Social Media: A Dangerous Habit

Libby Shea, Contributor

Whether you’re a young adolescent or a maturing adult, using social media seems almost necessary in daily life. While these apps may be seen as harmless diversions from responsibility, several studies have shown that we may be subjecting ourselves to unhealthy habits while scrolling through the media. 

 

Apps like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok all exhibit an enticing design used to hook their users’ attention for hours on end. According to the West Virginia Education Association, kids spend an average of 9 hours per day only on social media websites. This statistic does not include the amount of time spent on screens for educational purposes, which would significantly increase cumulative screen time. Social media is used by many as a stress-relieving diversion, but the endless time on these apps has negative effects on our health. Most of the time, the media serves as an escape from common stressors. Unfortunately, by subjecting ourselves to this extensive escape, other important aspects of our daily lives are ignored. These hours spent on screens could be better spent on physical activity, face-to-face connections, or work/school assignments. Time spent on social media detracts from regular personal care habits and physical activity by alluring users to a screen for hours at a time. 

 

This is especially true for teenagers using social media, as it acts as a replacement for homework. Based on a study by the Child Mind Institute, the presence of a device while doing homework is one of the largest distractors due to impulsivity in adolescents. Even though it may be powered off, having a device in the homework vicinity serves as a distraction because it symbolizes socialization and communication. Kids easily subject themselves to this distraction, and therefore lack production on their homework. In summary, because social media takes up so much time, it is a dangerous weapon when it comes to staying on top of school work.

 

One of the most captivating elements of social media is the idea of followers, likes, and comments. Almost every user is familiar with the thrill connected to each of these. Consider having 1,500 followers, or 500 likes…it’s understandable why that might bring users delight! But this feeling serves as a double-edged sword. With likes and comments, platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook create a social competition between their users. Especially in teenage girls, concentration on likes decreases self-esteem and weakens users’ mental health. One study, conducted by a team of researchers at Ryerson University, found that the more people use social media, the lower their self-esteem levels are. This is directly related to the comparison between users and other people on the app. Hypothetically speaking, say Libby and Summer both posted on Instagram. If Libby’s post gets more likes than Summer’s, Summer would be left wondering why she isn’t as popular. This damage to self-esteem is draining to all users, no matter their age or gender. 

 

For numerous users, the purpose of creating a post is to gain as many likes and followers as possible. When this goal is not achieved, users’ confidence levels drop and leave them questioning their level of popularity or influence on the rest of the media community. Like Summer, people wonder what it is about themselves that does not meet the “accepted” social standard. When you create a post on social media, you fabricate the opportunity for comparison and negativity for yourself and others. Very few people can successfully escape the undertow of this competition, though many believe they have. So, what’s the simplest solution? Not using social media. 

People often praise social media for providing a simple social connection between users. They believe that it is especially beneficial to those who experience social anxiety, as it provides a means of communication without the physical face-to-face aspect. But it isn’t that simple. The connection comes with dangerous consequences for our mental health, specifically by causing the fear of missing out, also known as FOMO. Though it may seem to alleviate this issue, social media increases levels of anxiety and even depression in its users. 

 

FOMO became an issue when social media’s popularity started to increase. As Nottingham Trent University’s psychologists found, FOMO is one of the most prominent causes of addiction to apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and others. The feeling is directly correlated with social competition. Sharing posts and stories with friends produces a large amount of jealousy and resentment between friendships and those who feel left out. Shockingly, as seen from statistics by OptinMonster, approximately 69% of millennials on social media experience FOMO. With more than the majority experiencing the feeling, there is a reason for alarm. FOMO’s bitter feelings contribute to anxiety and depression as users are left questioning whether or not they’re good enough… all caused by social media.

 

To further emphasize the extent of this problem, put yourself in a situation where your best friend has posted a Snapchat story with all of your other friends. If you’re the only one not invited, wouldn’t you feel jealous? For most, the answer is an immediate yes. One article published by The Economic Times states that FOMO makes users hyper-focused on the happenings in other people’s lives. This addiction is not only a waste of time, but it also increases anxiety levels and contributes to low self-esteem. Unfortunately, in this form, social media is like a drug: you try it, you get addicted, and then you have to deal with the consequences. While this is not true for all, a vast majority can admit that they are indeed addicted to the harmful apps at hand. 

 

It may seem as though the extensive list of consequences of using social media is limited to social, mental, and active well-being. Nevertheless, social media has one significant repercussion that most people do not realize: it affects the quality of your sleep. 

 

Stop and think for a minute. How well did you sleep last night? Did you sleep deeply, gaining enough hours to feel rejuvenated for the day? Did you use your phone before bed, and did you sleep with it in your room?

 

Though it may not seem so, the quality of your sleep is directly related to social media usage. Sleepstation.org reports that scrolling through media is one of the most popular pre-sleep activities. The problem with this is that phones release a form of light called blue-light, meant to keep our brains attentive during the day. Understandably so, the blue-light from phones decreases our ability to fall asleep as it stunts the production of melatonin. Phones are often overlooked as a reason for deficient sleep, when in fact they’re a leading contributor to a restless night. To get a good night’s sleep, set your phone down and pick up a book or practice breathing exercises instead of scrolling through social media. 

 

The next time you pick up your phone, consider the obstructive implications that social media will bring. Whether it’s tapping through Snapchat, scrolling on TikTok, or posting on Facebook, there are consequences we all must overcome. Rather than posting and sharing, keep your phone turned off and enjoy meaningful conversations face-to-face. After all, personal connections and shared memories are what matters at the end of our days. To live your life to the fullest, set your phone down. Take it all in.