Consequences of Living a Double Life
We are very fortunate to live in an advanced technological era. The adolescents of generation z get to have all the information they want at the tip of their fingertips due to the endless possibilities the internet has to offer. To engage with others, kids now have the opportunity to use social media to not only connect with others, but to create their own identity. However, these kids may take the time to create a false persona of themselves, especially if they use social media as a way to escape their real-world problems. Some of the most vulnerable kids that will create a misleading identity are those who have experienced childhood emotional abuse and physical and emotional neglect.
This type of childhood maltreatment has affected young adults as they grow up. A study done by J. D. Worsley at Psychiatry Research did a study at a university in North West New England. The 1,029 students who participated in the research were random college kids aged 17-25 who found out about this study through their university’s mass email. These students were just like any college kids, coming from different backgrounds and facing different hardships. A survey was using the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale measured if childhood maltreatment caused problematic social media use because of the cause of attachment anxiety (Worsley, 90). A personal health questionnaire was also used that screens for depression. The results came to that 31.8%, which is 327 students, experienced some sort of maltreatment as a kid. Of those 327 students, 84.4%, which is 276 students, had insecure attachment anxiety. Results showed that the insecure attachment and depression symptoms affected problematic social media use.
If these students suffered attachment anxiety, then their fear of trusting others negatively affected the way the form relationships in their real life. Worsley described that social media acted as a place to escape their hardships, as, “People who suffer childhood maltreatment may therefore overuse social media in order to cope with this difficult life experience” (Worsley 92). Without a trusted person they could look up to help cope with their problems as their family was abusing them, these adolescents didn’t develop appropriate coping strategies (Worsley 92). Those who suffered attachment anxiety also used social media to find a sense of belonging as they felt as if they didn’t belong in their own families.
The internet is a part of everyday life for everyone. Specifically, adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 have spent up to, at the most, 11 hours on digital media (Spies Shapiro 1). This results in daily lives being interrupted by the use of any media and significantly impacts the individual’s development. An important factor in the growth of adolescents is how they define themselves and what people that associate with, meaning how their friends impact their daily lives. These kids are bouncing back and forth between the concepts of trying to conform to others while also trying to express their individuality (Spies Shapiro, 2). Kids are constantly comparing themselves to one another, and the use of social media doesn’t help improve their self-esteem. Spies Shapiro points out that “The hyper personal model for computer-mediated communication, for example, posits that adolescents engage in selective self-presentations online; moreover, the feedback from these presentations may, in turn, alter individuals’ self-perceptions” (Spies Shapiro, 4). Along with this, a research study in 2010 wanted to show how online interactions help self -disclosure rather than face to face interactions (Spies Shapiro, 9). Results showed that when close friends reported on the individual’s personality, the individual’s personality was different from their own report. This study showed that adolescents portrayed a false persona of themselves so they would seem more extroverted (Spies Shapiro, 9). They alter their personalities online to show a different side of themselves.
Adolescents are growing up in a digital world where it can be easier to share their own opinions without fear of judgment in face to face interactions. Social media can be harmful as kids who are already dealing with problems like ADHD or depression can be more predisposed to dealing with internet addiction, which is similar to substance abuse (Spies Shapiro, 3). However, if kids are suffering from social anxiety, social media acts as a way to express their feelings without having to deal with face to face conversations, and they “may start to prefer the multiplicity of the virtual world as their ‘reality of choice’.” (Harley, 36). This makes sense as texting has become the preferred mode of communication between others as adolescents can create a false persona of themselves as a way to be more extroverted. Social media networks helps to create one’s identity as kids will constantly post pictures and fit in with different social groups or cliques to conform to others, as the “power of likes” controls their mindset (Harley, 36).
One may think social media’s main use is to simply connect others, but the bigger picture shows that social media can be harmful for the next generation. Adolescents use social media as a way to escape their hardships in the offline lives, yet essentially create a whole new life as if they are living in a fantasy. This doesn’t change their actual lives though, as they still need to come to terms with what they are dealing with and what type of person they want to be when dealing with their problems. Creating a false identity may seem like great idea to become who they want to be, but these adolescents still need to come to terms with their offline lives, and that their problematic social media use affects them. By ignoring their problems, they are just creating a new one by overusing social media.