By Alexis Zuniga
This story was originally published by The kNOw Youth Media in Fresno, California.
Social media has a strong influence in people’s lives. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook – these apps that can easily be found in handheld devices have become a source of one’s connection to others; it’s people’s way of being involved in the world without leaving their home.
We see people on their devices constantly either checking who liked their posts or scrolling through others’ profiles. It is unhealthy to spend hours on these platforms since humans are emotional beings. Images and text can trigger emotions of anger, joy and/or depression.
Earlier this year, I created a survey about individuals’ social media usage; we had 189 participants and a majority were 17- to 22-year-olds. Based on the survey, 24.3% of respondents said they felt anxious after using social media. This stems from the constant feeling of needing to see the newest post to avoid missing out on anything.
Social media is excellent for distracting people from experiencing the real world. Hours upon hours are spent on these platforms simply out of pure boredom. The survey calculated 35.8% spent more than four hours a day on social media platforms. Four hours may not seem like a large number in general, but when you think about it, that time could have been better spent. This is precious time being wasted on looking at what others are doing rather than focusing and enjoying what the outside world has to offer.
Not only is this a distraction, but people are mentally and emotionally being affected. With the curiosity of wanting to see the next post, people are falling victim to its addictive traits. Without even realizing it, the source of many people’s depression, stress and anxiety stems from what they are seeing on social media. Almost 39% of those surveyed felt mentally drained from social media alone, on top of the stresses of everyday life.
Social media has also become a platform to boost careers and for promotional purposes. These entrepreneurs are constantly subjected to these mental stresses for the sake of the success of their business. The amount of hours spent on social media is doubled because they also use it for personal usage. I have friends who are entrepreneurs through social media who vent about their mental health being affected by their work. Not because they do not enjoy what they do, but the constant self-promoting is exhausting and overwhelming.
Personally, I have felt this way when trying to manage multiple social media pages, especially with my photography page. I am constantly creating content that is presented nicely on my grid layout. I have to take a break because it is an added stress that is not necessary.
Steven Robles, a Central Valley photographer, also uses social media to promote his photography and business. “Social media and branding in general is very time consuming,” Robles said. “I personally market myself and my business on eight different platforms currently and it is straining mentally or can be for sure but very doable.”
Even though it is a mental challenge to manage social media platforms, many continue to do so because of the digital world we live in. It helps to reach a lot of people without seeing them in person. While social media is a helpful tool for many entrepreneurs, what are the personal sacrifices they are truly making?
Jorge Mendoza, another local photographer, says he spends around five to seven hours on Instagram, but tries to limit it to a total of five hours. While the time spent is a huge negative effect of these platforms, the emotional effects are the dangerous part. “The negatives are most certainly when one starts looking at it as a popularity contest, seeking validation of sorts, through likes and follows,” Mendoza said. He calls this a “trap all of the metrics that are in place within Instagram of follows, likes, and impressions.”
It is extremely damaging to someone’s self-esteem when validation is not received for work they are proud of. This becomes an internal problem that needs to be managed within oneself. Social media definitely does not help in aiding this insecurity, but amplifies it.
Social media platforms can be a danger for people of all ages, including adults. Everyone falls victim to the corrupt system of wanting validation from likes, shares and comments even if most people cannot admit it to themselves. It is natural and it becomes damaging inside. Social media can be a great source for being connected with others and for self promotional reasons, but if people aren’t careful with how they spend their time on social media, I do believe it is more mentally damaging to people and can become an obsession.
I think it is important that people realize the internal effects social media truly does have on one’s life and personal behaviors towards others. Realizing that certain behaviors or feelings people are experiencing are connected to social media usage may help cause a reaction of change. My advice today is to take a break from all platforms for at least a week to see if anything changes in your life. You may be surprised with the results.