Social Media: A Demon in Disguise
Every one of you reading this right now is in possession of one of the dangerous drugs in the history of mankind. A drug that follows you day in and day out, everywhere you go, getting you high multiple times per hour. One that can cause significant damage to your brain chemistry and lead to depression, anxiety, ADHD, and even suicide, and is affecting the lives of almost half of the current world population. And most importantly, it is a drug that you voluntarily give to your child at an extremely vulnerable age, without question. This narcotic falls under the deceptive disguise of the term social media. Every one of you reading this right now is in possession of one of the dangerous drugs in the history of mankind.
A drug that follows you day in and day out, everywhere you go, getting you high multiple times per hour. One that can cause significant damage to your brain chemistry and lead to depression, anxiety, ADHD, and even suicide, and is affecting the lives of almost half of the current world population. And most importantly, it is a drug that you voluntarily give to your child at an extremely vulnerable age, without question. This narcotic falls under the deceptive disguise of the term social media. Social media is arguably one of the most impactful innovations of the 21st Century. Having swept our world faster than any plague in history, it boasts almost 3 billion current users despite being just over a decade old (Number of social).
Facebook alone has garnered a worth of $470 billion in a little over a decade, with an astonishing 900 million members (Facebook Net Worth). The ultra-connectivity of social media has brought people, businesses, and even industries together unlike anything else in history, and it continues to expand as technology advances to unimaginable levels. However, this experimental platform of interconnectivity has far more consequences on the human psyche than anybody could have predicted. The entire social dynamic of human beings may be at risk.
Though social media has brought forth a plethora of new possibilities to our current society, it has been shown to negatively affect the brain, significantly elevate anxiety, and decrease productivity among users. There is a treacherous, unspoken of side to social media that may outweigh the perceived benefits. Social media is a drug unlike our society has ever seen. It is a drug that is designed to infiltrate one’s brain chemistry and hijack their emotions with the use subliminal techniques to keep its users chronically addicted, and forever under the control of the screen and its influence.
As human beings, we have evolved as a naturally tribal species. For hundreds of thousands of years as we struggled to survive at the hands of the unforgiving frontier of Mother Nature, we developed many traits that continue to affect us even in today’s technologically advanced civilization. Though many are reluctant to accept, human beings are domesticated wild animals; the environment has changed, however the physiological adaptations designed for primitive survival have remained engraved in human biology. This can make humans very susceptible to biological “traps”, where a certain area of vulnerability is exploited for financial gain and control. This concept can be witnessed in many aspects of society, for example, regarding food.
It is engraved in a humans DNA to seek the highest calorie dense foods because that is how the species survived during its evolutionary period. However, this has resulted in hundreds of millions of chronically obese people, and what is referred to today as the “obesity epidemic”. A similar phenomena can be witnessed in the industries of social media. It is engraved in a human beings DNA to seek the acceptance and validation of others because the species evolved as a tribal species. This acceptance and validation can be translated to the “likes”, “followers”, and overall engagement that is associated with social media, and certain chemicals in a human's brain are released following the use of these platforms. According to a recent study out of the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, “the same brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are activated when teenagers see large numbers of “likes” on their own photos or the photos of peers in a social network” (Wolpert).
Chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are released in large quantities following the use of social media. And, as demonstrated with drug use around the world, the artificial stimulation of these chemicals can result in a natural suppression of them, which can lead to severe depression and many other psychological disorders. This can also cause withdrawal symptoms in users in quantities similar to a drug addiction. This can be witnessed when any teenage child or even adult is forced to go without their device or access to certain social media outlets. In essence, social media can be just as powerful as a potent narcotic when it comes to the artificial stimulation of brain activity, and with that comes a large range of side effects. Social media has also been demonstrated to significantly elevate anxiety among users. Social media has garnered human beings the ability to portray one’s life as the most appealing and “perfect” it can be. A users profile is essentially a highlight of their experiences and the users legitimate mental state and true quality of life is absent from their personal advertised collection. What this does is create a false perception of other people’s lives to the viewer, and as a result it can lead to feelings of envy, depression, low self-worth, loneliness, and things of the like.
According to a study out of the Journal of Adolescence which evaluated 467 Scottish Teens and their social media use, “those who were more emotionally invested in social media experienced poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety and depression” (Scott). Similar results were found in a study out of the Journal of Affective Disorders, concluding with the statement that “more time spent using social media was significantly associated with greater symptoms of dispositional anxiety” (Vanucci). The misleading presentation of one’s life and experiences that is highlighted in social media has been demonstrated among research to increase the presence of anxiety as shown in these two studies, and as a result general anxiety levels worldwide are increasing. This is especially evident among teens and young adults who continue to be the highest demographic involved in social media. Social media has also been associated with a decreased rate of productivity through the astronomical amount of time that users spend on various social media outlets.
As touched on earlier, social media has essentially been hacking the brain of its users. Addictive qualities are deliberately integrated into social media applications to force users to spend as much time as possible on the applications. Largely, these strategies have been a success from a business point of view, however the productivity of average citizen can be greatly inhibited with this constant distraction. According to an article from the outlet Social Media Today, “the average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media every day, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime”. A report published by Common Sense Media details how “social media usage among teenagers has drastically increased between 2012 and 2018. A survey conducted in the U.S. earlier this year showed that 70 percent of teenagers (13-17) check social media several times a day, up from just 34 percent in 2012.”
The article went on to state “16 percent of today’s teens admit to checking their social feeds nearly constantly and another 27 percent do so on an hourly basis” (Richter) . How can one focus with a constant stream of information at their hands at all times of the day? Social media has also been associated with a decreased attention span. According to Alyssa Deitchman, a Ph.D. student of Clinical Psychology, in an article from Steinhart Department of Applied Psychology, “British Neurologist Lady Greenfield connects social media and attention at idea that social networking allows for “instant gratification” due to the instantaneous nature that operates at “unrealistic timescales”. The short-attention-span issue is linked to the idea that social networking encourages the reward center of the bran to signal as it does with drug use, due to the instantly gratifying nature of these simulated interactions” (Deitchman).
Many other studies have also concluded that social media is significantly reducing our productivity, and it is recommended to reduce your screen time to avoid these risks. Social media has been undoubtedly one of the most innovative technologies of the time. It has united billions of people from across the world, and allowed for a social connection unlike ever before. It has created opportunities for businesses to thrive and resulted in a multibillion dollar mega-industry. However, social media comes with extremely damaging side effects to the human psyche. Because of its design and subliminal, addictive qualities, social media has been demonstrated to negatively impact the brain in a way similar to a narcotic, elevating dopamine and serotonin levels in users through engagement. It has also been proven to elevate anxiety levels, for reasons such as the misrepresentation and misleading demonstration people's lives and perceived successes through the use of profiles and other aspects associated with these online communication platforms.
Because of the addictive qualities of social media, the time spent on these applications is alarming, and as a result it has also decreased productivity and shortened attention spans among users. Although social media can be a fantastic thing, it is very important to understand the risks of this experimental technology. With the human brain especially vulnerable to being taken advantage of through the exploitation of certain biological adaptations and habitual behaviors, it is clear social media is hacking into our reward system and affecting the social psyche of young men and women. Children can be especially vulnerable to this new technology and it is important to be educated on the risks of social media before incorporating it into you or your child's lives. Though it is nearly impossible to erase social media out of the average citizen's daily life because of society's increasing dependence on the technology, it is important to be aware of the risks and take action accordingly, especially when the health of your own child may be at stake.
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