Tumblr, Tinder. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Sasai. WhatsApp. The list of social networking sites (SNS) is hitting the “bottomless pit”. So I ask, is social media affecting young people psychologically?
The social media apps, as they are well known, have become ubiquitous and almost synonymous to our daily, most intimate habits, regardless of age or gender.
The virtual space has, in turn, influenced how young people especially, view reality, success, failures and achievements in life. Mostly among the youth, social media success as demonstrated through sharing of glamour has been redefined, so that the number of “likes” or “retweets” or “loves” translates to how “outstanding” or “influential” one thinks they are.
Besides, what people see on social media affects how they set their goals and ambitions. As if that is not enough, it has become evident that most people one admires on social media are those supposedly living celebrity, flawless lives; of course outside reality. But what exactly does this mean?
We sought to indulge some young people on their experiences on social media.
Wanjiru* 23, a graduate
I am on Facebook with about four thousand friends, but I spend much of my time on Instagram following new trends on clothes and tours. I know about a hundred people who we are friends on Facebook in person because they are my former high school friends and family members. The rest, we just “like” pictures fon each others walls and comment on posts.
Nothing much goes on there. I’d say that we have dated (chuckles) and had intimate chats with people I have never met, and perhaps who I will never meet in person, and that is too much fun for me.
I think it is easy to talk to a person you have not met before and who you’re not likely to meet because they will not follow you as if you owe them any favour.
It helps also refresh and relieve reading memes on Facebook, on things that you’d feel ashamed to speak about in reality. So for me, social media is an escape island of sorts.
Tina*, 27, a business lady and a graduate
Instagram is my favourite social media app, my go-to spot for the latest fashion designs, makeup, and also hairstyles. I joined Instagram with the aim of learning about lifestyle from other ladies, and also because I wanted to sell my mtumba clothes online. I do not necessarily know most of the people I follow and admire or those who buy my products
I admire how they live and that challenges me to work hard with the hope that I will also get there someday. Sometimes I look at what my peers or some who are younger than me have achieved, say, a job and they are driving or some are married expecting kids yet I’m just here and that gets me asking what it is that I am doing with myself.
So, that challenges me in a way and that’s why I wouldn’t say that I get all inspiration or sorts being on social media.
John*, a university student.
I love Facebook because there’s not much competition or show off. I unwind through engaging with friends and strangers on the App. To me, friends on social media are more sympathetic than the friends I have in reality.
That may not be the same experience with others, but for me, I have shared my tough times with my Facebook friends I think they relate well with my experiences. Usually, I scroll down to read posts and comments as a way of unwinding.
There is no doubt that social networking sites are important tools for learning, socializing and sharing. However, it is what you would rightly describe as a double-edged sword that cuts from either side, to mean that it has a hoard of far-reaching negative consequences, if overused.
Impact of social media on our lives
Researchers have established that excessive use of social media leads to anxiety and depression.
In a recent study titled “All my online-friends are better than me – three studies about ability-based comparative social media use, self-esteem, and depressive tendencies,” published on Behavior and Technology Online Journal, found out that, a high number of social media users compare themselves to others. It concluded that “…social comparative internet use decreased participants’ performance-oriented state self-esteem as a short-term effect.”
In addition to that, the study established that “Passive Facebook use is associated with higher depressive tendencies mediated by a higher ability-related social comparison orientation and lower self-esteem as a long-term effect.”
So now you know. All those times you have been scrolling down your FB feed, feeling sad that your life doesnt compare to the glum of your friends who seem to have it all, you have been feeding the social media monster.
There is science to prove that social media usage can lead to depression. it can impact your life negatively.
According to the study;
In conclusion, the study carried out linked excessive social media use to increased depression and anxiety, especially among young people. It was also established that self-comparison on social media led to low self-esteem.
According to Mark Griffiths and Daria Kuss, both psychologists at Nottingham Trent University in the U.K who specializes in studying the impact of technology and social media on cognitive and social behaviour, the basic signs that one is suffering from social media addiction include:
- Thinking about social media and planning to use it while offline,
- Feeling the urge to use social media from time to time
- Using social media as an escape to real challenges
- Being restless or feeling troubled when not able to connect to social media.
They found out that, besides the fact that social media had a significant detrimental effect on many aspects of life including relationships, work, addicted users developed psychological problems as well, including anxiety, depression, loneliness and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
But is it all gloom and doom for those addicted to social networking sites? While individual social network sites users are ultimately responsible for preventing or and overcoming addiction by managing the amount of time they spend online, treatment of addicted social media users is highly recommended.
In that light, digital literacy and awareness of the effects of excessive social media use, if embedded in our work and educational institutions, will by far curb the chances of overuse and addiction.
Finally, it is suggested that, in terms of treatment, unlike the treatment of substance-related addictions, it should be aimed at controlling how the patient uses their social networking sites, rather than leading them to abstain. As such, the therapy should focus on establishing controlled social media use, which will help to save the wrecking ship of a youth addicted to social media.