Today, the media is not what it used to be earlier. I’ve observed a huge change over the last few years, and I’m not exactly sure what to do about it. As a part of change, our communication habits are changing too, and the results may be awful for our mental health.
Communication in the past was meaningful and simple. Before the internet, there were limited resources of information we could rely on like Newspapers, Telegrams, and Radio etc. The culture was limited to a small mass media market, as was the limitation imposed on our mind. However, today’s reality is entirely different.
The last few years of the internet have exploded into a massive way of mass socialization amongst users with sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. These social networking sites have now become minute by minute communication necessities for millions of people.
More or Less, Social Media is Making us Anti-Social.
Social Media Boom
The social media boom on the Internet is setting up new ground rules for all parts of the society. Every second someone joins a social media network in hope to connect with other users but it is drawing concerns amongst their care takers that all that precious screen-time is actually diminishing the time we spend communicating face-to-face.
People especially teenagers contributes to a huge part of total social media users worldwide. They feel that online friends are way more friendly and cooperative than the people they use to deal in real life.
Social networking has obviously seen the largest increase in the past ten years as compared to any other online activity. Social networking has revolutionized the way we interact with the internet and with other users.
Now we’re seeing a form of communication which is totally different from what we’ve experienced earlier. The major mode of communication with social medias is the undirected broadcast, what I call “post-and-hope”. You post on your wall, or tweet to the world, and people may respond, or they may not. When they do respond, the responses are more ephemeral. It’s harder to have a personal conversation when all six-hundreds of your friends are watching it as you’re limited to 140 characters.
Social media doesn’t prevent more directed conversations from happening, but it is shifting the ways in which we’re communicating. Combined with the rapid uptake of mobile electronics where a friend being ‘online’ may simply mean they’ve opened their phone for a few seconds in an elevator, there’s even more uncertainty associated with directed conversations than ever before
The result is that for many people, a significant amount of communication is broadcasted, rather than directed, and the continuity of a conversation is more unpredictable, and more likely to evaporate without a clear verbal or textual signal (such as “catch you later”), than ever before.
Gadgets are highly responsible
While people have dramatically integrated social networking tools into their lives, it must be noted that true social skills are taught and understood primarily through interacting with our peers face-to-face. But the persistent developments in technology, electronics and social networking run the risk of socially alienating the vast majority of people turning them inward and away from one-on-one interaction.
Technology has advanced so quickly in these past years and has found many of us bouncing from one electronic device to another, back and forth, throughout the day. In some ways it appears our social developmental skills are being stunted with such technological advancements.
Affects Mental Growth
A recent study in Developmental Psychology hints that multitasking in the digital form through social media can leave today’s children socially incompetent.
Our social development is one of the key components in emotional intelligence which is simply put by psychologists as the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. In some facets, it’s as though we’re heading into a generation of becoming socially awkward.
Number of teenagers is highest in the victims list. Actually the age of a teenager is the age of exploration and curiosity. In the sense, the fun-loving age. But instead of doing it in real life, children use to do it online with totally unknown people.
Social Support Could be the Cure
That worries me, not just from a social standpoint, but also from a mental health one. We know that having a confidant (someone with whom one feels they can talk to about anything) is hugely protective to one’s mental health.
If social media is making us less close, then we run the risk of many more people suffering from mental health issues due to that isolation.
I’m sure part of the reason for these changes is the sheer number of people with whom I interact with online. I don’t yet have enough evidence to say that this is becoming an issue for society in general, but I’m concerned that it might be. There’s a number of studies showing links between social media usage and depression, but these don’t show causality; people feeling isolated may be using social media more as a means of support. That’s certainly something I’ve done in the past.
Facebook is particularly notable for burying posts where the author expresses that they’re sad or unhappy. That’s not a deliberate decision on Facebook’s behalf, but nobody ‘likes’ their friend being unhappy, and many people don’t know what to say in the comments. To Facebook, a sad post looks like a boring post, because nobody’s interacting with it. I’ve found that adding “Likes=Hugs” to the top of my writing is sometimes enough to overcome this, but it’s rare that a post about one feeling sad can compete with a funny picture.
Still, it seems that every new form of communication is heralded as being bad for our mental health soon after it’s introduced, and often those fears end up being unfounded. Social media and its associated modes of communication are still very young, and while they’re an active topic of study, it may still be some time until we truly understand their impact on society and individuals.
Like everything else there are, and always will be proponents and opponents of any new technology, and hence social networking has advantages and disadvantages depending on how one uses it. Associated with the pros and cons of social networking are also the accompanying questions and concerns as far as their role in today’s society is concerned and complaints of the vulnerability to phishing for personal information.
With the way our world is progressing and constantly evolving, it’s almost like a time capsule we’re preserving for future generations to look back and study upon.
Social media is a great tool and is remarkable in how we can connect so easily and conveniently in the virtual moment we need to with the potential for greater cultural awareness, greater potential for networking contacts and connecting with resources, almost instantaneous communication. Yet as I’m growing older, I’m realizing how much the online interactive technology is really taking away from us and our time in the real world.
Are we spending enough time being social in our regular day-to-day lives or are we becoming antisocial?
Featured image source – Treatment Today