Consequences of a Double Life
As a society, we are very fortunate to live in such a technologically advanced era. For instance, the way children are being raised in today’s world is far more advanced than it has ever been. Adolescents of generation z are being brought up with their own personal computers where they can get all the information at the tips of their fingers. Moreover, these kids are able to communicate with others instantly, which in turn helps them decide how they want to be personally. However, these adolescents don’t understand the consequences of their actions, especially if they use the internet in a way to escape their real-world problems. Specifically, some of the most vulnerable kids who are more susceptible to anxiety and depression, like those who come from a background of childhood abuse, have more obstacles to face since the internet can hinder their development.
The most common abuse children face are emotional abuse and physical and emotional neglect. This type of childhood maltreatment has affected the way these young adults grow up. As a way to escape their hardships, these kids turn to the internet as it acts a safe haven for them. However, using the internet for this purpose has caused these adolescents to develop problematic internet use. A research report from Psychiatry Research called “Childhood maltreatment and problematic social media use: The role of attachment and depression” 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. A personal health questionnaire was also used that screens for depression. The results came to that 31.8%, or 327 students, experienced some sort of maltreatment as a kid. Of those 327 students, 84.4%, or 276 students, had insecure attachment anxiety. Results showed that the insecure attachment and depression symptoms affected problematic social media use.
Since these kids do not have a trusted adult they can go to with their problems, they are left to find solutions for themselves. This specifically includes going onto the internet to try to escape their real-life problems. However, they can develop anxious attachments that can detrimental to their development. If adolescents experience anxious attachment, Psychiatry Research explains that they will create a “negative image of the self” and will engage in “hyperactivating strategies” to get close to others. Psychiatry Research also explains that adolescents could experience avoidant attachment where they develop “a negative image of others and a deactivated attachment system.” This makes it harder to form relationships with others as they will have a lack of trust, resulting in the inability to form new relationships. Thus, kids who endured childhood maltreatment use social media as their safe spot, as it allows them to connect with others so they don’t have to face their fears of interacting with others face to face. But this can cause problematic internet use as they are not using the internet in the appropriate ways.
Furthermore, because adolescents with a background of childhood abuse are more likely to develop problematic internet use, they use social media as a way to create a new persona of themselves. A research report from Springer Science and Business Media called “Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development” explains that adolescents are conflicted with the problems of standing out or fitting in with their peers when forming their own personal identity. Moreover, these adolescents want friendships where they can trust one another wither problems. But how can they do this if they suffer from insecure or avoidant attachment anxiety? This is where social media sites step in to help, as they act as a place where these kids can be anyone they want to develop new friends. Springer Science and Business Media explain that it’s up to them to decide how accurate they “portray their identities online.” According to the hyperpersonal model, Springer Science and Business Media explain that “adolescents engage in selective self-presentations online.” These adolescents can do whatever they want with their presentations, but with this type of power comes consequences for their actions. If they decide to change their sense of self online for different people, it would be harder to change their sense of sense back in their offline lives. More importantly, “negative feedback” can lead to lower self-esteem and hinder their development even more.
Adolescents, especially those with some form of social anxiety, become so comfortable in social media that it actually becomes, according to Chapter 2 of the book Cyberpsychology as Everyday Digital Experience across the Lifespan, a “reality of choice.” So comfortable that, in fact, in Japan, the name hikikomori, meaning “pulling inward, being confined” has been given to teens who essentially “live online, never leave home, and remain with their parents.” Social media is a way for these teens to avoid “social situations” so they can live in a “comfortable medium” so that they don’t have to deal with disapproval from others. Kids who suffer from childhood maltreatment may already be suffering from the insecure or avoidant attachment that is so extreme that they may just never leave the internet to talk to others to avoid rejection altogether.
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 handling their problems. Creating a false identity may seem like a great idea to become who they want to be, but these adolescents still need to find ways to handle their real-life problems instead of ignoring them. By ignoring their problems, they are just creating a new one by overusing social media.
Harley, D., Morgan, J., & Frith, H. (1970, January 01). Growing up Online. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/978-1-137-59200-2_2
Shapiro, L., & Margolin, G. (2013, May 04). Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10567-013-0135-1
Worsley, J. D., McIntyre, J. C., Bentall, R. P., & Corcoran, R. (2018, May 25). Childhood maltreatment and problematic social media use: The role of attachment and depression. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178117318668