthy life. We talked about the effects of social media on our lifestyle. I think it is enough to motivate you to leave social media.
2-Limit Social Media Usage
Yes, deleting social media is a harsh step but the most effective method. Although it can be hard for many people to leave social media because of memes etc. So, you can try to limit your social media usage. Set a time limit for your social media usage. But it is not possible to keep track of your usage and there is no guarantee that you will not use your social media after the time limit.
So, I would recommend you to install SocialX. It is the best social media tracking app and it will not let you use social media after a certain limit. So, give it a try.
3- Develop A Hobby
Social media addiction is the same as drug addiction. And it has the same dopamine effect on your mind as a drug. So, to detox your dopamine you have to indulge in a new activity, such as sports, drawing, exercise, etc. The more you busy yourself the more you stay away from social media. So, develop a new hobby.
4- No Social Media At Night
Make a hard rule to not to use social media at night. Leave all the devices half an hour before bed. Utilize this time in making your bed, reading, talking with parents, write down some journals, etc, whatever you like it depends upon you. You can exercise as well, doing exercises will make you feel exhausted and you will get good sleep too.
You have read all these effects and their impacts. I know even if I say stop using it, you won’t stop it. But now you know about it. So don’t compare yourself with others. It is just a fake smile for a post. Social media like and comments are just temporary happiness. So don’t take too seriously.
Next time if you go for a picnic or just an outing focus on enjoying and making memories. Invest your precious time on improving yourself instead of using social media for long hours.