Social media, a tool that gives us the unmatched ability to connect with anyone, anywhere, in real-time, is in fact making us more disconnected. We no longer form meaningful human relationships.
Think about the last time you met up with your friends for a movie night, how many of you spent the entire duration of the movie scrolling through Twitter? Or, the last time you met up for food and instead of talking you spent the time taking pictures of your food for Instagram? For those of us growing up in the digital age, social media has become engraved in our everyday lives, whether that is good or not is up for debate.
A 2018 study by the University of Pennsylvania has found a causal relationship between social media usage, and feelings of depression and loneliness. Another study by the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology made the same link. The feeling of loneliness is perhaps enforced by our dependency on digital relationships, we as a society have become so comfortable with speaking using text shortcuts and memes, we are somewhat unable to engage in real human dialogue. This damages our ability to form friendships or simply engage in social situations.
We live in a world where we are separated by screens rather than seas and oceans.
Technology and social media have given us massive potential in bettering our everyday lives and to some extent, they have improved our communication and connectivity; we can easily reach out to people who share the same interests as us, or even join online communities. Some will argue that online relationships help to improve confidence and self-esteem, which the majority of the time simply isn't the case.
Not only, is it much easier to maintain a strong sense of confidence while sitting behind a computer screen but also, the social media world is where everybody shares the best parts of their lives and of themselves, in order to seek validation and acceptance. This means that users spend their time comparing themselves to others and setting themselves unrealistic expectations, further disconnecting us from one another, as well as, reality.
A study by Harvard back in 2012 revealed that we as humans commit 40% of our time to self-disclosure and the pleasure we gain from sharing information with others, the level of pleasure can be compared to eating good food or having good sex. So it makes complete sense why we repeatedly indulge in this addiction. However, although getting tons of likes on your photos might feel good, it is minuscule compared to the feeling of rejection when you don’t get the likes you want.
The constant pressure to feel socially accepted not only takes a toll on our self-esteem but its effects extend as far as our own mental health. Once you have been sucked into the social media vacuum it is often hard to snap back to reality. Social media is hard to control and it has become a feature of our everyday lives. Social media validation does not lead to real happiness, instead, you enter a competition with every other social media user in an attempt to prove that your life is worth the most likes.
The active global social media population is equivalent to nearly half of the entire population, standing at 3.81 billion, reinforcing the idea that social media gives us limitless connectivity if of course used appropriately and in moderation.
The problem with using social media as a primary source for forming poignant relationships is that these platforms are more concerned with networking rather than relationship. Meaning although they are designed to go far in regards to reach, they do not go deep, resulting in a growing generation of surface relationships, and young people addicted to social isolation.