As humans, we exist to co-exist. A large part of our motivation comes from the opinions, and acceptance of others. But what happens when we replace face-to-face interactions with the latest mind-numbing game on the app store? Today I see many people, including myself, staring blankly at their phones rather than putting them down to engage with the person next to them. In today’s world, we have replaced face-to-face socialization with social media. The use of such technology causes depression among its users while disconnecting the user from its external environment. The use of modern technology is destroying our social interactions and leads to mental health issues like depression.
Modern Technology is greatly diminishing social interaction, and our social psyche. Consider for example the television. When this technology came out, it brought families together to watch their favorite shows every week. It may seem as through this would bring individuals together to socialize and connect. However the quality of socializing is very poor. In this situation, individuals are gathered in close proximity, however they are quietly observing the show. (Kraut, 1998) Therefore there is little to no social interaction happening in this activity. Television and other technologies are also taking away time for face-to-face contact with others. With new services like Netflix, one could watch their favorite show for hours at a time. This also can be applied across many technologies like cellphones, the internet, and video game systems. When someone disassociates themselves from real world interaction for that long, it takes away time for socializing with others. This, in extreme cases, can lead to degeneration of social ability, and disconnect in relationships. Robert Kraut, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University defines the term of a “strong tie” in his work, “Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well-Being?” He presents strong ties as relationships, in which you interact with said person on a regular basis. You have face-to-face contact and make deep connections with the person. Using technology takes away from the time regularly occupied by strong ties, and can cause psychological damage. Kraut also indicates, “…strong ties are supported by physical proximity.” Therefore the use of technologies such as texting and phone calls may feel like strong socialization, however you are not building a strong tie relationship.
In Krauts research, he studies the effects of the use of the internet against social involvement. Based on the criteria of communication within family and strong ties, it was found that there was a statistically significant decline in social involvement (Kraut, 1998). The loss of these strong ties can prove to be harmful to the social psyche, because these relationships distract from stress in one’s life, and can lead to a positive psychological and social outcomes (S Cohen & Wills 1985). When stress builds up, it can lead to mental health issues such as depression. Two researchers at the University of Leeds conducted a study that compared subjects who used the internet 2 hours a day against subjects who used the internet 4 hours a day. Based on a controlled survey, the subjects that used the internet 4 hours daily were significantly more likely to develop moderate to severe depression (Morrison & Gore, 2010). From this study, it is evident that there is a clear connection between hours spent on the internet and the likelihood of developing a mental health disorder. Why is this? The answer lies within the realm of social media.
Social media is the most abundant form of technological socialization today. Social media is a form of communication that allows users to interact with other users regardless of geographical displacement. A specific type of social media is social networking sites, which are very popular in today’s pre-adolescent and adolescent age groups. These sites include Facebook, Instagram, twitter, snapchat, etc. It is common for these sites to allow a user to post photo, video, and text updates about what they are doing. This can be seen by a selective group of friends. Friends can be selected or rejected by the user when a friend request is made. When a friend comes across a post, they can like it, comment on it, and even repost it. This leaves opportunity to praise someone, or to leave a negative remark in the comments section.
Social Media can play lead to social hierarchies and depression among users. Whenever someone leaves a like, or a positive comment on a post, this can be observed by the other users. The number of likes per post and friends a user has, can contribute to their popularity, or prestige. Social Media using numeric “rating” can lead to a clear list of users from most prestigious, to least prestigious. This allows for users to rank themselves based on where they fall on this list, and create a social hierarchy. This can do severe damage to a user’s mental health, because when you fall into a low position on the social hierarchy, it can provoke a depressive state in the user (Blease C. R., 2015). Not only does social media form social hierarchies, but a user’s profile presents a false narrative of themselves. When choosing what to post, a user will cycle through many images, making sure they have chosen the most flattering. The user will refrain from uploading a post with something negative about their life. When friends are looking through posts about their friends having nothing but positives posts, it provokes the user to question their life problems. This can also lead to depression, as being defined as a social outlier. I personally have struggled with metal health issues. When scrolling through posts on Instagram of everyone looking happy and excited, it made me question why I was not like them. This only increased my mental health problems as I felt like a loner when I saw my friends post about social events. Overall I felt like an outcaste because of social media.
It can be argued that the use of social media can offer support in an individual’s identity, and social skills (Schurgin O’Keefe, 2011). However this can only be argued if social media is assumed to be a totally positive environment. Those who are at the top of the social hierarchy in social media have the most power. This means that they have more freedom to say what they want with limited restriction, and those who oppose them are socially outcaste (Blease C. R., 2015). With limited social restriction, users can target other users with negative and hateful posts. This is known as cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is made much easier opposed to real life bullying, as the bully can hide behind a screen, and feel little guilt of their actions. Take just one of many cases of cyber bullying of 13 year old Megan Meier. Megan was targeted online through posts targeting her weight and attention deficit disorder. One post left on her MySpace page (a social networking site) read, “The world would be a better place without you.” Megan had previously struggled with mental health issues, but these incidences caused her commit suicide (Pokin, 2007). One can imagine the bright future she had ahead of her, if it weren’t for the hostile environment of her peers on social media. Not only does social media give bullies a more convenient way to bully users, but it can prove to be dangerous, especially to adolescents.
Modern technology is ruining our quality of face-to-face socialization, and is contributing to mental health disorders. Technology is used to distract from stress and can cause depression from this. It is also an outlet that promotes fake identity, social hierarchies, and bullying. If you find yourself dissociating with the world around you, put your phone down, and have a conversation with someone close to you.
Kraut, Robert. “Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well Being?” American Psychologist. vol. 53, no. 9, 1998, pp. 1017-1031. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.
Blease, C. R. “Too Many ‘Friends’ Too Few ‘Likes’? Evolutionary Psychology and ‘Facebook Depression’.” Review of General Psychology. vol. 19, no. 1, Mar. 2015, pp. 1-13. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.
Schurgin O’Keefe, Gwenn. “Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.” Pediatrics. vol. 127, no. 4, Mar. 2011, pp. 800-804. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017
Morrison, C. M., & Gore, H. The relationship between excessive Internet use and depression: A questionnaire-based study of 1,319 young people and adults. Psychopathology, vol. 43, 2010 121–126. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.
Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, vol. 98, no.2 310–357. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.
Steve Pokin. “Megan's Story.” Megan Meier Foundation | The Story of Megan Meier, St. Charles Journal, 13 Nov. 2007, www.meganmeierfoundation.org/megans-story.html. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.
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