Social networks are now a part of almost everyone’s life. Young and old alike have accounts on networks like Instagram or Twitter, sharing photos, comments and opinions.
These networks have allowed us to share information and perspectives very quickly, reaching millions of people and influencing them tremendously. It can be positive but also negative, especially if it is misused.
People most vulnerable to irresponsible use of social media are teens and young adults. Below, we’ll take a look at how social media addiction affects young people.
This influences the dependence of young people on social networks
Today’s adolescents were born in the 2000s, a generation that came into the world with a cell phone or tablet under their arm. His internet proficiency is almost instinctive, more than that of previous generations and only comparable to so-called Millennials. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat are just a few examples of social media where young people, adolescents and adults under 25 spend more time.
There is no doubt that social media connects us and brings us closer to each other, but in the same way that it can offer some benefits, it also poses problems in case it is not used sparingly. No one disputes that today’s teens are digital natives and skillfully use new technology and social media, but this does not prevent them from being misused and having negative consequences on health. How social media addiction affects young people is what we will discuss in the following paragraphs.
Some of the effects of social media abuse on young people include the following.
1. Obsession and risky behavior
One of the dynamics for which social media is best known is interactions between “influencers” (influential characters) and their “followers”. Following or being an influencer can determine the status of young people in their peer group. Most teens want to be famous in one way or another and social media has become that space where little talent is needed to market themselves.
Therefore, Getting likes, views and shares on your social networks or your comments can be seen as a sign of relevance and notoriety among young people, which puts them at risk of becoming obsessed with it.
When a guy sees that on his profile someone liked him or shared his comment, being happy, which is neurobiologically explained because we have seen that social networks can cause the secretion of the hormone from dopamine.
There is also the influence of those who follow. Influencers can be very relevant to young people, for better or for worse. On the positive side, some influencers have been spreading messages in favor of mental health and personal care, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. However, there is also the other side, that of influencers who shared pseudo-scientific messages, harmful to mental health and who put their followers in danger.
What we can say from this point is that social media makes its users obsessive, seeing who is following them and what they are saying about them, while also being aware of what their reference characters are saying. If the messages shared by your influencers are harmful, it can lead less critical followers to engage in behaviors that put their physical and mental integrity at risk..
2. Interaction with strangers
Young people are vulnerable to staying with people they have met online who do not know what their real identity is. The youth they do not have the necessary experience to detect risks in the world and, motivated by the idea that this is happening to other people, they come into contact with strangers on social media. They can accept Facebook friend requests, new WhatsApp contacts, Instagram followers, and other social networks that they don’t know just because they feel more popular.
It is this same inexperience that makes them feel drawn to networks as dark and murky as Only Fans, a platform where its users pay monthly to access content such as photos, videos or live broadcasts of. any kind, although in practice it is adult content. page. Because they have very internalized the idea that the more people there are, the better they don’t hesitate to let a stranger know about their intimate life. The problem is, they are not aware that they are exposed to all kinds of risks.
It is possible that young people are hiding with people they have met through the networks, people who say they are something they really shouldn’t be. They may have “fallen in love” with someone they haven’t even spoken to on the phone, interacting only through instant messaging. It is in these cases that they risk falling into a catfish, a person who says he is what he is not, with a false identity and who, if left in nobody, could harm them.
3. Cognitive problems, social isolation and family conflicts
Sometimes young people give up activities that previously pleased them and contributed to personal, social and family development simply by being hyperconnected. It is known that the misuse of electronic devices and social networks in particular can induce cognitive problems, impairing young people’s attention, concentration, problem-solving and impulse control skills, which results in academic and relationship problems.
One of the most notable effects of social media is that it can lead to social isolation. The reason is that since they are already interacting with other people online, they find it more interesting, leaving their friends and family behind and even getting into a fight with them. The virtual world offers the possibility of creating a parallel reality, a world where young people can create an ideal avatar of themselves in order to attract the attention of other adolescents and hide their true identity.
4. Anxiety and emotional instability
One of the reasons young people are addicted to new technologies is because they have access to social networks.. They need to check from time to time to see if someone has written to them or given them a “like” which makes them nervous. This anxiety manifests itself the moment they feel they have received a message.
It also manifests itself when they do not have access to the mobile phone or the device with which they connected on social networks, either because they left it at home or because they are located in a place where they cannot consult it.
5. Sound problems
There are a lot of young people who admit that they wake up in the morning to check if someone has sent them a Whatsapp message or if they have commented on their last Instagram post.. In connection with the previous point, because they feel anxiety because they do not want to miss anything (FOMO syndrome), their sleeping habits are altered.
They fall asleep later than they should and, when they are already in bed, check their cell phones, delaying sleep time.
Blue light from cell phones and other electronic devices is thought to slow down sleep, primarily because it makes our body believe that it is still daylight, waking us up more despite fatigue and therefore causing us to fall asleep later. Because of this, many young people start to see their sleep patterns affected, starting to have difficulty sleeping. As they sleep less well, their concentration and performance are affected.
6. Body complexes
Another of the effects of social media addiction on young people is insecurity about their physical appearance. Body image is very important in both adolescence and early adulthood. The canons of beauty have always existed, exerting a strong socializing influence, establishing who is valid and who is not part of their culture based on their appearance, figure and height.
Now, with the widespread use of social media, it has increased its influence. The pressure to conform to the imposed beauty canon is heightened when your image is constantly exposed to the judgment of others, comments from friends and people you barely know. There is also the fact that they are constantly compared to photographs of “Perfect” body influencers, which marks how it should and how it should not be a body.
Young people keep thinking that many of the images they see on social media are fake, the product of photo editing and playing with perspective. They perceive this perfection as natural and internalize the idea that in order to be valid among their peers, they must have those bodies which, in most cases, are virtually impossible to attain.
Anyone can be a victim of cyberbullying, regardless of their age. Many individuals protect themselves from anonymity by pouring their acid in the form of hurtful comments to others (Internet trolls). Exposure on social media makes young people very vulnerable, susceptible to comments from malicious people of all ages.
Young people don’t digest cruel comments the same way adults do. As handling other people’s comments is worse than that of an adult, which they can receive on social media in a very personal way, leading them to all kinds of emotional issues and even suicide in the most serious cases.
How to avoid these effects?
There are several tips that adults, both family and more mature friends, can follow to prevent young people from abusing networks and suffering all the effects we have just seen. While these tips are aimed more at families with teenagers, they can also be applied to a young adult such as a classmate or friend who is worried about their cell phone use.
1. Lead by example
We can’t expect our child or sibling to stop being connected 24/7 to social media if we do the same.. It is best to lead by example, so it’s time to park the phone and enjoy some time with our teenager, a time with the family where we can create a memory that we did not have. need to be logged in to pass -I’m fine.
2. Make the most of the moments for yourself
In today’s culture, this impulse that makes us take out our cell phones to photograph a “unique” moment is almost irresistible: dinner with friends, celebrate a birthday, go camping, go on an excursion … These are all moments where young and old alike feel the need to immortalize the moment to share it with others. There are people who think that if they do not expose it to their acquaintances it is as if they had not lived it.
Whether you take the happy photo or not, if it’s a good time, you’ll enjoy it just as much. This is why it is important to instill in young people the idea that you do not have to photograph everything, that what matters is the timing, not the number of people who see and know what we have. done and what we stopped doing. You have to find pleasure in living the moment, not looking for it in the recognition and envy of others.
3. Set limits
If as adults it is very difficult for us to control our impulses on our own, even more so when we are young. It is essential to set limits, to impose rules that are never broken by anyone in the family so that we can set an example and internalize well. A good tip is to confiscate all electronic devices, such as tablets or cell phones, at night to prevent anyone from logging into social media when it comes to sleeping. During the day, it is also advisable to restrict the use of these devices, as far as is reasonable.
4. Be critical of the networks
Ultimately, it is very important to talk to younger people about the need to criticize what we see on social media. Teenagers and young adults should be taught that many photos of their benchmark influencers, where they show ideal bodies like those of an Olympic god, are just illusions, they do not correspond to reality.
We also need to talk about the importance of not believing comments they see written on social media and they also shouldn’t take as personal a nasty comment dropped by someone hiding behind an avatar. They shouldn’t let the opinions of people they haven’t even seen in person influence their feelings. You will need to learn to be critical of any messages that reach your profile, and put an end to chains of messages or videos that border on crime or are in bad taste.
- Fernández Sánchez, Néstor. (2013). Behavioral disorders and social networks on the Internet. Mental Health, 36 (6), 521-527. Retrieved November 25, 2021, from http://www.scielo.org.mx/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0185-33252013000600010&lng=es&tlng=en.
- Cornejo, Marqueza, & Tapia, Maria Lourdes (2011). Social networks and interpersonal relationships on the Internet. Foundations in the Human Sciences, XII (24), 219-229.
- Almansa Martínez, Ana, & Fonseca, scar, & Castell Esparcia, Antonio (2013). Social networks and young people. Use of Face book among young Colombians and Spaniards. Communicate, XX (40), 127-135.[fecha de Consulta 25 de Noviembre de 2021]. ISSN: 1134-3478. Available at: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=15825476014