The Witch of Social Media Addiction -By Md. Nahidujjaman
What do you do the first thing when you wake up? For many teenagers the answer will be checking Facebook. Currently, Facebook is a family of more than 2 billion active users and in this case, teenagers constitute a large portion in this family. Even few years before, the existence of such social media was completely unknown but now it is an integral part of our everyday life. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram are some of the popular social networking sites. Nowadays, we cannot think our life without 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 in social media might be considered as unsocial. Though there is age limit, teenagers below the age of thirteen manage to use it hiding their age. We all know benefits of using social media but there is also downside of this media that we often ignore or may fail to realize. This seems like propaganda against social media that seeks to hold back the technological advancement that has enabled us to communicate from all corners of earth and live like next door neighbor and that is probably the most pleasant side of such social media for which the founder can be given credit for but as the years rolling on psychologists are discovering more effects of social media on our brain.
Teenagers are facing this social media experiment for the first time in history that none of their peers has gone through. Psychologists and social media experts are carefully observing this new phenomena and many of them have come to conclusion that social media is somewhat detrimental to teenage psychology and mental development. The American Academy of Pediatrics even warned about potential negative effects of social media in young kids and teens, which included cyber-bullying and “Facebook depression”. Thomas Kersting wrote a book named “Disconnected” on how to reconnect our digitally distracted kids. In his book he drew the attention to his research that he observed increasing number of depression and anxiety disorder among kids which he attributed to the use of smart phone 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. Realizing the human need to share and connect with each other, different social networking site emerged to meet the demand with the inception of widespread internet. We have seen the rise and demise of different social media in short period of time. Social networking sites are seemingly in fierce competition with each other since the beginning. They constantly try to innovate new features to attract more users and their spare time which helps us to resonate what lead them to design their product more attractive. It has made its founders billionaires within shortest possible time. Many psychotherapists expressed their concern that kids are spending average nine hours in social media which is certainly over dose even if we assume that it is totally good. Recently Nottingham Trent University has conducted review study that looked back earlier research on the psychological characteristics, personality and social media use. The authors have given concluding remarks saying “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 overall impact of social media as harmful but one thing for sure today’s parents are facing real challenges is to control their kids from spending time on social media. They particularly attribute the changing behavior pattern of getting disconnected from real world of kids and teenagers to their screen time effect. Many parents complain that their offspring spend too much time looking on screen instead of 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 develop self-centered, self-loving and narcissist traits among not only teenagers but also on adult people. Apparently their life revolves around some social media friends with whom perhaps they never met or did know little about them. Instead of getting connected with closed one in real life, their virtual life illusion of social media causes age old relationship which hampers psychological development of our kids and teenagers which may lead to unwanted consequences in upcoming phase of their life. Albert Mehrabian published a book named ‘Silent Messages’ where he indicated in his research that only 7 percent message is conveyed through verbal communication, 55 percent through body language and other 38 percent through voice and tones. We overly rely on verbal communication in social media 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, which, in an interview with reporter of Axios, Sean Parker, the former and founder president of facebook, has openly admitted. How did they do such 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 feeling of reward which instigates us to share more about us and facebook and other social media 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 rewarding and if it happens otherwise we get depressed. Thus social media give us a false sense of self-esteem. As we are compulsively tapped into notifications, it becomes instinctive and addictive. There is no point to believe that social media have come into existence to serve humanitarian purpose rather it appears that it is driven by capitalistic motive which seeks to consume attention of users as much as possible leading to social media addiction for which the designer must be held responsible for.
The writer is an undergraduate student of the University of Dhaka.