“What I have seen with the rise of social media is that children are not facing bullying on a playground, they are facing it on their cell phones.” – Whitney Wolfe Herd
There was a time when people looked happy and there was a different glow on their faces, but when we see people today, that redness and that happiness has been taken away. Humans are known to be sociable creatures. To prosper in life, we require the company of others, and the quality of our relationships has a significant influence on our mental health and well-being. Being socially linked to people may alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, increase self-esteem, bring comfort and happiness, reduce loneliness, and even add years to our life. Conversely, a lack of social relationships can be detrimental to mental and emotional health.
In today’s world, many of us rely on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram to find and connect with each other. While each has its benefits, it is important to remember that social media can never be a replacement for real world human connections. It requires in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel happier, healthier and more positive. In 2019, the WHO estimated the average global lifespan is 73.4 years, and if we assume that many people start using social media at younger age, this means the average person will spend a total of more than 3.4 million minutes using social media in their life time.
In 2022, 3.96 billion people use social media, which is more than half the world’s population. This number is expected to reach 4.41 billion in 2025. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows people spend more time on social media than on some everyday activities. Spending too much time with social media can actually make you feel lonelier and more isolated and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and depression, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. This is because of the negative aspects of using social media as there is:
• Inadequacy about one’s life or appearance
• Fear of missing out
• Depression and anxiety
• Cyber bullying
This round-the-clock hyper connectivity can prompt impulse control problems, the persistent alerts and notifications affect concentration and focus, disturb sleep and make you a slave to your phone. Social media platforms (SMP) are designed to snare your attention, keep you online and repeatedly checking your screen for updates. It is much like an addiction to any drug or gambling compulsion; social media use can create psychological cravings. Nowadays it has been seen that people use social media as a ‘security blanket’: whenever they are in social situations, feel anxious, they turn to their phones.
Social media isn’t all bad. It can be a good thing if it is used properly. We must limit the time we spend on SMP. We must stay busy, catch up with friends face to face. Breaking the social media addiction will improve physical as well as emotional well-being in no time.
To sum up with this splendid quote by Earl Sweatshirt: “Everyone’s like sheep on social media; one person starts making noise, and everyone’s like, ‘Hey, yeah!’ and then you got a whole bunch of people making noise at you.”
Both writers are PhD scholars.