Image courtesy of Getty Images
By Margaret Adams
Everyone remembers when Facebook and Instagram went out last Monday, and it didn’t just go out for an hour or two; it was out for most of the day. The same thing happened again on Wednesday.
Some people probably did not notice when Instagram was offline, while it might have ruined other people’s entire day. However it affected us, it did lend some insight into social media’s pervasiveness in our lives. It begs the question: what would our lives look like without social media today?
Social media as a whole has certainly changed the process of development in children and has presented a number of issues that are concerned with the development of young people.
According to a literature review by Hilal Bashir and Shabir Ahmad Bhat, there has been much research to support the claim that social media has an extremely detrimental effect on mental health, specifically with children and adolescents.
“This virtual life is isolating present man from other fellow beings thereby affecting his health (mental & physical) and overall balance,” wrote Bashir and Bhat.
Another study illustrated that symptoms of psychiatric disorders like major depression are found in individuals who “perform image management on social networking sites.”
And this is not to say that social media has not done many amazing things for society; the way that the culture of presenting ourselves on online social sites has changed the way young people develop makes them more susceptible to mental disorders.
As adults who may not be as susceptible, we are still constantly being persuaded to be present online; whether it be having to join a group on Facebook or downloading Instagram for school, being online means that the algorithms for the technology we are using become more and more accurate to our external persona.
“Social media is like a drug, but what makes it particularly addictive is that it is adaptive,”said Jonah Berger, marketing professor at Wharton University. “It adjusts based on your preferences and behaviors, which makes it both more useful and engaging and interesting, and more addictive.”
Whether you want companies like Facebook knowing what type of dog food you buy is your business, but Facebook and Instagram are culpable for creating, contributing to, and endorsing this harmful culture that damages our general mental health.
Recently, Frances Haugen, a former data scientist from Facebook, admitted that the company is very much aware of the harm that Facebook does to children and democracy as a whole.
“The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats, and more combat. In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people,”said Haugen in her testimony on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
She also released a study conducted by Facebook that illustrates that 13.5% of teenage girls in the U.K. reveal their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting an Instagram account.
These internet moguls are not here to protect us; recognizing the way in which we interact with social media, like Facebook and Instagram, can help us be conscientious of our mental health. Though, I do wish that I could have experienced adolescence without the pressure of the constant and watchful eye of social media.
“Social media isn’t a utility. It’s not like power or water where all people care about is whether it works,” said Berger. “ Young people care about what using one platform or another says about them.”
To answer my initial question of what our lives would look like without social media, I have a feeling that everything would be a little louder: the common areas of places around the country would be buzzing with people talking, sharing eye contact, and more experiences with each other. There would be specific events that never happened, but our current culture would be filled with many more shared experiences.
I would love to know what life would be like without the pressure of an online presence looming over every one of us. The prospect of an eternal audience creates so much anxiety that life off the grid sounds a bit too much like a dream.