Excessive technology, social media use could be affecting your well-being

Maria McGinnis

It’s 2019 and technology is all around us. A recent study in March by Statista found that there are 2.71 billion smartphone users in the world today, and 79 percent of the population with a smartphone has a social media account.

Technology has been found to have a large impact on people’s mental health. It has been shown that being overly connected and using your phone in excess can cause psychological issues such as distraction, expectation of instant gratification and even depression.

Hannah Miller, a sophomore applied communications major, said she fits into the category of being distracted by her phone, and it’s not just social media that causes it.

“Even when it’s on Do Not Disturb, I’m always picking it up just to make sure nobody texted me or I don’t have any notifications,” Miller said. “I have a reward system for myself where I’ll be like, ‘okay if I get to this part of my assignment, then I can get on Twitter or watch a YouTube video or something.’”

Miller believes people, specifically college students, are obsessed with their phones because they grew up with that technology and just became addicted to it.

“I think that (our phones) are really addicting in general, especially social media,” Miller said. “The way that it’s designed, it’s meant for people to get addicted to it so they keep coming on.”

In order to escape the negatives of social media, some people have participated in a “social media cleanse.” This is a trend where you delete and stay off of all social media platforms indefinitely.

Judith Gere, a psychology professor at Kent State, has researched factors of social media that contribute to well-being.

Gere said there can be positive effects of using social media if you’re using it to connect with others when you’re in an environment where those social interactions aren’t available to you in person.

“We see negative effects when people are using social media context where there would be a lot of available partners you could engage with in person,” Gere said. “If you’re hanging out with friends and you’re checking your phone every five minutes, you’re not really engaged with your environment the same way you would be if you weren’t distracted by the phone.”

There are studies that show that when you’re doing things while distracted it actually dampens the experience of positive emotions, Gere said.

According to Piedmont Healthcare, excessive social media use has been linked to feelings of depression and dependency in some people.

“Research has shown that when people are using say, Facebook, in a particular day, if it results in a lower level of in-person interaction it has a negative effect on a person’s emotional well-being,” Gere said. “So, they actually feel worse at the end of day when they use social media more.”

Miller recently researched the way social media can make people feel for a paper in her college writing course. She particularly focused on the way Instagram has been known to create issues with self-esteem and make women feel insecure.

“With Instagram I’ll feel self conscious or bad about myself if I don’t look like a picture that got a lot of likes,” Miller said.

Piedmont Healthcare found when people use social media they are looking for affirmation and whether they are aware of it or not, they’re also comparing their lives to others.

Gere said part of the reason people, specifically college students, are so obsessed with what is happening on their phones is because they’ve grown up with the technological world at their fingertips.

“People are growing up used to being entertained, so it becomes more difficult to sustain attention on a long term basis,” Gere said. “When you’re looking for stimulation it’s easier to go back to your device because that always has something to provide.”

Maria covers technology. Contact her at [email protected].