Is Social Media Actually Making People Less Social?

In the book, Social Media: A Critical Introduction, Christian Fuchs asks “What does it mean to be social” and what exactly is social about social media? Fuchs argues that information and cognition, communication between users, a sense of community in the social media application, and collaborative and co-operative work, like the works on Wikipedia are all what makes social media social. Even though this may be true, new studies are showing that those born between 1995 and 2012, the generation that grew up with smartphones, and does not recall a life without them are: less likely to hang out with friends, in no rush to drive, more likely to feel lonely, less likely to get the recommended amount of sleep they need, and even dating and having sex less than the generations before them who did not grow up with an iPhone in their hand.

Those who spend more of their time using social media are also less likely to be as happy as their counterparts who get less screen time according to a study conducted by the Monitoring the Future Survey. The study found that “all screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all non-screen activities are linked to more happiness.”

Social media sites tell users that their goal is to connect people to their friends and other acquaintances, but many of data on these young adults and teens born 1995–2012 shows a completely different picture than that of a more social generation due to social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. People in this generation who visit social-networking sites like these every day, but hang out with their friends less in person are the most likely to agree with the statements “A lot of times I feel lonely,” “I often feel left out of things,” and “I often wish I had more good friends.” The article reports that teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since. The same is true with high use of social media and mental illnesses like depression, “the more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression.”

So is social media really making us more social? It probably depends on how you use it — if you’re using it to keep in touch with old friends and family members that have moved away, or to create new relationships that help you grow as a person it might be. However, if you’re skipping out on going to the park to meet up with your friends, scrolling through your phone as soon as you wake up and not letting it leave your side as you sleep, or tweeting about, instead of having your friends over to discuss your drama and gossip, you might wanna stay away from the Twitter fingers and go out and hang out with your friends and actually have a conversation — phone free!

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