Oct 28, 2018
by editorial team
According to researchers at the University of Washington and University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 80% of youth aged 12 through 17 are social media users. Adults are active as well, with 69% of adults using at least one social media site.
What effect could social media have on teenagers and adults, and their ability to communicate and make friends?
While the long-term effects are not yet clear, what we do know is enough to cause concern and it's worth taking a minute to explore.
The short answer is it does not. On social media, you can’t hug someone, give a pat on the back, make eye contact as you give a nod of connection, or high-five someone. Conversations on social media are devoid of facial cues and other body languages, and frequently lack external context. Therefore, words can be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Social media is an incomplete communication medium for those seeking human interaction, and may not be an effective replacement.
Online contact can be one tool in helping to initiate and develop relationships, but the overuse of social media may have negative effects on teens’ social and emotional development.
A primary concern is that too much dependence on social media may cause children and adults (not only teens) to withdraw from society and become more isolated.
Peer influences are magnified on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram so our perception of people can become skewed. This may cause unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others. These feelings tend to be amplified in teens who are still finding themselves.
As many of us have experienced ourselves, unrealistic expectations may lead to jealousy and self-doubting.
It's important for all social media users to separate the curated content they see on social media platforms from real life. Your Instagram feed may be full of glamour shots and people living extravagant lives, but it rarely shows the whole picture. We all have ups and downs, struggles and successes... but the highlights generally occupy our social media accounts.
Simply communicating this with your loved ones is a great start. Having an open conversation about the reality of expectations can be a helpful way to reduce the chance that your teen's expectations are skewed.
Overuse of tech devices can lead to cell phone or computer addiction. One of the main concerns with 'cell phone addiction' is that our devices may separate us further from our peers rather than bringing us together. We use them when we are with our friends rather than enjoying each other's company.
Basic social interactions are not the only concern. Studies indicate that teens who use social media websites are more exposed to pro-alcohol messages and are more likely to engage in risky drinking.
Since social media hasn't been around for very long, its impact on us is not well known. What we do know now, however, may be cause for concern. It is better to err on the side of caution and at least start thinking about these potential issues.
When used in moderation, social media can be a great tool to help build and maintain friendships. However, too much internet or cell phone use may have negative effects and actually affect our interpersonal skills, inhibiting teens’ ability to form meaningful friendships.
Having an open conversation about these concerns with your family is a good place to start. You can also look into privacy settings and other usage restrictions if you feel they are right for you.
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