The Social Media fuel for depression and anxiety:
In our daze of distraction addiction, we shift our attention between the real and the virtual world constantly. Whenever we look at your friends’ or celebrity status updates, accomplishments and vacation pictures, we’re plucked out of our present moment and planted somewhere we don’t want to be.
For example, when we look at Jennifer Lopez’s flawless fitted gowns, we crave a body we can’t have, we admonish ourselves for our harsh reality and become all the more miserable in this comparative narrative.
Our self esteem takes a hit, our need for a better ending to our current situation arises, and the rate at which we procrastinate with the task at hand exponential rises. The opposite is true, when we post a picture of ourselves, we hit a high note of dopamine every time someone likes it or comments on it. This combination of novelty with the variable reward system of hitting refresh to constantly check on our feeds is the sad backdrop to our ever present loneliness and reality.
Our inability to stay in the present moment is triggered by boredom, and a craving for excitement that this unpredictable world of online engagement offers. Its a perfect recipe and source for anxiety and depression when expectations are not met consistently.
Social Media is being used for virtue signaling.
SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook are venues for group signaling. Signaling goods signal status and affiliation to other “like minded” monkeys. Signaling goods can be physical – handbags, watches and fancy cars. They can be virtual – political, religious, and tribal affiliations. Social media makes it easier to signal wealth via conspicuous consumption of goods like food, travel and clothing. Editorial outrage is a signaling good. News outlets have switched from facts to opinions and outrage. Social media has degenerated into a deafening cacophony of groups signaling and repeating their shared myths. ~ Naval Ravikant.
“Each little update – each individual bit of social information – is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting.” ~ Alex Soojung Kim Pang on Social Media and its ambient intimacy.
What: It feels good that we have likes, there is absolutely no requirement for talent or having to be exceptional, rare and have anything valuable to offer. Cue, the Kardashian sisters.
Stats: YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular online platforms among teens. Fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online ‘almost constantly’ (Pew Center, 2018)
Risks: Overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted.
What: Instagram and celebrity culture has introduced brands to children and teens. Anyone can shop 24/7 from anywhere thanks to the internet. Sometimes, with a single click of a button.
Stats: Materialistic kids have lower grades, and higher rates of depression and substance abuse than non-materialistic kids. They are less philanthropic and feel dissatisfied with what they have. (Levine, 2006)
What: Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.
Stats: Teens who spend 3 or more hours per day on electronic devices are 35% more likely to have at least 1 suicide risk factor. (Twenge, 2017)
Risks: Low self esteem.
Here’s why teens are addicted to Social Media:
- It feels empowering and participatory.
- It feels like it enhances our expression of individuality.
- While TV makes us inert, social media makes us form our own opinions.
- It lets us speak our mind via opining on our (Facebook) walls.
- We can signal goods to show our standing in society. Just look at Kylie Jenner’s Instagram feed if you want to know what I mean.
- It meets the unsatisfying need of the endless scroll, unlike books that have a last page.
- Its designed to be addictive in the same way Netflix and YouTube have autoplay functionality in them. And how Snapchats have streaks to make people keep posting stories daily to maintain their streak.
- Young adults post sexually arousing selfies, making them part of the thirst trap excitement.
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