Excessive Screen Time: An Unhealthy Addiction
Thanks to the arrival of the 21st century, communicating and sharing information with others has become more effortless than ever. Waiting for postcards in the mail from long distance friends and monthly magazines for the latest trends, are now things of the past. Through websites and applications, such as Facebook and Instagram, people are given their very own social platform, where they can decide what they share, who they follow, and even who is allowed to follow them. Even what a person “likes” and “follows” will eventually determine the content that shows up on their social media, making it a virtual place specifically for that individual. Impressive, indeed, but excessive use of social media could ironically be making it’s users more detached, than connected with others in reality. Not only that, but excessive use of social media can even be life threatening.
An addiction is defined as the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. According to Dr. Gregory L. Jantz from his article“6 signs That You’re Addicted To Something” symptoms include: prioritizing the activity over other things, seeking the activity for a reward response, feelings of anxiety when unable to engage in the activity and reverting back to the activity, after promising to quit or cut back. For most people, their phones are an extension of themselves; it has everything a person needs in one, small device; from their banking, to their busy schedules and even to socialize, people rely on their phones on a daily basis, so it is safe to say that checking your cell a few times a day does not qualify as an addiction. There are, however, many people who take the next step and become engulfed in their phones, ignoring their surroundings and potentially putting their life and others at risk. In the United States, it has been found that 1 in 4 drivers used their cell phone directly before being involved in a car crash. One driver in Texas even killed 13 people who were on a church bus because he was texting and driving. There are even strict laws against using your phone while driving, so with that in addition to the knowledge of injuries and fatalities that can occur from doing so, it is surprising that it is still very common to witness someone using their phone while driving. This is where the line is drawn from a habit to a destructive addiction.
Given the evidence on the dangers of texting and driving, if a person can not wait until their drive is over to send a message, this could potentially mean that person values their involvement in the social media realm more than in the real world. Although using your phone while driving is the most unacceptable time to use the device, It’s not the only time that people are completely distracted by their phones. It is quite easy to spot a person using their phone doing just about any daily activity; whether in class, during a conversation, or even while walking, there appears to be no bad time to use your phone.
It seems that there are only types of people when it comes to phone and social media use: those who can control the amount of time spent on their phone and those that can not. Research has been done to try and unlock the general personality of a person who is more likely to become subject to social media addiction. Isaac Vaghefi and Hamed Qahri-Saremi did such an investigation at DePaul University of Chicago with 300 young adult participants. What they discovered was based on the Personality Model, which consists of five factors used to measure one’s personality. The five factors include being openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Out of the five, what stood out the most was neuroticism; the research concluded that a person who is more anxious and prone to stress vastly increases the chances of them being hooked to social media. On the other hand, it was found that people who are more dedicated and attentive, have decreased chances of becoming addicted. However, personalities aren’t that simple and doing well in school doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible to become addicted to your phone; the same research found that people who are generally focused and dedicated could still fall into social media addiction if they also experience stress and anxiety. The same goes for agreeableness and conscientiousness; when a person is empathetic and friendly, they are more likely to use social media in excess and mixed with high levels of dedication, this could vastly increase the likelihood of a person becoming addicted to social media. Go-Globe has found that out of 2.3 billion people using social media, 18% cannot go a few hours without checking facebook. A poll ran by Flashgap on 150,000 millennials found 54% of them feel they are “missing out” if they haven’t checked their social media recently, perhaps because these young adults are more prone to anxiety and 87 percent admitted to missing out on a real-life conversation because they were distracted by their phone. In another study ran by flashgap, it was found that out of nearly 3,000 participants, 76 percent of the females admitted to checking their social media at least 10 times while in a social setting with friends, compared with 54 percent of males. It seems counterintuitive that these young adults are having the fear of being left out, when in reality they are the ones missing out on real-life conversations and experiences.
Another very important thing that must be considered when examining excessive social media use is it’s connection to self-esteem, especially in young women. Since the beginning of advertisements in newspapers and magazines, there has always been the objectification of the female body. Now with social media, these objectifications are something women must face every day, whether they like it or not; females are constantly reminded on how they should look, what they should wear, and how they should act to be considered desirable in today’s culture. When a young woman already has low self-esteem, feelings of envy come easy when viewing “picture perfect” women on social media,making them feel like they will never amount to such beauty. Self-love is a term used commonly today, but when everyone is comparing themselves to models, it sure makes it a hard thing to do. Social media definitely can be a shallow place, so for the insecure woman, it can be a dangerous place.
For the people who use social media in excess, feelings of envy and jealousy come easily. The worst part is, the lives that we are envious of on social media are not true in reality. For example, a person may be envious of another because of how their life looks on social media. The catch is, a grouping of pictures can not accurately represent one’s life. Most people only share things about their life that they want others to see, not what they are hiding. This is where the reward response of the addiction comes into play; people want to be able to post the best picture possible, to get the most like possibles, to get more followers, to feel satisfied with themself, when in reality the only thing picture perfect about their life is their social media page. Studies done by Harvard University have found that talking about yourself stimulates pleasure, so this could explain why so many people feel the need to post about themselves so much, even if it isn’t exactly truthful; lying and having people believe they have a better life than they actually do could potentially make those same people feel better about their current situation.The same goes when a person views their friend’s snapchat videos and sees everyone is out and having fun while they are stuck at home, but what is not posted is the video of the end of the night where certain friends may have become very ill, arrested, or perhaps even gotten a DUI; it simply is all false realities made by the creators to make their viewers envious. Facebook has even been linked to cause sadness and overall low life satisfaction to its heavy users, and this could surely be said for other phone apps, such as instagram and twitter. People are comparing their lives to others unintentionally everyday when using social media. That being said, when this is happening each day, twenty, thirty times a day, this can surely lead a person into depression.
We aren’t finished just yet, young adults are not the only ones who experience negative effects from excessive phone use. Children and teenagers are learning how to operate tablets at alarmingly young ages, with tablets being the usual toy of choice, but this is just the technological era we live in and there is nothing to worry about, right? Wrong. Children are offered many useful, age appropriate apps that can help with their basic knowledge skills however, as time progresses, allowing a child to be glued to their tablet can take away from learning how to socially interact with people. A recent study on pre-teens even found that tweens who spent five days at camp, media free, were able to understand emotions better than that of their peers who stayed home and did not attend camp. It was concluded that time away from from technology combined with real social interaction makes all the difference in recognizing social cues. It has also been found in A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation that children and teenagers spend an average of seven and a half hours a day using smartphones, computers, and other electronic screens. That being said, this could absolutely lead children to become confused on what is real and what is fictional. In an extreme case of being consumed by the internet, two 12 year old girls repeatedly stabbed their friend, resulting in serious injury, all to please a fictional internet character they believed to be real. Could this tragedy have been avoided if their parents spent more time monitoring their internet use?
So, is social media good for anything? It may seem a bit rash to make the claim that using social media as a distraction is a great way to recharge the brain and stay motivated, but blogger Janet Anthony stated just that as one of her reasons in her article titled “8 Proven Ways How To Use Social Media For Motivation.” Anthony believes this to be true and not only that but “distractions are good for motivations.” One could argue that inspirational pages and online support can surely improve one’s motivation to a certain degree; however, most motivational pages are based on false realities and there is such a lack of truth on social media, that you never know if the advice given on these pages is sincere/adequate. Not to mention, “persuading” others to use social media more is an evidently unnecessary job. Telling people to go on a nature walk, doing yoga, or relaxing with a book, are far better ways to recharge and do not involve any feelings of being inferior. My advice? Stay away from the screen when trying to get yourself together.
Advertisements online are now more efficient and client focused than ever thanks to the progression of AI. Shopping is now as easy as a click of a button, the advertisement already shows you the exact item you want, based on your like and internet searches. However, in result of this, mass consumerism is definitely “trending now,” since humans feel the constant need to improve themselves and be kept up to date with the latest trends.
In conclusion, social media, along with the excess use of our phones has all the potential to decline one’s mental health, become a dangerous distraction, and affect children’s social development To be rational, we all use our phones and most of us have at least one form of social media that we enjoy checking; and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It has its benefits, and although a lot of these benefits have consequences when used in excess, that can all be avoided. Safe posting!
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