Just a little warning, this is a long post haha! In all honesty it has taken me 3-4 days to write this as this is a subject that I have mixed feelings about in relation to social media. Its supposed to be 5 problems with social media but I've only done 3. Because there are so many rabbit holes to jump into. This post is already long enough as it is. Some of it can be seen as duplication so I've limited myself to 3 points.
Nevertheless, don't let the length put you off. Its an interesting read. I've tried to be fair where possible to both sides of the argument. Feel free to offer constructive criticism where you can.
Social media is great because it allows us to connect with others, see what they're up to. We can learn so much through social media too.
That said, nothing in life is 100% perfect. So here is my 2 cents for what it's worth as written by a 26 year old with some life experience. I don't like to make uninformed decisions so I will back up what I say with evidence in the form of studies. All studies I use will be in the western part of the world. Most of them have been American studies. So just to point that out for context.
I enjoy using some platforms more than others. However, I can appreciate that as a young person there is a desire to have everything that your friends all have and can therefore use all platforms available to them. The fear of missing out can make you think you're being isolated.
As an introduction to the topic, I thought this statistic from the "Common Sense, Census" was very poignant.
"On any given day fully one in five 8- to 12-year-olds in this country is using more than six hours of screen media, and nearly as many teens (18 percent) are using more than 10 hours of screen media."
1) Vital Skills and Focus can be affected negatively
According to a study carried out by Ophir et al (2009) "Heavy Media Multitaskers (i.e. a person's consumption of more than one item or stream of content at the same time) have greater difficulty filtering out irrelevant stimuli from their environment (as seen in the filter task and AX-CPT with distractors), they are less likely to ignore irrelevant representations in memory (two- and three-back tasks), and they are less effective in suppressing the activation of irrelevant task sets (task-switching). This last result is particularly striking given the central role attributed to task-switching in multitasking."
So it's safe to say that flicking between instagram, facebook, snapchat, youtube, etc constantly can impact your ability to filter through nonsense and prioritise things in general.
These are vital skills for surviving adulthood and skills that are versatile and needed in most jobs. The ability to focus and also prioritise tasks.
The Common Sense, Census Study (linked above) says that many teens multitask with media while doing their homework, and most think this has no effect on the quality of their work. That said, there are so many different kinds of media that people can interact with. TV, spotify, youtube etc. So I can see that some people perfer to have background music or noise going on in the background while they concentrate on their studies or work whatever they are doing. Everyone learns and works differently. However, I think that most of us can agree that if you are texting, scrolling on instagram/facebook or sending snap chats. You're probably not doing your work. Therefore you spend longer procrastinating, then cramming to get everything done before bed. This slowly pushes bed time a little later which can in turn affect your sleep and performance the next day. So it would be a fair assumption to suggest that perhaps anything that takes your eyes off what you're meant to be doing is probably more of a distraction than anything else.
Shaw and Grant (2004) argue that social skills can be enhanced using social media. Stating that social media can have a positive effect on how people socialise, and reduce loneliness
Whilst this is true, surely this depends on how people utilise social media. If they use it and never go out to interact with people in the real world then surely this will have a detrimental effect on developing substantial social skills necessary to function as a contributing member of society.
Barker, (2009) suggests in her study that there are some people who don't feel overly confident in physical interactions or feel secure in their everyday relationships and therefore turn to social networking sites such as Facebook etc in order to interact Essentially on their own terms and satisfy that need for companionship.
With that said, is this a healthy way of learning how to interact? I think personally yes and no. Yes, because the internet has a vast array of people from all kinds of backgrounds that you can interact with. Social interaction can help with building self confidence (as this study also shows). Mostly females seem to enjoy the social interaction of social media for this reason. However I also say no because social interaction on social media is different to interaction that is face to face and requires faster responses and tact. You also don't get to "leave someone on read" if someone asks you a difficult question etc. In real life.
That requires experience which requires prescribe. If you aren't practicing then you don't get experience.
2. Poor Outcomes of Mental Health
It's no secret that there is a correlation between poor mental health and heavy use of social media. The Common Sense, Consensus statistic used at rhe start of this post says: "On any given day fully one in five 8- to 12-year-olds in this country is using more than six hours of screen media, and nearly as many teens (18 percent) are using more than 10 hours of screen media."
Whilst other infographics and articles written by this platform suggest that social media actually has a very beneficial outcome for users. Surely spending this much time being consumed by a variety of platforms, surrounding yourself with users who push their agendas and #ads and sponsored content can cause even the best of us to question our lives. "How come I don't have a life like that?", "What are they doing differently to me that they get a beautiful house, partner, car etc?"
Joe Rogan did a podcast with a guy called Jonathan Haidt (Social Psychologist) who discusses that actually there is a high correlation between middle school aged females high use of social media at a young age a d self harm. Definitely an interesting podcast! (it'll be linked below for your listening pleasure)
People share their best side. No-one is going to try and share their worst days. No body is going to share about their alcohol problem, or their poor school grades, relationships falling apart. (At least not during the dark times. Only after the fact when they've "risen from the ashes".)
And those that do overshare their struggles; we judge by saying either to them or to ourselves "you're putting your dirty washing out for everyone to see"
There has to be a balance. We as a society it seems, have raised the expectation bar up so high that we can't see social media influencers as anything else but perfection. And so when a mistake is made we feel so invested like we are entitled to know every detail of someone's life who at the end of the day is only human.
It can really impact influencers when they get hung, drawn and quartered as a result of their own personal scandals. It can affect the invested followers in making them question a lot of things. And yet if we don't see these influencers as only human, followers can feel pressured, either from themselves or from other followers and users that this is the way life is supposed to look. Why don't you have it so good?
Causing a downward spiral of feeling rotten in your own circumstances and just generally sub par.
However, playing devils advocate here. In relation to chronic long term health conditions, one study I read (Merolli et al, 2012) suggests that such people being on social media (whilst research into the subject is still in its early stages) has a good impact and empowers individuals by helping them to understand and interact with people in similar situations to themselves.
So arguably there are points for both side of whether or not social media can be a good and bad thing for mental health. Personally I feel that there can be more negatives in relation to mental health than good.
3) Infants Motor Skills are affected
I've heard stories of parents saying that their toddlers try to swipe the next page of a magazine and then wonder why the screen won't change. I've spoken to a health visitor whose said that she's noticed toddlers fine motor skills (the ability to pinch and pick up small items) is greatly affected by over use of tablets and so on.
Webster and Staiano in their study talk about excessive screen time and the implications for kids these days.
"Higher amounts of screen-time might deter children from the opportunity to engage in Physical Activity experiences;" They then go on to say that in this particular study no relationship was found between the amount of screen-time in which children engaged and any intensity or amount of Physical Activity.
Interestingly and yet also unsurprisingly. Children's motor skills were positively related to Vigorous Physical Activity but inversely related to screen-time. Further inquiry into the implications of high exposure to screen-time in young children is needed in order to explore other areas of screen time
Whilst it's not directly talking about social media. Most kids are using YouTube which is a form of social media.
The Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitude Report (2017) (it wont let me link it here as it is a PDF but easily google-able) states that at the ages 3-4, statistically, 41% of this age group of kids will be watching TV on a tablet.
I've watched a lot of kids watching stuff on tablets a d they are not only glued to it but they have the screen inches away from their faces. Which surely cannot be good for them!
By the age of 8-11, 23% of these kids will have their own social media profile.
A positive thing to take away from this document however is that parents and kids alike are talking about internet safety. 17% of kids and teens have said they've seen something they've been worried about but have also taken action against. So this is promising to see.
So there you have it. My 2 cents for what it's worth.
I have backed up everything I've said with research. I hope you found it useful. Give yourself a pat on the back if you stuck it out this far! Well done you!
I am a 25 year old nurse, who is trying to find herself. This blog will contain epiphanies I have, my yoga progress and other such things. Enjoy. :)