Social media has become a big part of our lives, and most of us, cannot live without it. We spend every waking day engaging with it. Learning, receiving, and sharing new information, ideas, and concepts. Every morning, instinctively, everyone reaches out for their phone. They check through their notifications and social media accounts to pick up from where they left off the previous day. People wake up and jump to social media. Scrolling through the news, liking and disliking pictures, commenting, sharing, and tweeting among other activities.
Social media has brought with it many advantages. These include sharing information, creating awarenesses, crowdsourcing, business advertising, job searches, and education among other engagements. People find love, businesses increase their revenue. However, we cannot turn a blind eye to the negatives.
Why the interest?
Social media has become a fact of life, which has shaped our culture, our society, and, perhaps, even our general view of life. I, therefore, decided to explore the harms posed by this medium of communication on interpersonal relationships and individual emotional health. So that through managing it, its harms can be minimized. As we are all caught in the hype of social media, people hardly consider or ponder how heavily social media impacts us as a society or as families. This is the reason why I wrote this post. To bring to light the negative effects of social media on family, relationships, and individual health.
The negative effects of social media
1. It has destroyed physical relationships & the benefits they brought to people
Back in the day relationships were based on kinship. Physical interaction was the norm for maintaining these relationships. Now relationships have expanded to include social networking relationships. I have never been an advocate for anti-change, however, I strongly believe the former system created stronger and more meaningful relationships. Your kinship relations were people who truly cared for you and people who would have your back and protect you.
Relationships created via social networks are not as strong as kinship relationships. Most people have these relationships to just keep them going as and when they desire. Social media has led to weaker interpersonal ties and, ironically, greater isolation among people. Above virtual bodies, social media people have virtual emotions too. They show little empathy.
The physical distance created
While it has helped many connect with others all over the world, social media has terminated the closeness we have with those around us. This exposes us to a gradual breakdown of social cohesion and the destruction of our traditional value systems. Instead of social media complementing the relationships that we had with our loved ones, it has been used to replace those relationships. Physical relationships have been abandoned as the focus is placed on virtual connections.
The ability to trust and find comfort in one another has been distorted. Youths focus on virtual connections and fail to flourish in physical, and social interactions. People allocate so much time to social media that real-life relationships begin to suffer. Important relationships with loved ones and close family members suffer because of this.
Mental health problems caused
2. It causes stress, depression, and anxiety
Social media can lead to psychological problems as it enables young people to over-analyze and criticizes themselves as well as their problems. Clearly, social media is inadvertently leaving youth susceptible to becoming overly self-conscious, anxious, and ultimately depressed.
Seeking acceptance and staying connected with peers is an important element of social life. However, the intensity of the online world is too much. Publicly discussing problems and seeking help creates a factor of self-awareness that triggers anxiety and depression in some people. Social media allows for the constant rehashing of discussions. This causes the victims to become obsessed over the problem and prevents them from moving on in life. As with offline depression, people who suffer from Facebook depression are at risk for social isolation. Sometimes they turn to risky Internet sites and blogs for ‘help’ that may promote substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, aggressive and self-destructive behaviors.”
In the past, problems were not aired out in public but discussed with close relatives, written in journals, or confided to a close friend. But now social media is the primary channel for teens to vent about current problems in their lives.
Social media promotes putting up a facade that highlights all the fun, excitement, and success we seem to enjoy but tells very little about where we are struggling in our day-to-day life on a deeper level. So to fit in, in our profiles we try to portray perfectly happy and trendy facades because that’s what we see others doing. As a result, our profiles reflect how we want to be perceived, rather than showing an honest picture of who we truly are. Thus many would rather embrace this “happy” safe illusion of virtual connection rather than share and develop real-life relationships. Several studies have shown that these superficial connections can end up causing long-term emotional and psychological problems.
Social connections create weak ties and these further lead to anxiety and stress. Take for example, if you have a funeral in the family, how many of your social connections will attend or assist? People just send condolence messages. But soon after that, they are already posting about their happy moments which may be quite depressing if you are grieving. Kinship relations, on the other hand, drop everything they are doing to assist with a problem and even share the pain and grief with you which is really uplifting.
Cyberbullying is also another issue that has become major among youths. People hide their identity posing to be someone else. False identities are used to terrorize and humiliate victims. It takes a lot of courage for someone to verbally attack someone face to face but on social media, people say anything without reservations.
These issues leave teenagers with deep mental scars and some commit suicide. Bullying victimization has currently been associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviors and mental health problems. Early-onset mental health problems pose a risk for the development of psychiatric disorders in adulthood.
3. It diverts attention from dealing with real issues
People are running to social media to avoid dealing with their real problems. Instead of dealing with their problems with close family or friends, people rather resort to social media. They start posting, browsing, and chatting with their virtual connections whilst avoiding their real-life issues. They are constantly projecting an unrealistic and unachievable perception of perfectionism within social networks. This brings about a lot of anxiety and stress due to perfection-seeking. A perfect career, perfect marriage, perfect skin, etc.
4. It causes people emotional stress
Catfishing which enables people to befriend strangers online while using a fake or stolen identity is a deceptive act. It has ruined marriages, relationships, and the emotional well-being of many people. Social media promotes superficial connections that can end up causing long-term emotional and psychological problems.
Creates a dependency syndrome or peer pressure mentality
It robs people of self-control and the ability to think independently. People gullibly join any group that posts messages that tickle their ears and amuse their senses without evaluating the consequences. Some people are very uncomfortable living with themselves to the extent that they use social media as an escape route. They try to make a living on social media and in the end, they end up being depressed.
People are so caught up in the whirlwind. Social media influences our thoughts, actions, security, and confidence. It’s like our lives are dependent upon it. It robs us of “self-regulation” and makes us susceptible “to peer pressure.”
5. It leads to antisocial behavior
Everywhere you go, everyone is glued to their phone or tablet, or other electronic gadgets. Social media fosters a false sense of online “connections” and superficial friendships. This leads to emotional and psychological problems. It becomes addictive and wastes family and personal time. Interpersonal skills also diminish, leading to antisocial behavior.
6. It leads to a breakdown in communication and causes unnecessary conflicts
Social media lacks one important part of communication; body language. Paralanguage is very important for understanding one another and reducing misinterpretation. Body gestures have always been used to understand fully what a person is saying. Social media excludes that important aspect and often causes a breakdown in communication. Things such as jokes or sarcasm when communicating via social media may be misread because body gestures are not available. This can end up conveying a different message to the hearer/listener and affects relationships.
8. It wastes productive time
On average, people spend about 2 hours every day on social media. Checking emails, updates, statuses, uploads and feeds, commenting, liking, and disliking different things. Most of the time, these are non-productive things but stuff to keep us updated on things that don’t matter. Social media appears to be very addictive and people have developed a dependency syndrome on it. A moment of checking something will turn into an hour of unproductiveness. People even perceive going without social media as equated to going without friends and or family.
How to manage social media
- Limiting the time spent there
- Screening the information we share with the public
- Being human and portraying normal realities of life rather than the perfectionism picture
- Taking time off social media and spending it with our close relatives and friends.
Technology is a very good servant but a very bad master. We need to let it serve us rather than control us. There are so many benefits that we can derive from social media if we use it properly. But if unmanaged, it can also destroy us. Use social media to your advantage, for advertising, job searches, and other daily necessities. But at the end of the day, focus on the people around you and in your life. Do not rely so much on social media to provide you with entertainment, self-worth, and confidence. We need to be able to screen or restructure the quantity and quality of information we receive and share. We also need to be mindful of the time we spend there.
We need a generation of thinkers more than we need those who seek to be influenced. Virtual connections should not result in empty physical relationships. A world of connections with no meaningful relationships will not profit us much. Use social media to improve your life and not waste your time.
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