No matter where you go nowadays, it seems as though everyone’s head is buried in their phone. Whether texting, tweeting, sending an Insta, updating your status, creating a Snapchat story, taking a selfie, or making an old fashioned phone call, we are all preoccupied with our phones can do.
With new and interesting features and functions, our mobile devices have gone from being a means of communication to pint- sized computers. There is no end it seems, to chatting, working, or texting. That translates into incredible opportunities to speak with people at all hours of the day and night, all over the world. But what that also means is that we appear to be spending more time using abbreviated computer lingo with cat video creators and people who like our Facebook pages, then interacting with the people we live with IRL (in real life).
The Rise of Social Media
Once upon a time, being able to receive messages on a beeper was big deal. But with the advent of new technology and a desire to really connect with the world around us, more sophisticated forms of tech talk were created. And though the use of social media dates back to the late 1960’s, it has progressed significantly since.
The years between 1997 and 2014 saw rapid growth in friend- seeking sites like Six Degrees and Friendster. Within this period of time we saw the advent of professional resources (LinkedIn), pages that encourage discourse (Facebook), media that allows us to post videos (YouTube), and sites where pictures tell your story (Instagram).
Social Media’s Ripple Effect
Beyond the innovation and capabilities with which we have been gifted, social media has also given us much to consider and reflect upon. Politics and Relationships
The 2016 United States Presidential Elections were fraught with difficulties that included, in part, the use of social media as a political platform. Politicians became more accessible to us because we were able to see them not just as public servants, but real people. Additionally, social media exploded with political rhetoric on all sides of the day’s issues. These electronic exchanges lead to divorce, the end of friendships, and even death threats. People not only held strong beliefs but became emboldened to share them very publicly. The Ways We Spend Our Money
Advertisers understand that more people on more social media platforms, means there are more places and consumers to whom they can promote their wares. The ability to “share” pages and request “likes” helps advertisers encourage us to be both consumers and promoters. As a result, research has found that social media greatly impacts how, why, and where we spend our money. It shapes our thoughts and behaviors, all with the simple click of a mouse. Productivity in the Workplace
Social media can be very addictive. Like alcoholics and addicts seeking their next hit, we have come to rely on the thrill of the expectant beep, ring, or alarm. The belief that we can watch “just one more” of whatever has intrigued us online has become, for many, an elusive goal that directly impacts productivity at work and in other settings. In fact, decreases in productivity often lead to workplace stress, conflict, termination, and loss of wages. We may know that we need to put our phones down, but find the challenge of doing so difficult at best.
Social Media Disconnects Us
The irony of an industry built on communication is that it seems to have disconnected us from each other. Having a conversation with multiple friends on line is not a substitute for real- time communication, nor can it provide us with the human interactions we all need in order to be successful, thriving, human beings.
Social media has been shown to promote isolation while greatly impacting our self esteem. Some people are able to see past the photoshopped images their peers choose to post. But others see images of what they think they should look like and engage in dangerous behaviors in response. This can lead to significant issues with body image, self esteem, and attempts to achieve unrealistic expectations.
Sadly, there are others who choose maladaptive and unsafe ways to use social media, too. Cyberbullying has become ubiquitous on the internet, giving people a misplaced sense of superiority, that is absent empathy for the welfare of those they may not have even met. What bullies do not seem to understand is that their behavior can affect not only their victims, but themselves in the long run, too. Statements posted years ago, even if the bully and bullied have made amends, can impact college applications and job prospects. What we share in cyberspace remains forever, no matter how many times we hit the delete button. The takeaway? Conduct matters, always and everywhere.
Social Media Connects Us
On the flipside, social media connects people across the globe at little to no cost. Opportunities to communicate with all types of individuals has made it possible for us to access support groups and services we might not otherwise have known about. By interfacing with people in our inner circles as well as the public at large, we allow ourselves to be open to new experiences.
Social media has helped many people express their convictions and join forces with others who share their beliefs. These exchanges build relationships, promote empathy, and allow us to focus more on our similarities than our differences.
Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC of Body Systems Wellness in Glendale, California is available to discuss your health concerns regarding the use of social media as well as any other issues you would like to discuss.