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Social Media: Are we really socializing?

We can all admit it- we’ve been in a room full of people and haven’t said a single word to anyone. Instead, we’ve been on our phones; checking social media or playing a game. No one can deny the numerous benefits to instant knowledge that technology provides us with. But, when is enough, enough? Did Bill Gates or Steve Jobs foresee our society today as being dependent on our devices to the point where human interaction suffers? Today, anxiety disorders run rampant in emerging adults, being the second most reported psychological disability in this age group. (Vannucci, Flannery, Ohannessian, 2017) There seems to be a link between the use of social media and the rates of anxiety in our generation, and that is a problem. Social media allows us to connect with others, but is it really helping us become more social?

Social anxiety is a disorder marked in the DSM-IV that highlights “a persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny by others.” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012) Social media may harbor a safe haven for people who struggle to interact with people in social situations. In fact, it may go as far as allowing persons with anxiety disorders to develop avoidant coping strategies and allow them to isolate themselves socially. (Vannucci, et al., 2017) Social media allows people to interact without the fear of face-to-face conversation and anticipated embarrassment (a hallmark of social anxiety disorders), but this also keeps their socialization limited to a phone or computer.

Our ability as emerging adults to communicate with the person next to us seems to be dwindling. Author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek discusses how we enter meetings and go straight to our phone because “god forbid” we have to speak to the person next us. We have left a time of human interaction and networking, and moved to a time of LinkedIn. He has a great point of view on the dangers of social media. He highlights how dopamine is released and makes us feel good when we use social media. High levels of this neurotransmitter, or “brain chemical,” make us feel rewarded; and when using social media, our brains will secrete high levels of dopamine. What can be wrong with that? As Sinek points out, this causes an addiction to social media. When we are away from it, we experience low levels of dopamine, which can cause anxiety or depression. Social media’s addictive properties are what can make it dangerous. When we are without social media, we can become anxious. Watch a clip of an interview with Simon below:

Social media may be a great tool to connect with others, but there are limitations to this. Our increasing rates of anxiety in our generation may be rooted in the dangers of social media. We are allowing a place for people to falsify human interaction and the expense of their own mental health. Social media may allow those with social anxiety to facilitate avoidant coping strategies and increase social isolation. It may also increase addictive tendencies in emerging adults, which may lead to withdrawal symptoms of anxiety and depression. Technology is a great advancement in our time, but needs to be watched carefully and better understood. We are not giving it enough caution in our world. Social media is barely socializing, it is allowing us to become a dependent, anti-social society.

References

Vannucci, A., Flannery, K. M., & Ohannessian, C. M. (2017). Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults. Journal of Affective Disorders, 207, 163-166.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Sinek, S., & King, L. (2017). Simon Sinek on millienials and social media addiction.

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