The Real-life Problems of Online Activity
The use of social media has changed drastically from when it was first created. From sharing one’s personal life online every day for their family and friends, to a way to escape events that are happening in real life, social media can impact our daily lives, and not always in a positive way. Specifically, for young adults and children, social media can be such a big part of their world that they may alter their lives online to feel a sense of purpose offline. What happens on a daily basis in these adolescents’ lives can be detrimental to how they view themselves. Unfortunately, these teens can create a false persona of themselves as they feel it is the only way they can manage their offline relationships.
Creating a fake persona does not take hard work, but it can be harmful to the individual. The main reason a fake persona is created is to be relatable to others so that friendships and relationships can be formed. Each social media network creates the ability for one to follow and share posts. Adolescents will take use of this ability by sharing information they feel as though others will like so that they can form friendships offline. But this information and posts may not be linked to their true feelings. Adolescents believe that creating a false identity will lead to better offline relationships as they will constantly compare themselves to others to be as similar to their friends as possible. Instead of standing out, adolescents want to fit in to the social dynamic of their peers. A study done in 2012 on a group of 251 students aged 13 to 19 in Los Angeles found that 43% of participants felt that social network sites made their offline friendships closer (Shapiro, Margolin, 8).
Even though friendships can become closer, sharing false information about oneself can be dangerous. An adolescent who may share misleading information may be more reserved in their offline personality. They may seem more introverted and not be as willing g to share information about themselves as they would online. This can be potentially harmful for their future when they apply for jobs as posting inappropriate content online as a young adult may come back to haunt them, as online content will always be available. However, this type of danger can affect children at a younger age as they can experience cyberbullying, which in turn can make these children feel more isolated offline.
Adolescents can also be at risk for developing an addiction to the Internet, which can be comparable to addiction to substances like alcohol and drugs (Shapiro, Margolin, 3). This addiction can be more apparent in children who have other mental illnesses such as ADHD and depression. More importantly, children who have experienced childhood abuse are more likely to use the internet as a coping mechanism to feel a connection with others. However, this can lead to attachment anxiety and depression that can be long lasting.
Childhood maltreatment can cause future anxiety and even PTSD. These feelings can overwhelm adolescents, and they may feel that the internet is the only way to cope with their feelings, as “childhood maltreatment generates cognitive-affective vulnerabilities which, in turn, leave individuals prone to problematic internet use.” (Worsley, 88). Whether the abuse of emotional abuse, or emotional or physical neglect, the abuse has led to children using the internet to help them in times of need.
These types of children develop insecure attachment anxiety, which makes them distrust others due to fear of rejection, or see themselves as an invaluable person. To create a better self image, these children use these social networking sites as a way to interact with others without the commitment of interacting with them face to face. In a way, they are creating a false persona of themselves, except their reasoning is much different than other children which is to fit in with their peers. Unfortunately, the internet can become problematic as children will constantly use it to feel a sense of belonging (Worsley, 89). This can overall lead to more problems, such as depression.
Depression, however doesn’t mean that these kids will communicate less with others, it just means their offline relationships won’t be as strong as their online ones. Although this is what social media is meant for, children should still create offline relationships to help them in their future. Loneliness and depression can overtake them, thus making their overuse of the internet a problem. Social media however may be the only way these children know how to cope with their feelings. If these kids do a create false persona of themselves, they may start to ignore their past traumas and focus more on creating a better sense of self, even if it is a fake one.
Adolescents need to find a way to connect to others without fear of rejection. Whether this fear is because of not having similar interests to their peers or because of past traumas, social media use is starting to become a problem. The internet is supposed to be a place where people can share their lives with one another, but it slowly but surely is becoming an outlet to ignore one’s true feelings by creating a fake identity to create a whole new person they want to see themselves as. There needs to be a better support system for all children and young adults, regardless of their past experiences of trauma or mental illness. Social media is a part of everyday life, but the fact that it is starting to harm the next generation of kids is becoming dangerous for the future. The internet should be a place where adolescents are free to express themselves and not feel the pressure to act like others around them. Creating a sense of self is essential to the way each child develops, and social media may be a harmful place where false personas are taking over.
Worsley, McIntyre, Bentall, Corcoran. (2018, 25 May). Childhood maltreatment and problematic social media use: The role of attachment and depression. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178117318668
Shapiro, Margolin. (2013, 4 May). Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10567-013-0135-1