Anti Social Social Media
Above: weekly phone usage of an anonymous student at packer
As smartphones have wormed their way into more and more pockets of children and teenagers, the number of hours of screen time spent on social media has skyrocketed. In recent years, teenagers have become so obsessed with pouring their own lives out and consuming those of others on social media that they sometimes forget to truly appreciate and live their experiences.
It is so easy to mindlessly open an app and soon discover that a whole hour has passed by the time you finally lift your eyes up from the feed of some friend’s friend you have never met. The epidemic of teen addiction to social media has reached unprecedented levels. According to a recent poll by Common Sense Media, 75% of teenagers in America today have profiles on social media sites.
Dr. Joshua Srebnick, Middle School Psychologist, is worried that “people don’t really realize how addictive this gets.” He noted that many feel as though they can’t live without it and start to feel anxious when they don’t have the ability to post about some experience they had, or remain up to date on their friends’ everyday lives.
Although social media clearly reaches its objective of making socialization easy and more widespread, it also can do just the opposite. The urgent need to check messages can take away from the pureness of quality time spent with others. Willa Gilbert-Goldstein (‘20) stated that social media has “the ability to create a social barrier” in interactions, which has decreased the value of engaging in face-to-face conversations. Wholesome hang outs can turn into snapchatting other friends, or even messaging among friends sitting within reach of each other.
“People can use social media or being on their phones to remove themselves from awkward social situations,” stated Jojo Sampson (‘21). However, the comfort of stepping away from real life social interactions and into social media hinders the ability to build social skills. Being completely present in a conversation has become less common, and people tend to forget that this involves freeing yourself from the controlling, glowing rectangle attached to the palm of your hand.
Additionally, we constantly hear examples in the news and in our own communities of the ways social media is used to hurt people. Dr. Srebnick noted that the rates of cyberbullying are still rising, and people are feeling increasingly isolated.
“This notion of feeling sort of lost and alone has been a major thing that psychologists and psychiatrists are talking about,” said Dr. Srebnick. It has become too easy to publicize everything, and now teenagers are doing cruel things to each other without acknowledging that these actions have “a permanence and a life online, forever.”
Dr. Srebnick also pointed out that depression and insecurity in teenagers have risen along with social media. The popular use of social media has not only created a window for bullying and insecurity, but has also created “a shield, which allows [people] to say things that they otherwise wouldn’t say in person,” says Matt Kodsi (‘22). Being able to speak to someone without being face to face with them makes it easier to ignore and neglect feelings, an increasingly relevant component of cyberbullying.
For students with highly involved social lives, it is common that the buzz of a phone causes excitement and an almost unavoidable impulse to see who wants to talk to you, which ultimately distracts you from schoolwork.
Adda Jones (‘21) believes that social media “definitely negatively affects [her] work habits,” but, like many others, she uses its platforms so much that getting rid of them would bring feelings of exclusion. The widespread use of social media has made it difficult for teenagers to conceptualize life without it, for these apps are where relevant social information is commonly posted and found.
Though social media can be dangerous and harmful, Dr. Srebnick sees its positive effects as well. To him, the fact that “through social media you [can] find a kid in Texas and a kid in Iowa working to help animals or helping children in some third world country” is amazing; “the impact is quite profound.” Social media has given us a platform for efficient communication and, because of this, we can now connect with people who we would never have the opportunity to meet.
However, a mainstream platform for connection comes at a cost. Unlocking their phone and going straight to a social media app has become so routine to many people that they usually don’t stop to question the numerous hours spent glued to their devices. The “constant social stimulation,” as Willa Gilbert-Goldstein (‘20) calls it, that we get from social media is so addictive that we begin to wonder what life would be like without it. What would happen if packer students were forced to take a break from the huge media platform we have begun to rely on?