Oct 9th, 2017, 07:44 PM

The Negative Effects of Social Media

By Nicolette Jordan
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Nelli Syrotynksa
Social media has created a new form of value called social currency.

Every day, it’s the same routine: I wake up to my alarm, grab my phone and immediately check my social media accounts. I scroll through my notifications, respond to messages and check out what everyone else posted throughout the night.  Walking to class I do the same. On my break at work I check again. Even when I am out with friends or family, I check my phone at least once. Social media has infiltrated our lives. It keeps us connected to the world day and night, but what is the price we are paying for this “connection?”

Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Happy Dancing

Social Media is a highlight reel. What you see on social media is only a fraction of the bigger picture. Everyone posts their best moments, the best pictures of themselves or the coolest things they are doing. Every day we see the best version everyone wants to display of themselves and their lives. I look through my feed and think, “I wish I looked like that” or “I wish my life was more exciting”. We see our friends out and think, “Wow, why wasn’t I invited to that? Did I do something wrong? Is something wrong with me?” It is so easy to get caught up in the facade we see that we forget to look at the bigger picture. Of course, we all have those days where we look great or are traveling somewhere new and want to document and show the world what we are up to. But, we also have days where we stay in bed and watch movies or spend the day at the library studying. The highlight reel of social media is affecting the way we perceive ourselves, others and the world around us. Next time you check your feed, keep in mind that what you see is not always actually as it seems.

Social media has created a new form of value called social currency. In typical monetized currency, you exchange money for goods or services. In social media, we exchange social currency by selling ourselves. We are the product. Social currency can be looked at in the form of likes, comments and shares on content we post. We spend hours trying to get the perfect picture, and then even delete the ones that don’t get enough “likes.”  We curate our posts towards what we think people want to see and will respond to. People are doing and saying things online that don’t remotely reflect who they are off screen, but they want to get a reaction. People want to go viral, they want fame and recognition from a particularly anonymous audience. It can even be as simple as we want to be liked. It’s natural for humans to want that positive connection with others. We want to know that people care about what we are posting and are interested in what goes on in our lives. We want to feel important. Social currency has value because we have made it important.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Ahkenaton Images

All the attention we give social media has begun to affect mental health negatively. 50 percent of 18 – 24-year-old’s have been diagnosed with at least one mental health issue. These include mood, anxiety, behavior and substance abuse disorders. Of that age range, 90 percent are on at least one social media platform. Social media can act as a double-edged sword for mental health. Some people who feel isolated or alone in everyday life go online and find support on social networks and e-communities. Others go online and find that their anxiety, depression or self-esteem is negatively affected because of things like the highlight reel, obscured reality and FOMO (fear of missing out). So where do we go from here?

Social media is here to stay and will only continue to grow. I can’t suggest that we disconnect, because I would be unwilling to myself, even after acknowledging its potential negative effects. The dark side of social media exists, but only because each one of us has a dark side to ourselves. Social media cannot make someone post hate or harassment— that was already inside the person and it was just a platform they used to express it. The same goes for mental health. If someone is predisposed to have a mental health issue, it can be triggered or heightened because of what they see online, but that is not the underlining cause of the disorder. Social media is a place we display who we want to be and who we really are. Next time you go online, think about what you are contributing… how is your post portraying you? Who do you want to be to your followers? Who do you want to be in real life?

Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Michelle Patrick

For more information please watch Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health?