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Drowning in social media?

Platforms may damage students’ mental health

By Brianna Murphy
Staff Writer

Graphic by Mary Mone

Buzz, buzz — instant gratification! Why are students so attached to social media?
Social media can help students connect, but too much social media usage can damage one’s mental health. According to Les Glover, LPC and student counseling director at the University of Texas at Tyler, social media can be both beneficial and damaging.
During the pandemic, students have been practicing social distancing, meaning many are losing personal face-to-face connections. The importance of in-person interaction has never been as treasured as this year. With many classrooms going online and events canceled, many students may face socialization issues. According to a study on social interaction among adolescents in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, those “low in in-person social interaction and high in social media use reported the most loneliness.”
However, people need to keep in touch with one another, which is where social media and digital technologies come in.
“Social media can provide support systems and keeps you in touch with your personal support system,” Glover said. With family and friends far apart, social media has helped students to connect with loved ones.
Although platforms, such as Facebook, can help people keep in touch, too much social media usage can interfere with one’s life. Apps like Facebook and Instagram can create a false sense of reality. Profiles are altered to showcase moments that do not reflect the person’s real life. Psychology Today states “people directly lie about their lives, which is often an effort to make themselves look more desirable or positive.” The presence of multiple online personas is linked to self-confidence issues and loneliness for the onlooker.
“Individuals sometimes look and see all anybody’s posting is their perfect world,” Glover said. “It can be difficult when you are struggling and when it looks like everyone on your feed has a perfect life.”
The Filter Bubble Effect, according to internet activist Eli Pariser, can also be detrimental for students growing new opinions and beliefs. When internet algorithm directs people to biased, opinionated information, which individuals have no control over — they become submerged in their own filter bubble. Overall, this leads to polarized information, with little variety, and can make it difficult to form relationships outside of the cybersphere.
Despite the photos displayed on profiles, the individuals who create them may be under stress and hide their problems through their fake image online.
Social media is addicting because of instant gratification and the need for attention. Additionally, because of phones being with users throughout the day, it can become a coping mechanism. Washington State University claims the fear of missing out can be linked to “social anxiety that other people are having fun without you.”
Continually checking on social media throughout the day in hopes of keeping in touch with others is a double-edged sword as users slowly closing off the world around oneself. Not only does this cause emotional distress, but can make some individuals feel depressed, worthless and isolated.
The healthy amount of social media is different for everyone, according to Glover. The younger generation relies on social media more to maintain friendships and meet new people. Therefore, students may have a higher tolerance level to social media platforms when compared to the older generation, Glover elaborated.
Social media becomes a problem when “it interferes with your ability to interact in your world,” Glover said. When social media disrupts with daily activities or prevents concentration it becomes problematic.
Additionally, the contacts and followers can be toxic and cause relationship problems outside of networking sites. Psychology Today emphasizes when dealing with online toxic friends, “it’s smart to trust your intuition and put some distance between you and that person.” Regardless whether online or in person, toxic relationships can destroy the wellbeing of the abused.
Glover said students who are “finding yourself being more depressed, having problems sleeping, being more anxious, putting yourself down, feeling worthless,” then there might be an issue. “You need to look into how much that is being influenced by time on social media,” Glover said.
Glover encourages students who struggle finding the perfect balance of social media to identify priorities. Students who struggle to put down the phone should keep their goals and priorities in mind. Glover believes students should focus on “building some time for yourself,” and establish healthy boundaries with social media.

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