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When social media becomes unsocial

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“Social media is not a medium. The key is to listen, get involved, and build relationships. ”That’s what David Alston said.

Social media is a tool that was created to connect people all over the world and provide easy access to people in all countries. It wasn’t long ago that we started breathing social media. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 use social media the most, almost 90% of them. But others are not left out. In a study by Smith and Page (2015), social media use among people over 65 has tripled since 2010 when only 10% of people used social media. It is not an exaggeration to say that social media is not a trend that only the youth follow; It is a habit that prevails for the entire population.

Social media today is not just any kind of connection. Rather, it has become our way of survival. Try to keep us up without staying in touch with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; it feels like a fish out of water. There are few phenomena in human history to rival the staggering growth that social media has seen.

Of course, this phenomenon has its downside, as every parent of a teenager has discovered.

Social media has become our mode of survival. Try to keep us up without staying in touch with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; it feels like a fish out of water.

Negative effects on mental health

There is a deluge of information that can severely affect mental wellbeing, leading to mental fatigue and loss of energy. A relevant study was conducted by Dhir (2018), the results of which suggested that compulsive use of social media led to mental fatigue. That’s not all. There are several problematic patterns emerging from the social media world.

Anxiety and Depression: Drowning in the sea of ​​emotions, anxiety and depressive states are the most common. More time to use social media, stronger symptoms of disposition anxiety, which was pretty obvious in a study by Vannucci (2017). The pattern of social media excessive use and depression is significant across all age groups.

Fear of missing out: Most of the time, the fear of missing out is related to social media consumption. Beyens (2016) showed in a study that stress related to Facebook usage increases the fear of missing out (FOMO). Fear of missing out puts people’s lives on autopilot.

Body image issues: The study conducted by Fardouly (2016) showed that body image concerns in young men and women primarily related to the use of social media, particularly Facebook, may exacerbate problems.

Teenage loneliness: Thousands of friends and followers and not even a single real relationship are trends of this generation. Lonely children and adolescents use the online mode to communicate their personal and intimate feelings than those who are not lonely (Bonetti, 2010).

A representative survey of teenagers in the US shed light on the relationship between screen time and suicidal ideation. It found that children who spent more time off-screen were less likely to report mental health problems than children who spent more time in front of the screen, including those on social media and smartphones (Twenge, 2017). The virtual world doesn’t really meet the need for real communication and connections.

Lower self-esteem: Constant comparison with a virtual representation of the life of others leads to a lower self-esteem, which makes young people feel unworthy. A study by Jan (2017) showed that there is a strong link between social media and self-esteem. It turned out that the relationship between them was a negative correlation. The increasing use of social media leads to a drop in self-esteem.

The dangers of FOMO

Among all the social media problems that have set a hashtag trend among teens is Fear of Missing Out (#fomo), a term coined by Dr. Herman was coined. It is like a flaw in the cognitive perception processes that everyone else is leading a better and happier life because of all the photos and tweets on their social platforms and that they are missing out on something fundamentally important while others on their friends list are experiencing it.

Often the young people are not aware that others are only bragging on these platforms. It is a space where everyone and everything can be bragged about. From the place you ate to the parties, you went. Most of the time, the happiness that is portrayed on social media platforms is also exaggerated. One study concluded that problematic smartphone use was positively correlated with envy and that this association was mediated by FoMO (Wang, 2019).

The most affected part of society are young people. A study by Fabris (2020) found that FoMO was associated with decreased emotional wellbeing in adolescents. A negative association was also found between neglect by online peers and increased sensitivity to stress, which was a trigger for social media addiction. There is no gender difference in the experience of FoMO, but the younger population certainly has higher rates for the same (Rozgonjuk, 2021).

The constant buzz of notifications from Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat distracts the majority from their work and hours are lost.

Then there is phubbing

Phubbing is the term used when people ignore someone they are with and instead pay attention to their phones. Al-Saggaf (2020) conducted a study to find the link between phubbing, fear of missing out, and boredom, noting that FoMO was used as an excuse for phub to avoid feeling bored. It’s like you’re surfing because you feel FoMO and then you feel FoMO because of the compulsive scrolling, which creates a vicious circle.

It was found that social media engagement on the one hand and fear and stress on the other hand are conveyed through FOMO. Social anxiety and compulsive Facebook use were also conveyed through fear of missing out and rumination. Due to the problematic usage behavior, there was a prominent connection between the use of social media and depressive symptoms. In some cases, problematic smartphone use also leads to learned helplessness.

Lack of attention span in the workplace

A study carried out in Germany by Rozgonjuk (2020) predicted a strong positive correlation between FoMO and the use disorder of social networks as well as a negative influence on productivity at work and the normal functioning of life. The constant buzz of notifications from Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and the like distracts most of their work and hours are wasted. This whole dark circle leads to work stress when deadlines are not met.

Research and studies have shown that our personalities are severely skewed because we are constantly trying to be someone else and do something more trendy. Trying to do this seems to make our entire identity error-prone. Worse, it’s not that people don’t realize what social media is doing to them. They acknowledge the fact that it makes them more anxious and depressed because the main focus is on what we are missing out on. This disturbs our overall mental well-being.

Let social media be a source to connect with people, and don’t make it a device to separate us from ourselves.

Four things to do:

There have been some interventions and research working to ground the people who may feel overwhelmed by using social media.

  • In the digital world where everything happens on social networks, giving up social media altogether won’t be practical, but you can certainly proceed with a regular digital detox to keep your mind healthy and functional. Turn off your cell phones on the weekends, or just uninstall some of these apps for two to three days, take the time to get back to doing other things you’ve always wanted to do.
  • If giving up social media doesn’t sound like a plan, limiting its usage can really help. Limiting social media use to 30 minutes a day can lead to significant changes in wellbeing (Hunt, 2018).
  • Keep an eye on your emotions in writing as you feel that FoMO can be one of the places to hold onto your emotions and not get carried away by them.
  • Try to keep a gratitude journal. Instead of constantly feeling like you’re missing out, live in the moment and try to be grateful for what you have.

From Aryavani Arya, Researcher specializing in psychology

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