Social media rules the Internet. Name anyone who doesn’t have an SNS account yet and you’d probably have a hard time thinking of any. Everyone is using some form of social media these days. All time favorites are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. People can get lost for hours browsing their various SNS news feed and clicking on links to find out what is trending in the online world. And with the advent of smartphones, it became like second nature for people to check on their SNS accounts every few minutes or so. Even businesses benefit from social media in order to reach a wider audience without all the hassle. They can promote and grow their brand by posting regularly on social media where people can immediately see their posts and even leave comments or messages.
While initially thought as something innocent and just a means to pass the time and kill boredom, social media has evolved to become an addiction that is slowly messing up with their lives especially with school and work responsibilities. You don’t often notice the hours passing by because you are too engrossed clicking all those likes, comments, and shares. How can it be bad then when you are not doing anything bad and you are actually having a good time? But today, experts have likened a social media obsession to a cocaine addiction but these claims still lack sufficient scientific evidence to back it up.
Letting your child use social media is like giving them cocaine, alcohol and cigarettes—all at once, or so we’re told. If you have been following recent press reports about the effects of social media on young people, you may well believe this. But there is no scientific evidence to support such extreme claims.
The real story is far more complex. It is very difficult to predict how social media will affect any specific individual—the effect depends on things like their personality, type of social media use and social surroundings. In reality, social media can have both positive and negative outcomes.
Media reports that compare social media to drug use are ignoring evidence of positive effects, while exaggerating and generalising the evidence of negative effects. This is scaremongering—and it does not promote healthy social media use. We would not liken giving children sweets to giving children drugs, even though having sweets for every meal could have serious health consequences. We should therefore not liken social media to drugs either.
For several decades now that the Internet has been around, it has not yet been proven that social media is truly an addiction. But you don’t need an extensive scientific proof to say that excessive social media use is bad especially when used by young kids whose understanding of right and wrong isn’t that concrete yet. They crave for the attention and acceptance of others especially in platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, which were considered as the most detrimental of all.
If you feel you are constantly checking your Facebook, Instagram or other social media pages, you’re not alone. Though, these days, some researchers are warning about of negative effects social media addiction can have in people especially in teenagers.
A recent study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement titled #StatusOfMind looked into the habits of young people online. Researchers found that YouTube tops the list as having the most positive impact on a teen’s mental health, while apps like Instagram and Snapchat were found to be the most detrimental.
Local board-certified clinical psychologist, Dr. Carli Snyder, says social media pages flooded with filtered or photo-shopped images, like Instagram and Snapchat, can fill a teenager’s head with an unrealistic desire to look and even feel a certain way.
“Snapchat and Instagram are all based on likes and comments and I think kids crave to know that they’re liked,” Snyder said. “If you have a teenager or you work with teenagers, you see, when their phone is taken away how they react, and it is almost like a withdrawal.”
You may not witness the usual physical symptoms common among addicts to drugs and alcohol but social media cause the same disruption to human behavior and even trigger withdrawal symptoms. You spend more time online and you feel good doing it. That’s basically it. It’s a repetitive habit of checking social media and then doing it again over and over again during the course of the day. It even leads to sleep deprivation as people stay wide awake at night and busy fiddling with their smartphones instead of actually sleeping. While we can’t deny the many benefits offered by social media, it has its dangers too. By knowing what these threats are, the experts can help find the best way to manage and overcome social media obsession so we can still enjoy its many wonderful features without sacrificing human health.