Humans are social creatures. We crave the affection of other people and seek it out throughout our whole existence. These connections allow us to feel safe and secure in such a harsh and chaotic world.
Before the rise of social media and technology, people had to go out and meet other people face-to-face in order to interact with our social bonds. Crazy, right? You couldn’t just post on your friend’s page to tell them happy birthday; you had to go find them. You couldn’t tweet the nearest pizza place to get a pizza delivered to your door; you had to go get it. You couldn’t watch live music in the palm of your hand; you had to go see it.
The social media craze of today has actually made us become less social. And as convenient as social media is at connecting us to people, places, and things even faster than before and without ever leaving home, too much of it isn’t all that great for our mental health and wellbeing. And in today’s society, it is easy to be exposed to too much social media.
Technology has taken over and everyone over the age of 10 owns a smart phone that is connected to at least one social media platforms. Millennials and younger are at the highest risk of mental problems due to social media usage. This is because unlike all the generations before, these children are growing up in a world where everyone is glued to their phone screens and newfeeds during the most crucial times of mental development when they are supposed to be learning valuable social skills.
Because interactions via social media are nonverbal it is impossible to pick up on things like tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language, all of which are important cues to understanding face-to-face communication. Texts can be read wrong and feelings can be misinterpreted. But social media isn’t getting any less popular so most people growing up with technology will never learn how to pick up on these social cues.
And it’s not only social cues that are missed; personal face-to-face communication is completely taking away many important social interactions. These are things like making friends or simply calling the doctor to make an appointment. By not developing the proper communication skills, it means that most of these children will develop severe social anxiety as they age and enter the real world, making it hard for them to just simply talk another human being.
Social media has also allowed children to dehumanize others due to the fact that they are talking to a screen and not an actual human, so they don’t fully understand the impact their words may have on others. This has given them the ability to become ever-increasingly cruel due to the fact that they can send a message they couldn’t say in-person and then hide behind their phones without giving it a second thought.
Another milestone that is tampered by social media is the need for peer acceptance. Instead of making new friends, children growing up with technology rely on likes and comments to verify their feelings of acceptance. Because apparently the lower the likes means the lower the value of the person is worth which can damage their self-esteem.
Their self-esteem is hurt even more by the fact that children know when they are being ignored. Social media sites have even added a “read receipt” on messages, which only heightens their anxiety of being ignored. Now people are using the online silent treatment to break up with their significant others without ever giving them a reason, leaving them doubting their worth and obsessing over what they may have done wrong.
Most of their online “connections” aren’t actually real connections. The more online connections a person has, the easier it is to get jaded by their own cyberspace, which in turn, makes them value their online life more, a life that isn’t actually real. Thus, they pour so much time and energy into creating their ideal social media profile to guarantee they fit in to boost their likes and ultimately their confidence. However, this identity almost never matches up with their real self, which can lead to self-dissatisfaction especially when their best efforts aren’t getting the attention they felt it deserved, leaving them feeling rejected and worthless.
Too much social media can also put any real-life relationships at risk. Meaningful relationships can fall apart by stirring up feelings of jealousy and mistrust which lead to obsessive internet stalking of your significant other’s social media profiles.
And it doesn’t make it any easier that we’re constantly seeing other people’s “perfect” lives on our newsfeed. When children start to compare their life to the ones they see on Instagram and Facebook, self-esteem drops so low that they even begin to develop depression and envy. However, these “perfect” lives can’t be that perfect because no one is going to post a bad or mediocre selfie of themselves, thus making their goals of perfection completely unobtainable.
When all of these factors add up, children forget to enjoy the good things about like. The things like family, the outdoors, learning, creating, experiencing, and so much more. And when they do happen to go out and experience the real world, they can’t fully engage in the moment because they are too concerned about capturing the picture that will make their life look interesting and gain them some likes.
Children are so attached to their online life that they sacrifice things like sleeping and studying to check their pages every morning, every night, and every chance in between. And don’t even think about trying to take away a frequent social media users phone because when they can’t access their social medias, they start to feel anxious and worry about all the things they could be missing. But what they’re really missing is the beauty of reality.
Here are some more ways in which social media affects wellbeing:
- According to research reported by Psychology Today, heavy use of social media has been correlated to narcissistic tendencies. A Canadian study at York University followed Facebook users ages 18-25 and concluded that the people who used Facebook the most tended to have narcissistic or insecure personalities.
- High levels of Facebook use by couples were correlated with negative relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup and divorce, according to another study at the University of Missouri along with the University of Hawaii and St. Mary’s University.
- A study conducted at Stanford University of 80 Facebook users reviewed the number of positive and negative experience their peers experienced. It concluded users consistently over-estimated the fun their friends had and underestimated their own unhappy experiences and that basically, Facebook may worsen the tendency to think everyone is enjoying themselves more than you are.
If you feel like you or someone you know has been negatively affected by social media and developed a shattered self-esteem, take the time to watch this video about how to rebuild your self confidence.