Ping! Another notification from Twitter. I slide open my phone and have a quick scroll. I’ll read the highlights, glimpse at what’s trending on the home page, but that’s it. I put my phone back in my pocket, where it can’t distract me. Aye, right. I’m fooling nobody, least of all myself. No, instead I stay on my phone aimlessly scrolling through my feed. Once I’ve had enough of Twitter, I open up Instagram and skim through stories. I’ll quickly check Facebook, curious to find out what the people I went to school with are doing with themselves now. Now that I’ve had my social media, morning fix I can switch off my phone. Let me ask you this: Have you ever logged out of a social media app feeling happier than when you first opened it?
Research from RescueTime, an app created for iOS and Android to monitor phone usage, showed that on average people spend up to about three hours and fifteen minutes on their phones every day. However, recent figures show that teenagers who spend excessive amounts of time online can spend up to five hours. I am guilty of this. I looked at the overview of the average time I spend on Instagram every day, and it ranged from thirty minutes to an hour and a half, and sometimes up to two and a half hours. More often than not I’m sitting there, looking at nothing. I find myself falling down a rabbit hole of endless Reddit memes, and I’m ashamed to admit even the odd Tik Tok video.
In a time where we’re all being encouraged to ‘self- isolate’, in what the government and World Health Organization have described as a pandemic. Ping! Here’s another article about the dangers of COVID -19. Is it possible that we’ve been ‘self- isolating’ long before there was any mention of Coronavirus? We’re constantly glued to our phones, iPads and computer screens. We’ve become a generation of introverts.
A study made by the University of Pittsburgh revealed that teenagers who use social media heavily are more likely to feel socially isolated. The overuse of smartphones, tablets, and computer screens can make teenagers feel even more alone. This can lead to lower self-confidence and zero motivation to engage in social interactions.
Social media apps use similar techniques to casinos. This includes the pull-to-refresh your feed and scrolling features. This activates the same stimulants in your brain as cocaine, meaning it’s highly addictive. Its why people can find it so difficult to put down their phones at night. I do this, and I turn into a crabby zombie, without an adequate amount of sleep. Staring at a screen for even half an hour before bed can disrupt your body clock.
Studies found that 22% of people in the UK say they suffer from sleeping disorders. Young people are especially affected by this as UK research suggests that teenagers using social media for more than three hours a day are likely to go to sleep after 11 pm and wake up during the night. It’s recommended that you should avoid looking at your phone for up to an hour before you go to sleep, despite how tempting it might be.
Why are we so self-obsessed with our image? I blame Instagram primarily for this. We’re taught to all dress the same. You should only post pictures using filters and take selfies. There’s no room for imperfection in the world of social media. Our feeds are littered with airbrush images of gorgeous models, celebrities and influencers. It’s impossible not to become insecure when perfection is personified.
According to a recent survey called #StatusofMind, published by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), Instagram is the worst social media platform for mental health in teenagers and young adults. Although the platform was praised for self-expression, it’s been linked to high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO ‘fear of missing out’ in young people.
Statistics carried out by a research project called the Millennium Cohort study, at the Centre of Longitudinal Studies, found out that 40% of girls who spend more than five hours a day on social media show symptoms of depression compared to 35% of boys.
But we forget that social media is an echo chamber. Your feed is tailored to your interests and likes. So, do yourself a favour and solely follow the people that fill your feed with positivity. It’s cathartic, trust me.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The internet isn’t entirely bad. It’s a viable platform for creativity. Without the internet, people would never get their work out into the public domain. It’s a great space to express yourself. Although I’ve shunned Instagram, it can be a great place to promote body positivity.
For instance, you’ve got movements such as the ‘I Weight’ campaign, started by Actress and activist Jameela Jamil. She came up with the idea to try and combat the endorsement of beauty products and end fat shamming. She was angry that high profile people such as Kim Kardashian were promoting a range of diet lollipops to women. They turned out to be complete b***s**t and had no scientific evidence to prove that they did anything to make you lose weight. The Instagram page is full of photoshoots of women, all different sizes, shapes, ethnicity, and genders. The campaign has made great strides to end beauty stereotyping in the media. This is just one example, but it demonstrates the power that the media can have to reach a large audience and hopefully instill positive change on society’s expectations of beauty. Instead of looking at and comparing themselves to images of models such as Kylie and Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid, young girls are now becoming exposed to realistic beauty norms. This can have a long-lasting impact on their self-esteem.
The internet is also a great way to connect people. Facebook Messenger can put you in touch with people across seas, in a matter of seconds. You might have family living in Australia that you don’t get to see often, and social media platforms are a great way to stay in touch. We’re in an age where information travels fast. At the click of a button. You can say anything you want by typing out a 140 character tweet, posting a status on Facebook or uploading a captioned Instagram post.
It’s great when these platforms are used to discuss important issues. For example, take climate change. Greta Thunberg the teenage activist would never have had a spotlight shone on her if it wasn’t for the immediacy of the internet. She’s inspired loads of people to take the Climate crisis seriously because she uses social media apps to get news on the issue out into the world.
So, if you think your social media usage is a bit excessive, chances are it probably is. The internet can be a wonderful place but only in moderation and when used to spread positivity.