Mind Vs Media
Mind Vs Media
The cost of social media is the deterioration of society’s mental health. A study in 2016 showed that an estimate of 44.7 million adults in the US, aged 18 and older, had mental illness. It also reported that young adults aged 18 to 25 years old had the highest prevalence of 22%, compared to adults aged 26-49 years with 21%, and 50 years and older at 14.5%.
By Common Society Issues
It is a universally accepted fact that human beings are instinctively communicative. From the moment a human is born, a baby’s cry signals to the mother that the baby is alive. As human beings age and grow, our need to communicate also evolves.
As an infant, we need to communicate with our caregivers to be able to survive. As students, we need to communicate with our peers to develop friendships. As adults, we need to communicate with our colleagues to fulfill our duties. And as creatures who are of high intellect, humans strived to design ways to make this need work easier across the years. Looking back, it really is incredible to think that we came from using animals as messengers, to instant voice and video messaging using a mobile device.
After pigeons and horses, humans communicated via telegram (not YET that app), which was invented in 1872. A telegraph machine is used to send messages via broadcast signals, from one post office to another. This is faster than snail mail, which was invented in 1969. However, telegram has a pay per word system, while snail mails do not have that limit.
This mode of communication was nicknamed “snail mail” because the speed in which the message is delivered is likened to that of a slow, hard-working member of the mollusk family. Letters sent to the post office will be delivered manually to the receiver’s address. Unlike with telegrams, where electronic messages are transmitted immediately to the post office nearest your receiver.
Years passed and civilization further evolved and new technology surfaced. By 1890, another design was brought out into the world to make communication faster. Telephones were invented. It allowed people to hear each other’s voices and relay long messages in real time. However, it could not replace the permanence letters offered. Messages exchanged over the telephone were transmitted fast, but it also disappeared in the air.
Another characterization of humans, we are sentient beings. If you have ever sat through one of your grandparents’ “During out time..” stories, you would have heard of love letters. Telegrams or snail mails not only delivered messages, some also served as memoirs for receivers to remember the senders by and vice versa.
While the advancement in the communications area was happening, photography was also marking its spot in history. The first camera was invented in the year 1816. And the first “selfie” was made in the year 1839.
By the 1940s, “supercomputers” were built, and then by the 60s, the earliest form of Internet was seen. The World Wide Web was officially launched to the public in August 1991.
As the communication tools evolved, and a great potential was found in the form of the Internet, humans have continued to design advanced and creative ways to make communication not only faster, but also fun.
In March 2002, Friendster was launched, followed by MySpace in 2003, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010. The use of #hashtags debuted on Twitter in August 2007, and was eventually adapted across different social media platforms, leading to the current “Trend”.
From 2010 to 2015, the number of social media users have reportedly doubled, from 0.98 billion to 2.14 billion. By this year, the people who patronize these modern communication platforms will have tripled, if this pattern of growth continues.
Compared to the compressed history lesson we just read, the changes these advancements have brought upon humanity is humongous. Back then, people had to write pages and pages of letters to inform their family and friends on how they are doing. They can only send their letters after it has traveled across mountains or oceans. Then the receiver will write a response and go through the same process of waiting, too. Now, you can have a conversation exchange in a chat box that is worth 10 letters, with anyone who is anywhere in the world, within minutes. It’s almost like magic!
As sentient beings, humans like to preserve memories. Do you remember the times when you visit your friends’ houses and one of the ways they entertain you is by showing you their photo albums? Well now, we don’t even have to step one foot out the door to view our friends’ memories and travel escapades. They are all made available for viewing on their Facebook albums and Instagram feeds.
Back then, people depended on the evening news to know what is happening around the world. Now, we can even watch what is happening from the other side of the world, in real time. News also travels very fast especially on Twitter. Hashtags allow people to find the information they are looking for, and trends allow people to know breaking news updates.
However, everything has a downside. Yes, we do get to enjoy the convenience and entertainment social media is offering us. But at what cost?
How many of us find ourselves scrolling through our phone, unaware of how much time we waste ogling over other people’s lives? How many of us opted out of doing our chores and responsibilities because we watched too many videos on YouTube?
How many of us have foregone conversation with family members because we were busy commenting on someone else’s Instagram post? How many of us posted a selfie with our partners -insert cheesy quote- #relationshipgoals, then just ignored them afterwards?
How many of us spent more than what we could on things we don’t need just to keep up with the trend? How many of us felt inadequate and useless after a day of scrolling through influencers’ feed? And how many of us felt so much worse after posting a photo that no one even bothered to Like?
“The cost of social media is the deterioration of society’s mental health. A study in 2016 showed that an estimate of 44.7 million adults in the US, aged 18 and older, had mental illness. It also reported that young adults aged 18 to 25 years old had the highest prevalence of 22%, compared to adults aged 26-49 years with 21%, and 50 years and older at 14.5%.”
According to the National Center for Health Research in the US, 94% of 18-24-year-olds use YouTube, 78% use Instagram, 68% use Facebook, and 45% use Twitter. These numbers raise a concern because it was found that those who visited any of the popular platforms mentioned above at least 58 times a week, were three times more likely to feel socially isolated compared to those who use social media less than 9 times a week.
In the UK, 91% of 16-24 year-olds use the internet for social networking. Rates of depression and anxiety are also reported to have had a 70% increase for the last 25 years.
Contrary to what many people think, mental illnesses are not just mood swings that can be fixed by eating some sweets. Mental health problems are chemical imbalances in the brain, that makes it difficult for an individual to control his or her feelings and emotions. And just like any other health condition, mental illnesses can be triggered by various factors; an increased exposure to social media included.
You can think of these triggers as factors that can worsen a physical condition.
Let’s take arthritis as an example. Arthritis is a condition that affects your joints. It manifests as pain, loss of motion, or inflammation in the joints. These symptoms are not always present, but factors like cold temperatures or physical strain can exacerbate the condition.
In the same way, people with existing mental health problems encounter “triggers” that can make their condition worse. What is more unfortunate in this situation, is that people who have no pre-existing conditions, may develop them, if not managed well. Medications are always available, but just as it is with arthritis, avoiding the ‘triggers’ are much better.
Social or cultural expectations is a major contributing factor to various mental health problems. Because of the constant exposure to “society’s standards”, people who do not come close to this “standard” may feel more and more isolated.
How does excessive exposure to social media affect the users?
1. ‘Compare and Despair’
With the launch of Snapchat, Instagram stories, and Facebook’s My Day, users can share tidbits of their day faster in short clips or photos, without thinking too much of aesthetic filters and perfect angles. The way these can be watched like movies, and seeing how everyone else are enjoying their seemingly perfect lives when you are stuck at home, can cause anxiety to some people. Thoughts of not having enough time, funds or friends can take a toll.
2. Virtual Peer Pressure
Everyone aims to have #feedgoals. A qualified good photo can be a flat-lay of your meal, a whole body shot of your OOTD, an aesthetic view from your vacation getaway, or a candid shot with your besties. With everyone else doing this, some users can be overly self-conscious about their lifestyle and relationships.
If someone else’s post has more likes, they may feel like their life is not interesting enough. The obsession with social media popularity is like the addiction you get from winning the lottery.
When one post has reached a certain number of likes or comments, you feel hungry and pressured to have your next post have a much better performance- more likes and comments. It seems like your social media accounts have become an extended part of yourself, and you start taking offense when these posts are not well-received. To compensate, some people invest more than what they have, just to be “in”.
3. Damaged Self-Esteem
Influencers have taken the spotlight in this day and age. They have become this generations’ “role models”. Social media users, both young and old, invest a lot of time and money to keep up with the trends these influencers have started. One study has reported that spending time on Facebook increases a number of female users’ desire to change their physical appearance to look better in photos. When asked, around 70% of 18-24-year-olds considered undergoing cosmetic procedures to “improve” their features. They already gave up on building their self-esteem by accepting and loving themselves. Instead, they channel their energy in trying to be someone they are not.
Since social media is free, and one user can have multiple accounts, it has become a breeding ground for bullies and haters. Cowardly hiding behind aliases and anonymous profiles, bullies are aggressive and relentless in leaving not-so-encouraging comments. Negative feedback, whether from friends or strangers, can leave long-lasting emotional scars.
These factors may result in unhealthy routines like lack of sleep, lack of appetite, irritability, and isolation. With time, users who are continuously exposed to this kind of negativity may develop depression or anxiety.
How are these issues supposed to be addressed?
Education about any issue is one of the best preventions. Since the negative effect of social media to mental health is becoming more well-known to various groups, users and even companies can educate the masses of the dangers of too much exposure. Take advantage of hashtags and spread awareness and reminders. Something like #InternetDayOff or #LogOffDay. Start your own trend!
2. Identity development
As you log off, take time to explore your personal interests, and be grounded in it. You can develop those skills and make them your social media’s content. Not to brag, but rather, to develop self-confidence and self-esteem— nurturing that feeling of achievement after doing something you love. Observe time spent on your socials. More time should be invested in developing your interests.
3. Emotional support
Spend more time with trusted family and friends. During meetups, try to practice the game ‘Phones Down’: No one is allowed to look or touch their phones, and whoever is unable to resist, will have to pay for everyone’s meals! You can also find support from your Internet friends (I know I do!). After all, it’s easy to meet people with the same interests online. However, do practice caution and balance. Avoid giving out location and financial information.
Social Media has made everyone’s life a lot easier and fun, but keep in mind that too much of something is bad. Try to balance and enjoy your life outside your screen. Kick off a peaceful day by logging off from your device.
The history of social media: A timeline. (2020, February 28). Retrieved June 03, 2020, from https://phrasee.co/the-history-of-social-media-a-timeline/
McFadden, C. (2019, July 16). A Chronological History of Social Media. Retrieved June 03, 2020, from https://interestingengineering.com/a-chronological-history-of-social-media
Social Media and Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Mental Health. (2018, October 17). Retrieved June 03, 2020, from http://www.center4research.org/social-media-affects-mental-health/
#StatusOfMind. (2017, May). Retrieved June 03, 2020, from https://www.rsph.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/d125b27c-0b62-41c5-a2c0155a8887cd01.pdf