Social Networking is Not Working

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woman on facebookSocial networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are supposed to keep us connected to one another.  Facebook’s mission is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”  I don’t know if the site is living up to its mission statement.  I think social networking, in general, is not working to build connections between us, and that we are less connected now than ever before.

Some of the positives of social networking can also be seen as negatives.  The 24/7 accessibility could lead one to believe they would never be alone.  When this aspect of the internet is applied to cyberbullying, however, the victim has no respite.  The anonymous factor of the internet could lead to more openness and information sharing.  At the same time, it has also led to the easy promotion of hate groups and pro-suicide groups online.  People seem eager to type words they would never say face to face with another person which is one of the reasons cyberbullying can be so horrific and hurtful.  There have been many heartbreaking deaths by suicide that have been directly linked to cyberbullying.  Parents did not grow up with social media, and must realize that their children are, in many cases, constantly connected to these sites.  When a teen becomes the target of cyberbullying, it feels impossible to escape.

Social networking sites can pose a problem for us at any age.  Facebook provides a constant source of comparison for those who may be feeling dissatisfied about their own life.  I recently had a conversation with a friend who was considering “putting it all out there” on her Facebook page rather than as she put it “only putting the best version of your life” on there.  It is sort of fascinating to contemplate that we become wrapped up in a comparison of ourselves to one another, but the joke is on us since no one is really being all that genuine.  Is it even possible to present your full self or a complete picture of your life online?  A recent study by the University of Michigan showed that the more people used Facebook, the higher levels of dissatisfaction they reported about their life as a whole.  Other studies are beginning to show that social media may even have a negative impact on our face to face interactions as well due to increased anxiety and depression.

Studies on the effects of social media on our mental health will continue.  In the meantime, common sense tells us that moderation of use and a healthy detachment from the medium are good approaches to using social media responsibly.

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