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Is it beneficial to use social media?

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Human beings are social creatures by nature. One basic human instinct is to want to connect with others. One of the most significant inventions of the last centuries to help that was technology. In the early days, communication was limited to in-person meetings or some type of publication, such as journals and books. However, people minimized their real social life over the past decades, migrating to a new digital way of interaction.

Viewing and using social media has become increasingly popular and helped this movement. It brought people closer by creating, sharing, or exchanging information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Some platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter, facilitate connecting and keeping in touch with people across any physical or social distance. At the same time, it’s a place to be informed of all the recent news about everything everywhere.

All these possibilities and information lead to the feeling of having the whole world at a finger’s distance and that every opinion has the same weight. However, like everything in life, there are always two sides to a coin. Although social media help humankind be connected and is not a problem for most people, some users still use them excessively or compulsively, bringing adverse effects, such as addiction, mental issues, and could lead to isolation.

The necessity to use every day, every hour

Nowadays, people panic when it’s impossible to remember where their personal smartphone is or feel the vibration in their pockets when their phones are not even there. This sensation happens because of their addiction. Nevertheless, their responsibility for this dependency is not the physical device; it’s the apps inside it. The Addiction Center defined the main characteristics of social media addiction as:

  1. Being overly concerned about social media,

  2. Driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media,

  3. Devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.

Organically speaking, when someone interacts in social media, the brain triggers dopamine, a chemical reaction produced to reward humans for beneficial behaviors and motivate them to repeat the action. This reaction usually happens after exercise, sex, or eating a portion of good food. But, a study made by cognitive neuroscientists shows that successful social interaction on social media activates the same places in our brains, similar to some synthetic drugs like cocaine. Physiologically, this reaction is the real responsible for social media addiction.

Tried to be happier but became sad

The prolonged exposure to other’s edited lives could damage not only life balance but also mental health. It’s human nature to compare themselves to others, and self-esteem uses this process to define their self-worth. The habit of measuring ourselves against others could inspire us to achieve more. Still, it’s usual to generate negative emotions, such as shame, envy, or anxiety.

A proof of how social media could be harmful is a Facebook’s research leaked by the Wall Street Journal in September of 2021. The study revealed that “thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse”.

By using social media, the self-comparison dramatically increased, and it’s unfair. Closer friends and colleagues selected only the good part of life to expose online to show how good they became. Influencers and artists exhibit their reality, which is too different from ordinary life, and establish standards of excellence impossible to reach for most people. All this exposure might increase the impostor’s syndrome, which is when people have low self-esteem. Suppose some posts do not gain as many likes as expected, instead of the good feeling of dopamine. In that case, people feel anxiety, fear, and even lead to an extreme situation, such as suicide.

Tried to be connected but became alone

Using social media became a helper to avoid some situations considered weird. The most common option is to open an app, usually social media, to avoid eye contact and interactions with strangers when someone is alone in public spaces. The mind tries to reduce insecurity by feeling connected to others, even temporarily by doing that behavior. Consequently, safety and connection disappear when they unplug, leading to a feeling of not belonging and disconnection with the real world.

Another reason to contribute to isolation is cyberbullying. A study from the University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University noticed that loneliness increases directly proportional to negative experiences on social media. They did not found any similar connection for positive experiences, reinforcing the effects of the negative bias on people’s lives. For being so hard to distinguish real life from the digital environment, some people could think they do not have a reason to live and interact with others if they are “canceled” on social media, especially young people.

There is any bright side?

Despite adverse effects, some people could advocate for the good side of social media: the possibility to get connected and reconnected with family and friends. However, this attitude could achieve mental issues. It is proven that if a person wastes hours of their day on social media instead of having real connections, loneliness and inadequacy feelings will likely worsen. So, even though it is good to keep in touch with other people, it is more important to take care of mental health.

As technology expands itself, an established way of how society consumes information is using social media. It turned into the preferred channel and went viral by reducing people’s distance, informing recent news as they occur, and giving everyone a voice. Despite the good intentions of the creators of this invention, the psychological impact on humans is alarming. The addiction to using social media is real and affects the brain the same way as illegal drugs and could damage not only the physical body but also mental health. This addiction could reduce self-esteem and increase negative feelings such as anxiety, disconnection, and loneliness when it is out of control.

The usage of smartphones and social media apps will probably increase in the following years and decades. So it is up to the users to decide how much time they dedicate to it and how much they take care of mental health. Being aware of the signs that social media is impacting life negatively could be the first step to take some measures to regain life’s control. Turning off notifications, removing toxic apps, using apps that help to improve the quality of life, setting boundaries, or even trying to disconnect one day per week fully could make a big difference to mental health.


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