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Addiction to Social Media and Technology
Addiction to social media and technology is an issue of concern, especially among teens. Today, it is common to find teens glancing at their phones every time, either to check a friend’s status update on WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter. According to Tristan Harris in the essay, “The Slot Machine in Your Pocket,” an average person checks the phone 150 times (Harris, para. 5). Social media and technology enhance and enrich learning because learners can access collaborative projects on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Also, social media and technology improve relationships by enhancing online interaction (Moyo and Abdullah 135). Despite the benefits of social media and technology, prolonged use of social media leads to dependency and addiction, thus affecting people’s lives. Addiction to social media and technology leads to unconscious decision-making and influences lifestyle.
Addiction to social media influences unconscious decision-making among users. Evidence shows that an average person glances at his or her phone 150 times a day (Harris, para. 5). This means that a person makes 150 unconscious decisions. Also, a person feels uncomfortable when not near the phone, and thinks someone may have called, sent a message, or a friend has updated a new status. The unconscious decision-making affects people’s productivity at work because a person spends most of the working time checking social media updates. Tristan Harris states that social media hijacks people’s ability to make conscious decisions. Further, Harris says that people think it is their responsibility to get sucked into smartphones, but research shows smartphones seize people’s vulnerabilities. Harris’ findings are consistent with Alasdair McIntyre’s statement in the book, “Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues,” that human beings are dependent rational animals (MacIntyre 1). McIntyre means that human beings cannot exist on their own, and because of vulnerability, they make emotional decisions. Social media and technology capitalize on human beings’ vulnerability thus prompting them to make unconscious decisions.
Kanokporn Sriwilai and Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol, in the article, “Face It, Don’t Facebook It: Impacts of Social Media Addiction on Mindfulness, Coping Strategies and the Consequence on Emotional Exhaustion,” found that people who are highly addictive to social media tend to have lower-mindfulness. According to Sriwilai and Charoensukmongkol, mindfulness refers to bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience (Sriwilai and Charoensukmongkol 428). Addiction to social media, however, makes people use emotional-focused coping to deal with stress. Consequently, such people tend to have higher emotional exhaustion than those who are not addicted to social media. For instance, relationship break-up is emotional and can affect the well-being of a person. However, how a person copes with the break-up determines his or her quality of life. Posting emotional quotes on Facebook or Twitter does not improve the situation. Relationship de-escalation theory outlines the stages of dissolving a relationship, and effective communication is vital for a break-up (Baxter and Braithwaite 365). A person who faces the situation rather than updated status on social media tends to lead a life free from negative emotions than one who updates on social media.
Addiction to social media and technology influences people’s self-identity. Social media has hijacked people’s true self-worth and replaced it with fake self-esteem, which depends on social approval. Today, teens flock the social media to get social approval on how they look. For instance, a person uploads a photo and checks the update regularly to see the number of “likes.” If the picture gets 400 plus likes, a person feels good and uploads another one. However, if following pictures get less than 400 likes, a person may get emotional and think people do not like him or her. Young girls and boys, mostly between the age of fourteen and twenty-one are the most affected, because of the influence of media on sexuality (Harris, para. 6). The media shows how a perfect body should look like, and teens and young adults emulate. For instance, a man is represented as masculine while a woman is portrayed as slim and sexy. The representation of sexuality on social and mainstream media has contributed to social media addiction, thus influencing a person’s self-identity.
Social media addiction heightens the sense of urgency. Social media platforms capitalize on people’s vulnerabilities to elevate the sense a sense of urgency. For instance, when a friend updates a status, the status features in the news feed, thus creating a sense of urgency to view the status (Harris, para. 4). Also, when a person changes the profile picture, friends are notified in the news feed. Social media, therefore, disrupt people’s daily lives on unproductive matters. Well, productive on the advertiser’s side, but irrelevant on the user’s side because of the constant disruption with news feeds and notifications. Facebook is designed such that the more a user scrolls down the page, the more updates appear, thus keeping the user glued on a computer or a mobile phone. Twitter is also designed to load tweets automatically. Nonetheless, Instagram loads photos automatically and provides an option to tap on the pictures as they appear. Therefore, the sense of urgency displayed by social media leads to addition, thus disrupting the user’s daily activities.
Addiction to social media and technology makes people dependent on the internet. The use of social media requires connectivity to the internet. Learners can use the internet for learning. However, evidence shows that technology is making people dumb. Internet searches reduce the natural ability to search and identify books in the physical library (Amavut et al. 321). Today, the sieved search feeds from search engines such as Google helps in the fast acquisition of information. However, overdependence on technology reduces the cognitive functioning. Social media and technology have robbed people the skills to read independently and develop an original critique.
Moses Moyo and H. Abdullah in the article, “Enhancing and Enriching Students’ Reading Experience by Using Social Media Technologies,” state that social media and web 2.0 can enhance learning (322). These technologies include collaborative projects such as blogs and microblogs. For instance, Twitter, and content communities enhance learning. The social interaction principles encourage active learning. Active learning refers to personal and goal-oriented learning whereby the learners determine what is right for them. The social networks, therefore, provide software and educational materials. Despite enhancing active learning, social media and technology lead to addiction, for example, using social media and technology prompts learners to play video games, listen to music or live chat with the online community (323). Furthermore, social media leads to a teacher-student online relationship, which may affect learning. Social media technologies improve the learning experience, but overindulgence in the use of social media can lead to dependence and addiction. Consequently, the learner may find difficulties in functioning without social media (Ashford et al. 33). Learners become so addicted to social media platforms such that they can even engage the online community while in class, thus negatively affecting the learning process.
Technology addiction leads to diminished impulse control. Reduced impulse control refers to the inability to control emotions. A person addicted to social media becomes vulnerable to the virtual life and comments of other people. Natalie Gerhart, in the article, “Technology Addiction: How Social Network Sites Impact Our Lives,” identifies four indicators of social media addiction; diminished impulse control, distraction, social influence and satisfaction (Gerhart 179). The author found that the four factors are responsible for 55% of the variance in addiction (180). The model, however, does not show a significant relationship between social media addiction and the overall satisfaction of life.
While Natalie Gerhart’s research shows no significant impact of social media and technology addiction to the overall satisfaction of life, several studies show a substantial effect on the quality of life. For instance, Tristan Harris on “Smartphone Addiction: The Slot Machine in Your Pocket” found that social media addiction hijacks people’s psychological biases and vulnerabilities. Alasdair McIntyre’s views on the nature of human beings as dependent rational animals confirm Harris’ observation on the effect of social media addiction on the psychological biases and vulnerabilities. Using MacIntyre’s theory on dependence and vulnerability, it is evident that social media takes advantage of the user’s vulnerabilities. The users, therefore, are addicted because of social media’s capability to manipulate their psychological and emotional abilities.
Social media gives the users intermittent variable rewards, thus heightening the level of addiction. Intermittent variable rewards refer to the unexpected rewards, which evoke a feeling of satisfaction within the user (Harris, para. 2). For example, Facebook feeds the user with unexpected news in the notifications and news feed, thus creating a reward for visiting the Facebook page. However, intermittent variable rewards lead to addiction, although unconsciously when a person visits a social media platform, the goal to see the status updates and anything new that may have happened. Social media heightens the feeling by providing a constant flow of news feed, which leads to addiction.
Furthermore, social media and technology addiction affects people’s ability to cope with stressful circumstances. People believe that stress comes from the outside, that is, other people cause stressful situations. Therefore, the solution also comes from the outside. Such a belief leads people to social media, thus causing addiction. Consequently, social media addiction reduces mindfulness, that is, the ability of a person to reason and make informed decisions (Sriwilai and Charoensukmongkol 429). Instead, a person focuses on emotional strategies to solve a problem. For instance, posting statuses all day does not resolve a break-up but heightens negative emotions towards the other party and life. Therefore, the amount of research available shows that addiction to social media and technology has a significant impact on the quality of life. Those addicted to social media tend to have a false sense of identity, based on what others say. Conversely, those not addicted to social media tend to have a real sense of self-worth because the online community does not influence their lifestyle.
Addiction to social media and technology affects the users’ life negatively by making them emotionally vulnerable and influencing their lifestyle. Addiction to social media influences unconscious decision-making because of emotional vulnerability. Social media and technology reduce mindfulness and influence emotional-focused decision-making. Social media platforms influence people’s choices by bagging them constantly with news feed from online friends, who seem to have a good time. Consequently, emulates the online lifestyle unconsciously. Addiction to social media influences a person’s lifestyle regarding relationships and love. While social media and technology enhance communication and relationships, it is essential to recognize the adverse effects of social media addiction and provide a solution. Social media users, therefore, should be responsible and set limits for using social media.
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