Social media dependency is an issue that plagues many in our digital age. Websites like Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and TikTok are now global and an unlimited amount of information is available at our fingertips like never before. This can be overwhelming for some, mainly because of the infinite scroll. The infinite scroll is a mechanism on popular social media apps that allows you to scroll down your timeline to seemingly no end, always making content available to you 24/7. Kids and teens have shorter attention spans, so being able to view contact all the time, leading to instant gratification, can be harmful in the long run.
Cleveland Clinic pediatric psychologist Dr. Michael Manos said about this increase in screen usage is “the impact of screens is certainly profound because what happens with screens is attention is taken away from face-to-face interactions and it’s given over to a device.” The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that children and adolescents should have ‘two hours or less’ of sedentary screen time. However, children and teens seem to be far exceeding this expectation.
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the world indoors for most of 2020, screens became part of our daily lives. School, work, friend hangouts, and more were all hosted on Zoom and other platforms, increasing the time spent on screens. Social media also gained more traction, with TikTok solidifying itself as one of the world’s most popular social networking platforms this year, with Forbes reporting that in September 2020, 1 in 6 people in the United States used the platform weekly. Leading into the next year, this screen usage didn’t seem to slow down. Nonprofit organization Common Sense Media released a study examining changes in screen media among youth during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to a 2019 survey with the same questions. On average, children and teens in 2021 consumed screen media more than children and teens in 2019.
A researcher in the field of Child and Adolescent Psychology is Julie Cristello. She is a sixth year doctoral student in the Clinical Science program in the aforementioned field at Florida International University (FIU) whose research focuses on “how normative youth behavior (e.g. social media, pop culture, extracurricular activities) influences alcohol and drug use as well as other risky behaviors.” In regards to screen time, Cristello believes there is a possible correlation between more screen time on social media to mental health struggles in youth.
“What we are seeing is an increase in things like isolation, anxiety, and depression,” said Cristello on the negative effects of social media addiction. “I think that some of this may be due to spending more time online than offline. I do think that with increased time on your phone, there is a lot of exposure to what other people are doing, and this can impact self-esteem and self-worth.”
As social media becomes a more prevalent part of society, it is important to know how it impacts the people that are consuming it.
According to Pew Research as of 2021, it has become more common for adults to be active on, at least, one social media page. There is a big contrast in numbers collected between 2005 and 2021 with a rise of 68% between the 18-29 age group.
In 2021 alone, 84% of adults aged 18-29 reported being on social media. While the younger generation leads the percentage of usage, older groups also have a significant social media presence. The research showed that while in 2005 only 2% of people aged 65 and over were on social media, in 2021 the number rose to 45%.
Due to its commonality amongst 18 to 29-year-olds, we decided as a group to interview a student at Florida State University, Jeremias Di Vico.
Jeremias is a 21-year-old senior at FSU and had no problem stating what his social media usage looked like. He said that he most commonly bounces between three different apps: Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter. Out of these three the one he used the most was Instagram. Despite it being a regular part of his day to day, he had also made it abundantly clear that he believes that to some extent it plays a negative role on us. Jeremias cited that he believes that the usage of social media has led to a shortened attention span and a reliance on the constant stimulation it provides.
Pew Research also shows that in 2021, 27% of Americans used Twitter daily, 20% used Instagram, 19% used Snapchat, 16% used Youtube, and 12% used Facebook. A lot of people used these outlets less frequently or on a weekly basis. A social media platform that wasn’t included in this data is Tiktok which had begun to rise and only 21% of adults say they ever use it in the poll held in February 2021.
As our screen time grows and social media usage becomes part of our daily routine, the importance of remaining conscious of the impact it has on our personal lives and health grows along.