Is it time to “unfriend” social media?

Addiction technology on the rise among teens


Tatum Cunningham checks her phone after school (Sophie O’Shei/Special to The Seraphim)

By Sophie O'Shei, Special to The Seraphim

Cars rumbling, feet shuffling, and keyboards clicking are common noises in nearly any
public place in modern society—from high schools to airports and everything in between.
However, if one takes the time to really observe, what he or she will notice is that there is a minimal amount of true conversation occurring. People now order food, talk to friends, take pictures, buy groceries, check emails, read the news, listen to music, and work—all from their smartphones. By reducing the need for interpersonal communication in the real world, social media and other modern technologies increase self-involvement, cause jealousy, and degrade relationships. Especially in teenagers, social media increases narcissism and injures relationships.
The Association for Psychological Science conducted a 2017 study titled “Social Media ‘Likes’Impact Teens’ Brains and Behavior” in which 32 teenagers viewed a series of images on Instagram, and scientists analyzed their brain activity. This study found that viewing personal images with a high number of “likes” stimulates the release of endorphins, hormones that cause happiness, which the body also releases after a long run, a hot shower, or a delicious dessert (“Social Media ‘Likes’ Impact Teens’ Brains and Behavior”).
However, the opposite is also in effect (“Social Media ‘Likes’ Impact Teens’ Brains and Behavior”). This demonstrates how teens search for satisfaction artificially, based on the number of “likes” their digital identity obtains. This leads to a decline of of searching for satisfaction through relationships and communication in the real world. Additionally, social media causes teens to seek acceptance from peers by looking to others instead of looking to themselves for approval. This gives rise to a
selfish nature and a lack of honest relationships based on trust, understanding, and compassion.
Social media impacts the lives of modern teenagers by leading them to be more self-centered and preventing them from forming genuine bonds with other people.
Secondly, social media encourages envy, which destroys friendships and continues the
cycle of seeking external approval.
A 2015 study titled “Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?” conducted by Hanna Krasnova of the Institute of Information Systems in Berlin, Germany explored how users of Facebook experience varying emotions, both recognized and unrecognized, while using social media. Of over 300 study participants, 56.3 percent of Facebook users reported “their most recent envy experience” as being toward people based upon their vacations and material purchases (Krasnova 6).
Also, in a 2009 study conducted by Eric Gilbert and Karrie Karahalios titled “Predicting Tie Strength With Social Media,” scientists interviewed 35 randomly selected participants with 2,184 cumulative Facebook friends to rank the strength of each of their relationships on Facebook. Of the seven categories analyzed, the lowest ranking percentage was emotional support, while the highest included common Facebook friends (Gilbert and Kalaharios 6).
Both of these studies demonstrate how social media shifts the emphasis of friendships from honesty, sympathy, and support to materialism, jealousy, and egotism. People who are friends on social media are not genuine friends and do not necessarily even care about each other substantially, especially if they have no association outside of the digital realm. Social media engenders jealousy in people of all ages and injures the strength of interpersonal relationships.
Some may argue that social media’s benefits in the world of communication outweigh its
faults, but this claim is false in a multitude of ways. One counterclaim is that social media allows people to interact more frequently with their friends and family, especially those who live far away, but this argument fails to recognize that interaction with a screen and miles in between two people is not genuine communication. The use of social media may bring temporary joy, but the long-term effects are detrimental.
A large number of studies, including the three cited above, demonstrate how social media may seem beneficial in the short-term but is negative in the long-term, causing jealousy and selfishness and hindering the formation of genuine relationships.
Phone calls, video chatting, text messaging, and email are appropriate ways to communicate with friends and family, and social media adds an unnecessary and dangerous aspect of ubiquity, anonymity, and overly open access to communication.
Overall, there are innumerable downsides to social media in the sphere of social interaction that overwhelm the momentary perks. Thus, social media and other modern technologies that people view as conveniences are degrading the value of honest, face-to-face communication and depriving people of the ability to form genuine relationships with the people around them.
If everyone would take extra time out of each day to put down his or her smartphone and connect with the people in his or her life, the world would become a place where empathy and understanding preside over self-interest and jealousy.