Most of us are already aware that social media is responsible for a plethora of long-term, negative effects. These include but aren’t limited to: increased isolation, being encouraged to compare ourselves to others, delusion, jealousy, and even addiction.
Although we’re only beginning to explore these effects and see them take root — especially because our youngest generation will have never lived in a world without the existence of social media — some of them are more pernicious than others.
A new study reveals that those who find social media the most addictive are more likely to enjoy embarrassing or humiliating others. While this in and of itself is hardly surprising, it gives us keen insight into the true motivations behind the most frequent posts and comments on our timelines.
Interestingly enough, psychologists in this particular field have for some time now commonly associated qualities such as narcissism and psychopathy with heavy, intense internet and social media usage.
The researchers of the initial study, from Michigan State University and California State University at Fullerton, essentially took this concept and ran with it.
Those who find social media the most addictive are more likely to enjoy humiliating others.
The study, titled “Snapchat vs. Facebook: Differences in problematic use, behavior change attempts, and trait social reward preferences” surveyed 472 young adults within the 18-24 age range. Using these two mediums, the users’ time spent on each site was tracked and monitored.
The results found that “individuals who have a greater preference for these types of rewards display greater problematic use of both platforms,” meaning that users who enjoyed using these platforms the most were far more likely to behave irresponsibly on them. Additionally, the researchers asserted that these platforms and other sites in general “unwittingly cater to people who seek rewards from being cruel, such as through cyberbullying or various aggressive online behaviors.”
A Brave New World
Aside from these findings, the researchers stressed the importance of its relevance with the fact that three billion people worldwide are currently using social media.
Additionally, the entire way in which we use social media and conceptualize how we enjoy it has changed through the context of the coronavirus and the current civil unrest.
Understandably, social media use has increased since the pandemic began, especially within the three month period from March to May. While we’ve been stuck inside due to quarantine, social media has evolved into the new normal for communication and a way to maintain relationships, disseminate information, and connect virtually. It’s even hypothesized that the social media habits we’ve formed during lockdown and quarantine will far outlast the current pandemic.
The social media habits we’ve formed during lockdown will far outlast the current pandemic.
This means it’s crucial now, rather than later, to look at the habits we’re internalizing and how they could potentially affect our perceptions and the way we interact with others and with information. There’s even a term that has arisen out of our desire to constantly absorb news from the internet, especially when it’s bad news — “doomscrolling.”
Maybe it’s due to this vicious cycle that the study had the findings it did. If we’re constantly viewing and sharing bad news, perhaps we’re less inclined to treat others on social media with the care and concern we normally would.
Breaking the Habit
So, if we become addicted to social media, what are we supposed to do?
There are a number of things we can do to curb this addiction, and like anything else we undertake during quarantine and social distancing, we’ll have to get creative. Moving apps to specific folders instead of leaving them on the home screen means we’re less likely to constantly check them. Intentionally devoting an hour a day to a screen-free hobby or pastime has proven to significantly elevate individual wellbeing. Leaving phones off the dinner table and outside the bedroom can also help us rein in our habits and make us more cognizant of being present in the current moment, instead of the current online moment.
Move apps to specific folders instead of leaving them on the home screen.
The good news is that a separate study of social media trends during the current pandemic found that only 14% of internet users in the U.K. and the U.S. are concerned about the amount of time they’re spending on social media. But taking a break from our phones and engaging in real life is always a good idea.
As much as we talk about spreading positivity on social media, it’s easy to see that most of the time that’s not the norm on our various platforms.
At the genesis of social media we might not have anticipated the deeply ingrained correlation between heavy social media usage and our mental wellbeing. But in this day and age, we no longer have the excuse of ignorance.
We can’t pretend to be unaware of the very real and significant consequences these habits have on our outlook, and more importantly, on how we treat one another. If we’re getting too comfortable with how much we’re online, and even the things we’re saying that would be unacceptable in a real-world scenario, then it’s likely time to reevaluate our reliance and dependence on social media and how much we’re letting it dictate our words and actions.