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Relationship between Social Media and Anxiety

Info: 2108 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Nov 2021 in Psychology

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“We don’t have a choice of on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

Erik Qualman

Therefore, how well we “do” social media influences how well it impacts humanity. Therefore, the final outcome that may be reaped vary according to its use. Social networking sites should be used cautiously in awareness of its potential negative psychological effects on individuals when misused.

While some may say that social media benefits those with social anxiety to be more social, they forget to include the negative psychological effects that can easily outweigh any positives if misused. As Dr. Peggy Kern, a faculty member at the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, put similarly in her article “Is Social Media Good for You”, “For many, social media appears to have a range of benefits…We can support other people and feel supported by them. It may even be a useful way for those with social anxiety and those who have a hard time with face-to-face interactions to connect with others” (Kern). However, Dr. Kern forgets to include the negative social effects on people when used in a harmful fashion. Not only that, but Dr. Kern also fails to acknowledge how the positives can and do pale in comparison. While using social media does not automatically guarantee negative outcomes, it still should be used minimally and with prudence. “It turns out that the people who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites” (Hobson) as found in the National Public Radio,  “Feeling Lonely? Too Much Time On Social Media May Be Why”. The article even goes on to show the staggering results when one uses social media more often. While social networking may be used as a confidence booster in terms of in-person social interactions, all of that should be taken with a grain of salt fact that it could also greatly decreases our social well-being at staggering odd is ignored in the process.

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One of the greatest concerns, for even those who try and use social networking sites with caution, is that you have a great risk of losing your self-awareness in the process. This happens through a process of ignoring the glaringly obvious psychological effects on overused or misused time on social media. As author Emily Sarah Birch published at Massey University in her study “Deindividuation in the online Social Networking Context”, simply put, “individuals are not seen or paid attention to as individuals”…

In other words, the perceived anonymity reduces normally strong inner restraints against performing individually desirable, but socially undesirable, behavior…Further to this description, Le Bon theorized that being submerged in a crowd would result in “the disappearance of conscious personality”, and subsequently, a diminished ability to make informed moral judgments. This theory was developed further, and termed Deindividuation…” (Birch)

As revealed in the study, the lost sense of awareness due to time spent online and its tainting of reality, can lead to negative, if not, scary effects. The opportunities are endless for harm to others and the individual are boundless. And as the study "Deindividuation in Social Media" published by Human Factors and Applied Psychology Student Conference revealed that “Social deindiviuation in social media is increasing as more social media applications,…--where you can post your thoughts anonymously” (Bradshaw, Frederick, Rohmeyer). This slow psychological fade is not an overnight phenomenon that snuck up on our society. The psychological warning signs were evident. However, they were drowned out amongst the inflated positives that may, or may not arise from the use of social media.

Even if the idea of the depravities that can be done to others due to the negative impacts of social networking sites are put aside, the individual themselves still seek to face a potentially bleak outcome regardless of the people around them; one of those effects is isolation. Though the claims of the opposing side use the argument that social networking enhances one’s social life, the actuality of that happening is almost only likely the case when used minimally. In the recent survey sponsored by The Cigna Health Insurance Company shown in the article “Not So Social Media: How Social Media Increases Loneliness”, “The study’s researchers also found that participants who are online most frequently–defined as 50 or more visits a week–have three times the odds of perceived social isolation as those who went online less than nine times a week” (Amatenstein). Because social networking sites have the high potential to create a warped sense of reality and awareness of the person using it, it is only logical that the potential negative effects would be based on those skewed senses of society and the user’s social standing. It’s not to say that social media is this unseen monster out to get you. As the study went on to say that the effect of social media on one’s life, “…depends on how you interact with the Internet. Studies suggest that using…social media apps…add vitality and communion to your life. But if you are spending hours every day using social media mainly as a substitute for real connection, your feelings of loneliness and inadequacy will likely worsen.” Social media should not be used as the basis of one’s social life. However, as society has grown to become a more digital age where that is the commonly seen reality, so are the now-general facts of its negative effects. And the only people left to take account of the change in society is the users of social networking sites who have made this so.

Not only is isolation a potential threat to the overuse of social networking sites, but so is an impaired sense of reality. This effect goes hand-in-hand with both deindividuation and isolation, as stated above. Because the lives of most users of social media are solely based on it and its created world, the information circulated throughout, and received throughout, may also be taken as fact when it may, and most likely is not, solely so. As Simon Chandler wrote in his article “Social Media is Failing to Eliminate Fake Content”, published in the Forbes, “…social networks are platforms for creating fake people and fake worlds, where individuals are fed a distorted version of reality and lied to about what other people believe…there's also a significant percentage of orchestrated activity, designed to mislead people into accepting a version of reality that doesn't exist” (Chandler) Through this, society has and can be swayed not only form a social standpoint, but a political and economic standpoint. The boundaries don’t stop just at a fake Facebook profile uploaded by a troll to offend people. Foreign nations, such as Russia did in the 2016 presidential election, can use that knowledge of power to negatively impact and potentially even attack our society. And the only ones left to blame for the manipulation purely off of what is on social media is no one less than the users. Not even on a large-scale level, but social networking sites can create a false sense of reality in our own lives. “It has been argued that the social media effect creates a false sense of self and self-esteem through the use of likes, fans, comments, posts, etc…It provides many individuals with a false sense of self and an inflated sense of who they really are,” (Green) as revealed by R. Kay Green in her Huffington Post article titled “The Social Media Effect: Are You Really Who You Portray Online”. With this false sense of self-awareness and reality, it only leads to the moral detriment of society due to heightened egotism and social status. Worth is no longer based on what you make of yourself in life and has been reduced to merely fans and followers.

Even with the flawed view of worth through social media, society, as a whole, is not getting any happier with themselves. As Connie Miller with the Child Mind Institute unveiled that “Some experts see the rise in depression as evidence that the connections social media users form electronically are less emotionally satisfying, leaving them feeling socially isolated” (Miller). Users do not leave feeling fuller emotionally. In fact, the opposite is true. The study goes on to show that “Evidence is mounting that there is a link between social media and depression. In several recent studies, teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66 percent) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time” (Miller). Social networking does not automatically guarantee depression. But the overuse of it can lead to such. And when have social media and networking sites be portrayed in such a way as to caution its users to spend as little time as possible on their sites? While social networking does not automatically cause depression, it is the inherent enabler to such consequences.

In the end, social media should not just automatically be thrown out the window. However, the negative impacts should not be ignored either. The user should remain cautious about the times spent on social networking sites in light of the known effects on what could happen if misused. Society should not remain solely on and through social media. If so, it would be a sad society filled with a lost sense of awareness, isolation, reality, and depression. Social networking sites should be used to enhance reality, not build it. Only then can society truly flourish as a human race.

By being aware and cautious of the time and content used on social networking sites, society can start to mend psychologically. A greater sense of awareness may even come about when the mask of anonymity is lifted from the screens. And with honesty in place, so will the honesty and responsibility of one’s actions be more prevalent due to the heightened awareness while on social media. The threat, not only to others but to our own selves may even reduce substantially. And we, as a society, may truly find our self worth not in the screens before us, but in our identity that lies within. Yes, that is the mantra that is plastered across social media. But if society analyzed the time and use of social media, maybe then the impacts of that belief may finally start to sink in and evolve society for the better. Change is a choice. And each and every individual that opens that browser or clicks on that computer mouse has the choice to be aware and conscious, and choose to better themselves and society without the reliance on social media, but as one of their many tools. Each individual can choose how well we use our tools given in society. Choose to utilize the tool of social media well.

Works Cited

Amatenstein, Sherry. “Not So Social Media: How Social Media Increases Loneliness - PsyCom.” Psycom.net - Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, Psycom, 15 Nov. 2019, www.psycom.net/how-social-media-increases-loneliness/.

Birch, Emily Sarah. “Deindividuation in the Online Social Networking Context: What Situations Might Encourage Deindividuation on Facebook?” Massey University, 2010.

Chandler, Simon. “Social Media Is Failing to Eliminate Fake Content.” Forbes, Forbes, 10 Dec. 2019, 7:52, www.forbes.com/sites/simonchandler/2019/12/10/social-media-is-failing-to-eliminate-fake-content/#63b491563e69.

Green, R. Kay. “The Social Media Effect: Are You Really Who You Portray Online?” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Oct. 2013, www.huffpost.com/entry/the-social-media-effect-a_b_3721029.

Hobson, Katherine. “Feeling Lonely? Too Much Time On Social Media May Be Why.” NPR, NPR, 6 Mar. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/06/518362255/feeling-lonely-too-much-time-on-social-media-may-be-why.

Kern, Peggy. “Is Social Media Good for You?” Pursuit, The University of Melbourne, 4 Feb. 2020, pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/is-social-media-good-for-you.

Miller, Caroline. “Does Social Media Cause Depression?” Child Mind Institute, childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/.

Rohmeyer, Rebecca, et al. “Deindividuation in Social Media .” Human Factors and Applied Psychology Student Conference , 2016.

 

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