Just like any other teen, I was excited to create my social media accounts. That’s where all the celebrities posted, trends were announced, and friends connected. I enjoyed spending all my free time on social media such as Instagram and Facebook but soon, I realized they were great distractions. This IDC project allowed me to understand the science, reasons, and effects of what we are experiencing as we are constantly active on the social media platforms.
Facebook was my first social media account and I loved how I was able to connect with my friends and see what was popular among my friends. Through Oliver and Ajmim’s research, it is explained how Facebook’s algorithm gives a user an average of eight for their social graph. Which means, I am able to see posts from mutuals friends through the connection of eight people. Through friends being tagged in posts, I was able to recognize other friends I vaguely remember from elementary school. Facebook has been a great asset for me, as I was able to reconnect with old friends through friend recommendations, the comments on posts by my friends and mutual friends, and learn more about a person before identifying if they are who I think they are.
The lack of privacy due to the amount of data Facebook collects makes it relatively easy to stalk a person. It is revealed that 90% of social media users have not edited their privacy settings which explains why it was so easy for me to view photos of those who I wasn’t even friends with yet on Facebook. As I am a part of the 10% of users who did review the privacy settings, I felt safe using Facebook and enjoyed it. Facebook was my main source of staying updated with my friends as that’s where they posted photos and tagged each other until Instagram took over.
However, two months ago, I deleted my Instagram account because of how addicting it was. I would continuously go on the app and refresh the news feed for more posts to look at, even when I felt tired and wanted to sleep. My activity as a viewer on Instagram eventually affected me by wanting to post more frequently. Unconsciously comparing the number of likes to other Instagrammers eventually led to unhealthy and unnecessary stress. At that point, I decided it would be best to leave for the sake of my health.
Although Mary Anne and Jasleen share the health risks of binge-watchers on Netflix, I believe users across various social platforms are victims of this addiction. Companies such as Facebook and Instagram have adapted the autoplay system as it automatically loads the next video following the one you were just watching. On top of that, feel-good chemicals that are released from our bodies when one is on drugs is the same as one binge-watches. The lack of self-control on media streaming platforms such as Netflix and Youtube addiction, causes us to become antisocial and addicted to binge-watching.
Rebecca and Irina spoke about the neuroscience related to our social media addiction. I was both surprised and unsurprised when Rebecca compared the stimulation of receiving a like on Instagram is the equivalent of receiving a cash reward. Irina’s research explains the primary principle social media companies rely on which is rewarding users for a certain behavior at random intervals. I can relate this to the rewarding feeling felt as I continuously checked for new likes on my posts. Sometimes there were a couple, other times there were none. Reflecting upon this, I realized how powerful social media companies are as they deprive us of our desire for social approval.
When Irina talked about the connection of social media use to the psychology of feeling lonely and depressed, I was reminded of Instagram’s impact and Snapchat’s as well. Snapchat makes it convenient to share photos and videos of what you’re doing by instantly sharing it with your story. Not only can you view these stories, but there is now a feature to allow you to track where your friends are on a map. This is a creepy feature, yet one that people secretly use as we’ve been conditioned to be curious about what others are doing. Unlike Snapchat where what you see is restricted by a private friend group, Instagram made it easy for a user to view tons of photos from hundreds of users in a day – especially featuring those around your age group. This causes us to develop FOMO (fear of missing out). When I saw how others were extremely happy and were having a blast doing exciting activities in their photographs, it lowered my satisfaction with the events I had with my friends.
As we become tied towards social media platforms, we eventually begin to take the words of a stranger closer to heart. My friend is a victim of the offensive users who share hurtful comments on Instagram. It happens whenever she posts a selfie. In the beginning, she would delete it, but eventually, she would ask me if what the mean commentator said was true. This led to insecurities every time before she wanted to post another photo. My friend is only one of the thousands of people who’ve experienced the ongoing negativity from cyber bullies on social media sites besides Instagram. Despite the reports on users for harassment, Nirosa and Chiromiya’s research exposes how the media’s focus is on deaths and not mentally or physically damaging cases like what my friend experienced. Author Michele Hamm in one of their annotated bibliographies suggested parents should educate their children on avoiding cyber bullies. I find the people who suggest this advice to be ridiculous. That is the equivalent of instead of educating people the dangers of impaired driving, we should force people off the road to avoid impaired drivers.
The difficulty of shutting down people is due to fake personas as Nirosa and Chiromiya shared. Fake identities allow people, especially teens, to become wild online while staying protected. The development of social media platforms has allowed users to take advantage of the system and abusing it. It is no longer the convenience of sharing one’s opinion but an opportunity for horrible people to post atrocious content such as revenge porn. This has escalated to cases of educators being harassed online. Yet institutions including universities are unable to help victims due to their lack of strong policies against cyberbullying.
The uncontrolled and horribly monitored social media platforms result in my negative perspective and conclusion. I believe the lack of self-control we have contributed to our social media addiction. Furthermore, these social media companies priority of increasing user activity failed to help regulate a healthy practice and stopping online harassers when needed. Though it has become extremely convenient to connect with people and stay updated with the topics we love, it’s also become easy for us to fall into a downward spiral towards health issues. It’s up to users to advocate for a safer online community and user support from the companies.