Guest blog by Pieter Vanackere
Our youth needs a stop button on the smartphone. This appears from the large-scale Belgian research At-pie years, which annually asks 3,300 high school youngsters about their media use. For the first time, the researchers also surveyed digital stress: 31.5 percent of young people often or very often find it difficult to stop using social media on their smartphone. Young people themselves indicate that this has a negative influence on their homework and sleep rhythm. The fact is that 3 out of 4 young people never choose social media over spending time with others.
Social media has created a new form of bullying, namely cyber bullying. The internet everywhere available gives bullies a completely new platform to spread negative comments. This form can be sent via sms, post comments on platforms or spread in other ways. The comments can be sent by acquaintances or strangers. The internet offers a new way of bullying to say their opinions anonymously, lowering the social threshold when expressing negative emotions, says Child Focus.
Social media is a technology that has spread throughout the world. Many people wonder what effect you will get when you are in constant connection with someone else. This is how the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine investigated which mental effects could possibly come from social media. Their research group consisted of 1787 young American adults with ages between 19 and 32. Their research came to the following conclusion: "The more time young adults spend on social media, the greater the chance they have of becoming depressed."
The depression was diagnosed with the help of “Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS), this is a short form in which depression is measured on different scales. Chi-squared tests and ordered logical regressions were performed with the data that emerged from these forms.
There were significant and linear connections between the use of social media and depression. The use of social media was measured in terms of total use of time or frequency of visits. It was compared between people not paying much attention to social media and others who pay more attention to social media in a week. People who pay more attention to social media have about twice as much chance of depression. If one compared the 2 groups on a daily basis, those who pay more attention to social media at the end of the day had 1.7 times more chance of depression. During testing, an autonomous research group was provided that shared the same age, gender, race, ethnicity, relationship status, living situation, household income, and educational level.
Consistency of social media with depression
There is a connection between social media and depression, but this connection is not always negative. There is a possibility that social media offers a rescue for people suffering from depression to fill the void.
There is also a possibility that social media has triggered depression. Instead of moving away from social media, they hope to find comfort in the same platform. For example, exposure to media where the user posts their luxury life on social media provokes feelings of envy. This can lead to a wrong idea where you think that others lead a happier, more successful life than yourself. Social media also offers us the option to participate in meaningless activities such as small online mini-games. This creates a sense of "waste of time" for some. Your actions that initially seemed useful in the online game do not seem so useful afterwards and this has a negative effect on the psychological well-being of the user. The use of social media could fuel 'internet addiction' and this is a psychiatric disorder that is closely associated with depression.
Given the results of the research, we can establish that social media is actually associated with depression. It is crucial to use this research to inform users and to develop interventions that address depression.
Professor Patricia M. Greenfield does not look positively at the influences of social media. Young people risk an obsessive personality, poor self-control and a shorter attention span. This dependence has a chance of 'rewiring' the brain, with the result that adults are less able to handle reality. Spending hours in front of the screen, instead of playing with peers, would prevent young children from learning basic emotional and social skills. A generation has emerged that constantly craves feedback and there is a danger of narcissism and a lack of self-esteem, "because you will always find someone better or more beautiful than yourself."
Psychologist Larry Rosen has been researching the effects of technology on people for 25 years. It emerged that young people and children in particular had the greatest consequences of intensive use on social media.
Rosen claims that narcissism can be linked to young people who log into social media a lot. Every time the young people log in to the platform, there is an increase in the chance of developing antisocial personality, excessive alcohol consumption or showing paranoid behavior. The body of a young person is also under pressure, causing sleep problems or stomach problems. The virtual world where they immerse themselves is more important to some than physical reality, which increases the chance of school /absenteeism. This results in lower grades at school than young people who make moderate use of social media. .
Loss of focus
Because of the many applications that use social media, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to continue to focus on one task. They are accustomed to receiving impulses from 5 or more different applications, which makes it possible for them to divide their attention perfectly, but it is difficult to retain it. These impulses also require only a few seconds of attention so that the sustained attention span is not trained. Research has shown that every 15 minutes that young people spend studying there are only 3 minutes where they are actually focused on the subject. The other 12 is reserved for monitoring the social applications on smartphone or computer. .
Social media addiction has since become a fact alongside alcohol and drug addiction because it shows exactly the same symptoms. It is even claimed that there is a shrinkage of the brain part that is responsible for speech, emotions and sensory perceptions. (this only occurs in the most extreme forms of use).
Even though social media is much poorly discussed by current media (such as online newspapers, magazines, etc.), there are advantages to this way of communicating. Young people can use the internet to explore the world around them in a relatively safe way. They can share events without directly entering into a relationship. It is a form of self-presentation without looking anyone in the eye and collecting the reactions directly. Social media is everywhere and is therefore a perfect way to keep in touch with your loved ones while you yourself are on the other side of the globe. Social media is active worldwide so young people around the world can build contacts to deepen later in real contacts and friendships. There is great opportunity to learn a lot about other cultures from the cultures themselves.
The Royal Society For Public Health conducted a study in the UK in 2017. The chosen target group was between 16 and 65 + years. Their goal was to discover all aspects of social media and how we would deal with it in the future. Online platforms must be a safe place for young people and they must be able to know where they can get help if problems arise.
Feeling anxious and worse mental health
Health data emerged from their research. This data confirms the investigation previously initiated by the UPMC. There is an increased risk of depression and anxiety. 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety disorder in their lives, this number has been increased by 70% in the last 25 years. The RSFPH study shows that 4 of the 5 most used social platforms promote their anxiety. Researchers discovered that young people who are active on social networks for more than 2 hours a day, such as Facebook, Twitter or instagram, are more likely to experience poor mental health. Your attention then focuses on people who are traveling or in a higher social class. When you find yourself in a lower social class you get a wrong worldview and your self-image drops because you want to strive for perfectionism. From posts on social media you can deduce with 70% certainty whether there is a big chance of depression.
Worries about body image
As mentioned earlier, you want to feel as good as anyone else through social media. On Facebook, 10 million new photos are uploaded every hour. Because of the many photos there is a lot of content to compare your body image. Studies show that girls around the age of 20 who use Facebook have greater concerns about their own body image than girls who don't. After using Facebook, the urge is also greater to change their appearance such as face, hair and / or skin. Because your self-image is falling you start to doubt everything, you worry and this has an effect on your sleep. You lie in bed at night and wonder why you are not having a good life like the others. You can link poor sleep to numerous physical and mental problems, in the worst cases it can even lead to heart attacks.
Health effects of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is now happening on a global scale, which is dangerous. Because bullying in childhood is an important risk factor for poor psychological well-being. There is very little time that is spent uncontactably nowadays. 7 out of 10 young people have already come into contact with cyberbullying, of which 37% says that this happens frequently. Cyberbullying victims are more likely to suffer from low academic performance, depression, anxiety, self-harm, feelings of loneliness, and changes in sleeping and eating patterns. 91% of all young people who reported bullying effectively said no further steps were taken.
FoMO or "Fear Of Missing Out" is a new concept but has grown rapidly in our culture since the contribution of social media. This means that nowadays young people want to be connected to everything because they are afraid that they would miss something or be excluded. If they are not aware of something, this can result in a lower mood or even lower satisfaction with their lives. The constant stream of photos that they can receive gives them the feeling that they are missing life while others enjoy it.
The positive side of social media is that you have access to other people's health experiences. Experiences are shared in which other people recognize themselves and thus have a solution for their own problem. Social platforms have been established where you can go with health questions and where you get accurate responses. The many information that is spread over the internet gives easier access to knowledge about medicines or minor ailments. In this way young people are also better prepared for their adult future.
There is a lot of emotional support on the internet. Almost 7 out of 10 teenagers receive emotional support through social media during difficult periods. With more than 100th friends on social networks, there is always someone you can find support for. That way you can join a group and surround yourself with positive people.
Self-expression has become much easier with social media. Everyone can personalize their own page so that their own personality emerges. This can be done by writing photos, videos or blogs.
As a final positive point, social media is a great help to maintain relationships. Because everyone is accessible everywhere, it is easier for you to keep in touch with people who live further away or who you have not seen before. You can strengthen ties by hearing each other every day on social media and this translates to the real world where you see each other again. Social media is also often seen as a "2the phase ”in the meeting process. This makes it easier to continue even the shortest interactions and still get to know that person better. Without this platform, that contact could easily have been lost.
Positive and negative characteristics emerge from the different points of view. The biggest factor that can control these influences are the users. Their choice of how to deal with social media is decisive for their future and help groups will have to be set up to provide everyone with the necessary care. Let's hope everyone helps each other in this great technological evolution to get a success experience when using online social media.