Social media includes multiple applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, etc. They have created global platforms for discussion of topics ranging from social issues. Like climate change or complex scientific discussions that allow technological advancements at an ever growing pace. However, with all its benefits there are a variety of negative consequences that it poses. Causing its consumers to become dependent on them for the functioning of their everyday lives.
Some consumers of social media become addicts and lose their lives as a consequence of this addiction. It Is a dangerous technology especially for impressionable minds who do not yet understand how it operates. They are built to create dependency. The mark of a great product is creating dependency. In fact, the design of these systems is calibrated to create the most addicts that it can. They thrive on this and directly convert it into revenue.
People that consume social media are on multiple platforms simultaneously. They are detached from the real world while being in the illusion that they are connected. Social media, like any addiction, causes self-seeking isolation. This is partly because the content is never-ending, with every post better than the next. People consume videos, memes, stream movies, and tv shows, leaving their normal lives behind. They en up preferring no one to be around them to distract them from the content. While we were in lockdown, this habit was further fed and the dependency increased. Applications such as Netflix have gained a record number of users worldwide. The effects of this will linger far after the pandemic ends. These sites have now become the new media giants that provide specified content according to past viewing history. They are therefore better able to grasp our attention than television and radio ever could.
Why they are so addictive
The reason Social media is so addictive is that it produces dopamine in our brains. It is a reward chemical produced when we achieve something of value. Like winning a race, this chemical is also secreted when drug consumers use narcotics. It gives people a feeling of accomplishment and social media platforms prey on dopamine release. Every time we receive a like on our photos or when we gain information from content, it releases dopamine. This gives us a false sense of satisfaction leaving us wanting more. People seek dopamine and enter an endless cycle that grips us like a parasite and feeds off of us. This creates individuals who disregard the real world, their work, their relationships, and instead seek the company of their devices.
The greatest battle of our generation is the one against technology. Every single user is an addict. Just because everyone around them is an addict, they do not recognize their own addiction.
We are so dependant on social media not only for entertainment but also for our work, our relationships that it has become an indispensable part of our life which further substantiates the issue as people will be punished for leaving it. We spend hours of our days, mindlessly scrolling content, receiving information that does not apply to us, and wasting our days while time flies by. Social media platforms compete with each other for our attention and in this competition, the users suffer.
Do you ever think why these platforms are free?
It is because the consumer is the product. You are what they are selling. These platforms sell our attention to advertisements and by looking at our histories they can mine data, which allows them to sell specified advertisements to us according to our interests. You might have heard of the Cambridge election scam in The United States elections. This was a direct utilization of Facebook data to specifically target regions with advertisements to convert the ideological position of important districts to gain support for a candidate. This just proves how capable and willing these applications are to allow the data to be weaponized as long as they are paid for it.
The most vulnerable population
The people that are most affected by social media are the youth of our nations. They are caught in this addiction at a young age and ingrained to consume data. Children grow up behind the screen, removing them from nature, sports, friends, living a virtual life, and wasting their formative years. They are captivated by the tricks used by media platforms like hashtags and hot trends distancing them from natural peer group interaction and not allowing them to form their personalities.
Teenagers look at the lavish lives lived by social media influencers with their perfect bodies and this produces negative thought patterns. They do not realize that they are faked photos to captivate the audiences and are mostly investments as they will earn the money back with your views. Influencers also use photoshop to hide their flaws and to enhance their strengths which creates a standard of beauty that is unnatural and oftentimes impossible to attain.
What you can do about it
This addiction to social media and self-isolation breeds anxiety and self-doubt. We lose our self-esteem as we compare ourselves with influencers and therefore seek isolation even more. Anxiety produces depression and the cycle continues. We must realize the consequences of social media and aim for temperance. The average person can’t leave all media platforms however we can aim to have self-control, which is knowing when is too much. I personally measure the hours I spend each day and set a limit to how much time I am allowed to spend on social media and media content platforms after which I do not consume any media. You can also delete most of the media platforms you are on and only use the one that is most helpful to you for your work and maintaining relationships.
We must take action now and recognize that social media addiction is real and we are all addicted. We must therefore start being proactive in our approach and slowly fade out or at least reduce our dependency and learn how to enjoy the little things in life, like a conversation with a family member, a walk in the park, or pick up some hobbies that can help utilize all the free time we have. You will realize that so much can be achieved in the time you spend on your phone and so much could have been done.
We also must help the younger generation understand this and if possible keep them off such devices for as long as possible. We must acknowledge the battle for our attention that these media conglomerates are fighting for and choose not to be the product that they sell. Take control of your time and be mindful of how you spend it, you won’t regret it.
SEO Varsha Singh
Graphics Deepti Bhatnagar