Reasons Why Social Media Can Be Destructive

Photo courtesy of Eaters Collective

I always love going out to sit-down restaurants with friends. On the ride there, we usually talk about the latest news, gossip, what teams scored what, etc. Once we get to our table and the waitress takes our orders, however, we gravitate to our phones until the food comes. My friend Matt especially loves to take pictures of wherever he is to update his followers, and why blame him?

To Matt, and many others, social media is a great tool to connect with others. We can talk to others by texting them, messaging them, tweeting them, snapping them, and many other ways. The amount of ways we can convey ourselves through these applications are too plentiful to count.

Animation by Jen Cozzette

As we are consumers of electronics, have we stopped to think if our access to this technology is good for us? With the internet being this accessible, is social media truly beneficial? Or do the downsides outweigh the benefits?

I can show you why social media is hurting your social life more than you think, and it’s not because of those around you.

First off, why should you care about this? You might think, “What impact do you think social media really would have on my life?”

Pew Research Center’s Data on US adults who use social media sites — Jan 2017

Social media has grown largely over the past 10 years, with sites such as Facebook reporting a total of 1.86 billion active users at the end of 2016. Considering that this many people are online and available to talk to, social media couldn’t be considered bad for us, right?

Unfortunately, the problem with social media doesn’t just lie with just this growth.

It also lies with our psychology.

From social to anti-social?

My typical routine for waking up: I make coffee, breakfast, and head upstairs to work on my laptop.

While I sit typing away on a computer, I usually take quick breaks to check in on Facebook. Sort of like an impulse, I just feel the need to see what my friends are all up to. All I see, though, are my friends posting pictures of all the fun events they are at and how much fun it is.

This makes me feel somewhat inadequate. Like, how badly I would want to stop what I’m doing and try to join them, and when I can’t, I feel some sort of regret.

Unfortunately, this feeling does not only apply to me, it certainly has happened to a lot of people. So many, in fact, that this theory has a name: The Fear of Missing Out, or FoMO.

“FoMO is a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.” — PsychologyToday

Or to put it simply:

“FoMO perpetuates the fear of having made the wrong decision on how to spend time.” — Wikipedia

This fear that most of us experience has shown to be more prevalent in those who use social media more often. The resulting fear also creates regret, which can frequently sour moods.

The people who are also feeling lonely would turn to social media for any sort of social interaction. This could lead to them feeling more isolated, which would cause them to continue social media.

In short, it’s a loop. A horrible, continuing loop.

The Fear of Missing Out isn’t the only worry for frequent social media users, however.

Anxiety has been discussed heavily already, in which there are resources for those struggling with it. What if I told you that social media could trigger anxiety through the strive for perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. — Wikipedia

Think about it: you’re on social media, and you see a picture of someone living the “perfect” life. Or perhaps a video about cooking, in which the end product is pretty much flawless. The version you make is, well, less than stellar.

Or perhaps there’s a video talking about the most “perfect relationships.” The list could go on and on.

The thriving profiles of popular people that you either know personally can indeed affect you and how you think. There’s a theory known as the Celebrity Worship Syndrome, which people obsess over those they deem “better” than them, in some regards. This can also lead to people mimicking others and their behaviors in order to gain the same popularity.

This might seem hyperbolic, but who and what you are is made up of what was originally around you. The clothes that you wear, your style, the way you go about life is usually based off of prior experiences. Social media is, simply put, a continuing evolution of that.

We, as human beings, always feel the need to fit in and to feel vindication of fitting in from others, and social media is a great tool for that. However, with social media, if you happen to get 10–20 likes on your post, you would feel pretty great… until you see someone else who got 50 or more likes on their posts.

That need of wanting to be better was spurred by others that have more of a social media presence than you, which seems almost pointless. Due to how we ourselves are wired, we either attempt to make ourselves better, or we feel regret.

Concluding… What now?

My recommendation for you, reader, is to never think of social media as an important necessity for your social life. It is a place where other people can share ideas and converse with one another, to connect, but it is still entirely optional.

Social media is a platform to enjoy, and it’s always a good idea to moderate yourself. As the old saying goes, too much of a good thing will always turn out worse than ever before.

Rather, use social media to connect with others outside of the electronic space called the internet. The ability of accessing and sharing information is pertinent to us today, and will continue to evolve in the future. The only caveat is to not let it take over our lives and to not have it hold us back from progressing ourselves.