What do you do first when you wake up? For many teenagers the answer will be checking the facebook. Currently the facebook is a family of more than 2.0 billion active users and teenagers. Even few years ago no such social media existed, but now it is an integral part of our everyday life. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instragram are some of the popular social networking sites. Today we can't think of our life without being connected on the social media. This world of likes, comments and shares has been embedded in our common sense to such an extent that anyone who is not found on the social media might be considered unsocial. Though there is an age limit, teenagers below the age of thirteen manage to use it hiding their age. We all know the benefits of using social media but there is also the downside of this media that we often ignore or may fail to realise. This seems like propaganda against social media that has enabled us to communicate from all corners of the planet and live like next-door neighbours and that is probably the most pleasant side of such social media for which the founder can be given credit. But with the passage of time, psychologists are finding more effects of social media on our brain.
Teenagers are facing this social media experiment for the first time in history. Psychologists and social media experts are carefully observing this new phenomenon and many of them have come to the conclusion that social media is somewhat detrimental to teenage psychology and mental development. The American Academy of Pediatrics has even warned about potential negative effects of social media on young kids and teens and that also include cyber-bullying and "Facebook depression". Thomas Kersting wrote a book titled "Disconnected" that dwells on how to reconnect our digitally-distracted kids. In his book he drew attention to his research that pointed out the increasing depression and anxiety among kids which he attributed to the use of smart phones and social media.
Social media, though a very new means of communication, has brought about astounding changes in our social relationship with such a rapid pace that no other form of media can claim to have. Realising the human need to share and connect with each other, different social networking sites emerged to meet the demand with the inception of widespread access to internet. We have seen rise and demise of different social media outlets in a short period of time. Social networking sites are seemingly in a fierce competition with each other. They constantly try to innovate new features to attract more users. It has made its founders billionaires within the shortest possible time. Many psychotherapists have expressed their concern that kids are spending on an average nine hours on social media which is certainly an over dose even if we assume that it is totally good. Recently the Nottingham Trent University has conducted a review study that looked back at earlier research on the psychological characteristics, personality and social media use. The authors have given concluding remarks as follows: "Facebook Addiction Disorder'…because addiction criteria, such as neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, tolerance and concealing the addictive behavior, appear to be present in some people who use [social networks] excessively."
Perhaps this is not the right time to say the overall impact of social media is bad but today's parents are facing real challenges to control their kids' screen time, especially on social media. They particularly attribute the changing behavioural pattern of getting disconnected from the real world of kids and teenagers to their screen time effect. Many parents complain that their sons/daughters spend too much time looking on screen rather than engaging in social activities. This has significantly reduced their face to face communication in real life which is essential for teenagers' mental development. Exposing to overly use of social media has led to self-centered, self-loving and narcissist traits among not only teenagers but also adult people. Apparently their life revolves around some social media friends with whom perhaps they have never met and know little about them. Instead of getting connected with close ones in real life, their virtual life illusion causes it to decline and thus social media is replacing age-old relationship, which is greatly hampering psychological development of our kids and teenagers which may lead to unwanted consequences in later phase of their life.
Albert Mehrabian published a book on "Silent Messages" where his research indicates that only 7.0 per cent messages are conveyed through verbal communication, 55 per cent through body language and other 38 per cent through voice and tones. We overly rely on verbal communication in social media and for this reason, kids and teenagers fail to learn body language traits for not engaging in face-to-face real life conversation.
Many psychologists and social media analysts claim that it has been made addictive deliberately to consume our full attention. In an interview, the former and founder president of facebook Sean Parker has openly admitted this. How did they do such a thing? Human psychology can give satisfactory answer to this question. In our brain we have reward pathways. When we do something that brain perceives as rewarding, it triggers the feeling of joy with the help of neuro transmitter called dopamine. When we talk and share about ourselves, it gives us a feeling of reward which instigates us to share more about us. Facebook and other social media platforms manipulate this human psychology. We expect notifications that somebody has given love reaction to our status, photos or comments and if we really get that, we feel rewarded and if it happens otherwise, we feel depressed. Thus social media gives us a false sense of self-esteem. As we are compulsively tapped into notifications, over a period of time it becomes instinctive and addictive.
There is no point to believe that social media has come into existence to serve the humanitarian purpose, rather it appears that it is driven by a capitalistic motive which seeks to consume attention of the users as much as possible leading to social media addiction, for which the designer must be held responsible.
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