With the increasing popularity of social media, it has now become almost impossible to keep one out of it. Not only Facebook, being the biggest of the league and having more than one-third of the world’s population an account with it, but other applications as Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and even WhatsApp are slowly gaining over us. The sedentary lifestyle has minimalized our physical activity and, addiction to social media has made it even worse.
The question often arises that is social media a real thing? The answer is yes and absolutely yes. Social media can reign over your thought-process, can make it or break it, can make you feel a total loser or a megalomaniac. Too much exposure often alienates you from real family and friends. It’s an irony that while you engage with your virtual contacts, you simultaneously are avoiding the real ones.
Then, should we abstain from social media platforms? My answer is, NO. As in other fields of life, here also, balancing is the keyword. Prudent use of social media can help you to make new friends, to keep in constant contact with the old ones, to share opinions with like-minded people, to exhibit your creativity to a larger audience.
If it is so, one may ask, then how does social media negatively impact our mental health?
In a review study, Prof D J Kuss and Prof M D Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University have clearly said–
“The mass appeal of social networks on the Internet could potentially be a cause for concern, particularly when attending to the gradually increasing amounts of time people spend online.”
The cause for concern is definitely there for some reasons.
Social media addiction happens for different reasons. Extroverts find it as an excellent platform to reveal their thoughts to a lot of people, introverts get attracted as they can spill out their feelings in the form of writing, narcissists can show-off, haters can use it as a shield, bullies use it for sadistic pleasures and so on. Whatever the reason is, the effect remains the same — addiction. It gradually makes the addict glued to the screen, avoiding simple pleasures of life, suffering from frequent mood shifting. They start dwelling in a virtual bubble, a self-created comfort zone beyond which, their tolerance level becomes zero.
2. It Encourages Social Comparison
Social media puts one in the midst of a constant comparison, often unknowingly. People keep on sharing their moments of happiness, what they have bought, whether they are going abroad for a trip or about getting precious gifts from their spouses. They highlight the brightest sides leaving behind the mundane This, automatically, following human psychology, can put a person, unable to afford such luxuries, under tremendous pressure. She/he feels the urge to keep up with the Joneses and, the consequence could be a tragic one. It also initiates the feelings of jealousy and envy. As we, most of the times, only reveal our brighter sides on social media, we begin to think that grass is genuinely greener on the other side. This unhappiness and envy can even lead to depression. Teenagers suffer most from this, but almost all age-groups fall into the trap.
3. The Hunger For “Likes” and “Share”
Likes and Shares are perhaps more magical than abracadabra in the world of social media. While we post something, the number of likes provides us with an instant gratification, a feeling of wide social acceptance. The ephemerality of the fame initiated by likes encourages one to post more and more; it’s like a vicious circle– more posts, more likes, even more posts. Thus, addiction slowly starts to invade our mind and we begin to live virtually in a virtual world. A pretty good number of beauty apps, both for men and women and, the continuous technological advent of front cameras on mobiles to click the perfect flawless selfie encash this hunger for likes! They want us to feel good, each time and always, no matter how. We create a bubble around us, a comfort zone, beyond which we don’t even want or dare to venture out. Our ‘approval-seeking’ and ‘attention-seeking’ traits thus become more dominant with each passing day making us weak and coward as real human beings.
4. The Delusional Thought That Social Media Helps in Depression
We often think that spending some time on popular social media platforms could be therapeutic when we are not feeling good. The truth is, it makes us more depressive as we compare our conditions with others in our sub-conscious minds. Moreover, social media keeps the world’s negative news in clear view. Their strong algorithmic structure fetches more and more of such news if an individual, even accidentally or by curiosity clicks one such links. It\s better to restrain from social media when we feel depressed. Virtual world seldom helps us to get over our mental illness. On the other hand, several kinds of research have shown just the opposite.
The above discussion is not to preach that we should restrain ourselves from using various social media platforms. Social media is not an evil, it too has some positive attributions. The crux is, we should use our prudence while using it. Balancing between the real and the virtual world and occasional detoxification from the latter one (a short hiatus) can help a lot.
We should use social media according to our will and wisdom, don’t let them use you!