The Social Impact Of Facebook, Now What?
Human civilization has gone a long way from its most primitive state. From hunting and gathering, we are now beneficiaries of modern food production and instant cooking appliances. We are now using state-of-the-art communication technology that breaks all kinds of geographical boundaries from word of mouth. From manual labor, we have gone to develop robots and machines that have made mass production possible. Technology gave us the data that helped us explore the universe above and the world as we know it - almost instantaneously. Undeniably, technology has made life more convenient for human beings. But how about its social impact?
With the multitude of benefits we reap from technological advancements and breakthroughs, is it safe to assume that technological progress will always be the way to go? Is technology really good for our social health, tech health, and overall well-being?
According to a study published in the leading Human metrics report; IOSR Journals," though technology has dramatically improved our culture, living standards, and economy, the advantages we enjoy are double-edged swords." These benefits are not entirely beneficial, considering the detrimental mental health effects on the individual and so, society at large.
Technology and our mental health
When Google and Facebook were first launched, its creators were raving about how these breakthroughs in the digital universe will change how we communicate, get information, and live our daily lives. Then again, as years pass by, the very same employees who placed Google and Facebook at the pinnacle have separated themselves from these tech goliaths to start a campaign warning people, most especially parents, about the dangers of overuse of these platforms.
According to the Center for Humane Technology, a non-profit group composed of Tech Ed from Silicon Valley, "the use of Facebook and Google and other popular web tools is resulting in more harm than good." They went on to explain that these platforms are slowly degrading the physical well-being and mental health of millions and billions of users, especially teen girls and boys.
If your teenager is spending hours-on-end in front of social media, that’s likely hurting his/her physically. Fitness may subside, eyesight and wrists are strained, and physically the impact is negative. And we’ve heard for years how bullying online is vicious. There’s a false interpretation that online means not-reality. Names, fake pictures, or simply passing along hurtful images can impact a teenager’s confidence for months or even years. These aren’t always light-hearted games. They can be very damaging.
Facebook posts and depression
A very classic example is the increasing number of suicides and depression causes directly linked to Facebook use. According to a recent study conducted by students from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, "the more time teens spend time on Facebook, the higher their chances of getting depressed."
This can be explained simply by tracking how most individuals use Facebook every day. If you're one of the billion Facebook users, you might have seen a friend or an acquaintance sharing good things that happened to them --- be it getting a new job, buying a new car, getting engaged, or living in their dream house.
To the one who posted it, the intention might have been to simply share the joy he/she felt because of such good news. Then again, to some people who get to see this post, it might be a vivid reminder of the things he/she lacks. These posts might even become a trigger of his/her depression. Especially those struggling with self-esteem issues, these "good-natured" posts may be taken as a reason for them to think of their own lives as worthless or, at worst, may even be a reason for them to end it, once and for all.
Facebook recently acknowledged in the Wall Street Journal's Facebook Series that they not only knew this was a mental health concern but have years and years worth of data pointing to the negative effects Instagram has on teenage girls. Image if you saw hundreds of photoshopped/air-brushed images of perfect lives every day. By nature, you aren’t perfect and don’t add up. You would be depressed too!
So where do we go from here? Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram, may have been the cause of depression for some. But parents, schools, and tech giants combined are starting to bring the deep impactful effects to light. FemTech companies are popping up too - to help build the community and reverse these ill psychological effects from social media. What seems to be the best medicine for social-media caused depression? The opposite of social media! Here are few items to help with your teen's mental health;
- Remind them that no one is perfect. Give them an example of when you felt imperfect yourself.
- Encourage their individuality. What makes him/her different and special?
- Limit time on phones. A phone basket or box on the kitchen counter to hold everyone’s gadget until after dinner, or for a three-hour break every night will encourage social engagement elsewhere.
- Build your online network. Online parent groups can give additional tips, tricks, and support when you feel alone in parenthood.
- Encourage your teen to try one tactile/tangible exercise every day. Whether that’s walking the dog, helping to cook dinner, or singing in the shower - joy can come from outside the ‘gram.
In conclusion, Facebook, among other social media giants, knows it is damaging mental health. Whether that’s by adding channels of bullying or glamorizing perfection, depression and even suicide are skyrocketing. As a culture, and a community, we need to come together to remind our youngsters that the social impact of social media is not always the best.