Taking Your Chances with Social Media: is It Making Us More Narcissistic

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Social networking has an extreme influence on today’s society, yet despite its huge influence, many hindrances become apparent in it which negatively affects the world. Social networking is defined as “the activity of sharing information and communicating with groups of people using the internet, especially through websites that are specially designed for this purpose” (Source A). Social networking has become extremely prevalent in today’s society since its origins in the early 21st century. Several creators and entrepreneurs have created what today has become the main way of communicating. Savvy businessmen such as Kevin Systrom, Mark Zuckerberg, and Mike Krieger developed these forms of communication and artificial forms of social interaction. Several economic motives went into creating these platforms along with their intended goals. Even though these entrepreneurs didn’t realize what kind of economic imprint they would leave, they continued to develop their inventions into something that would suit the rapidly changing world. These platforms have grown immensely in size and influence, but they have created several societal issues that outweigh their benefits.

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Social media has been an integral part of my teenage years, especially as I have gained more exposure to it. Age is an immense component of social media and how it affects individuals, demonstrated in the implementations of age restrictions. While social media existed before I turned thirteen, I was highly unaware of it until I had access to it. Teenagers have the most difficulty with interactions, which coincides with a rise in online methods of communication. The average amount of time spent on social media was investigated finding that “Every second, 11 people use social media for the first time” (Source B). That number translates to an average of 950,400 people per day who interact with social networking for the first time, and that number is just for the first-timers. The same study took a look at the average amount of time people spend on social media in their lifetime and found it to be 3,462,390 minutes. (Source B). This number on social media alone is just a piece of the amount of time that is spent on electronic devices in one's life. “That’s more time than you’ll spend eating, doing laundry, or socializing in real life. The only thing that you’ll do more than be on social media is watching TV or sleeping” (Source C). These applications are harmful to social interaction and are an artificial method of exchange when compared to speaking, and people hardly even talk anymore when in a room together.

From first-hand experience as a high school student, it is so easy to see the hindrance that technology alone has on an everyday school day. In the cafeteria, in the classroom, in the hallways, causing several walking accidents. The fact that technology has become an essential part of the educational process determines a big portion of its use. Often, teachers have students use their devices to complete assignments, or as an additional aid to learning. I even occasionally find myself becoming tempted by the onslaught of notifications that incessantly pop up on my phone even when I am using it for the right purposes. “The average GPA of heavy users of these networks between the ages 19-54 was 3.06, but non-users of social networking had an average GPA of 3.82. The reason for this is that social networking encourages a high volume of task switching, which requires people to take more time to go through materials than less time” (Source C). It has also displayed a problem that people are abusing social media and using it as an opportunity to post inappropriate pictures or messages. This causes havoc for the entirety of the school, which is all produced by the ability of these networking sites to spread messages and pictures so vastly in such a short amount of time. Not only does this produce obstacles in the classroom, but it causes other problems where authorities can’t regulate the amount of cell phone use occurring.

Social interaction is a major component that affects health. With the immense amount of artificial interaction that social networking brings, it also yields an immense amount of isolation. With everyone constantly gazing at their phones, monitoring for notifications from people who are right next to them, a multitude of social problems emerge. There is a lack of face to face interplay that stems from direct messaging, which creates a shell that will never be broken since people rarely ever have conversations in real life. I find it astonishing how even sometimes my sister is in the next room over and is calling me or texting me to inform me that dinner is ready. In the teen years, when the brain is developing, technology use is the greatest. This is due to the facts stated earlier on with this increased dependence on the embodiment of social networking itself, which is hand-held technology. “Experts worry that the social media and text messages that have become so integral to teenage life are promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem” (Source D). It is now apparent how the wounds that appear on the surface have much more of an impact than anticipated. Since the teenage mind is all over the place with the immense amount of activities and expectations that are held above their heads, it adds to the mess that social networking laboriously dictates. “It may have looked like a lot of aimless hanging around, but what they were doing was experimenting, trying out skills, and succeeding and failing in tons of tiny real-time interactions that kids today are missing out on. For one thing, modern teens are learning to do most of their communication while looking at a screen, not another person” (Source D). Aside from mental health, there is a physical toll taken on the body, particularly the eyes. Implementations such as “Night Mode” for iOS were created to reduce the stress that the eyes encounter from staring at the LED screen for innumerable hours.

Some may argue that there are outweighing benefits in juxtaposition to the harms discussed throughout this paper. These include the advantages of worldwide communication, up to the minute updates of loved ones, and the heightened opportunity to learn more from different cultures. “When you start sharing messages with people through your preferred social networks, then this can lead to new interactions in real life” (Source C). This is true, but also ambiguous. Yes, social media can constructively impact real-life interactions, but just as well destructively impact social interplays. When you start becoming involved with virtual conversations, it takes up some of your time. No matter who or where you are, everyone has 24 hours in a day. Twenty-four hours are dictated by the constant decisions that our minds are constantly making. If three hours of this time are spent creating a mock conversation, that’s three hours not spent getting up and talking to some real person or figure. Another argument is that “Social networking reduces feelings of loneliness” (Source C). This is carried along by the weak string that tugs along the entirety of the argument of how these platforms can be somewhat beneficial. Talking to people in real life makes for less lonely feelings, just like joining a sports team, sitting with someone at lunch, or becoming involved in the community. If anything, these false forms of communication will only lead to more isolation. A level of comfort can be reached by the individual who refrains from leaving his house. However what happens when the power goes out? When the only thing left is you and the darkness that surrounds you when the sun sets, and that virtual friendship fades away into the night? Well as dramatic as this point may sound, it is truthful. The emptiness that is experienced when the cord is unplugged is something that can only be mended and relit by the power of a human connection. A real, human connection that is tied together by the eyes that interlock and minds that sync up to the words that travel from the brain to the mouth to the recipient’s ear.

What we do online has an everlasting impact on everyone who has access to it. “Many children and adolescents do not understand the fact that everything they do online leaves a ‘digital footprint’. This can hurt their future reputation, hurt their job or college application and follow them forever” (Source E). There are predators online, and predators nowadays have much more access to information than when social networking did not exist. People can easily access information by the click of a single button, and put a slew of people in harm and distress. Paired with this, it creepily invades our privacy through the multitude of questions it imposes upon us

(Source C). Social networking can also create a negative outlook on oneself and create a narcissistic viewpoint. This can also be linked to mental health and the slandering that these interfaces have on us as humans.

Taking a look at the specifics of these certain applications, we find ourselves prompted with Instagram and Facebook. When apps like these are used, you are immediately bombarded with pictures and timelines and photographs of all the people you know and presumably have real-life connections with. It becomes relatively easy to start having a cynical outlook on yourself when there are so many picture-perfect moments presented in such a superficial way staring right back at you. Instagram captures the best moments of someone’s day and life. When you are sitting scrolling through your phone, seeing picture after picture of the perfect body or perfect scenery that you envy, you begin to become harsh on yourself and even reconsider your ideals. (Source C). “The constant barrage of perfectly filtered photos that appear on Instagram are bound to knock many people’s self-esteem” (Source F). These photos are perfect. Face-tuned, photoshopped, rid of those red eyes, glare, bad lighting… these aspects being taken away, especially the ones due to nature, take away from the natural beauty of pure life. People compare. It is human natureb. But it would be easier to feel less narcissistic if social networking was less prominent in daily life. Finally, revisiting physical health, this negative image of oneself can lead to possible disorders. “One study out of the University of Pittsburgh, for example, found a correlation between time spent scrolling through social media apps and negative body image feedback. Those who had spent more time on social media had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media. The participants who spent the most time on social media had 2.6 times the risk” (Source G).

So far, one of the most influential implementations on social networking has been screen time limits. Time limits were introduced in the iOS 12 for Apple devices and software. This feature would allow users to set their limits for themselves on apps they find themselves getting lost in, and wasting too much time on. This aspect of technology and software that has been introduced to one of the leading corporations in the world has helped with several problems with screen time and its harmful effects on health, as discussed before. Even though this helpful aspect was implemented to the software for the past couple of years, it has not been able to completely halt the poor habits of habitual individuals. This screen limit implementation has a feature that allows for one to ignore the notification that they have exceeded their limit. All this will do is create another habit that will add to the mindless thinking that occurs when one abuses social networking. For example, what if a notification on Snapchat comes in right before your time limit reaches? The pop-up appears on your phone, and you ignore it just to answer that message, or at least that is your justification as to why. But you are sucked back into that cycle. And that’s it. Exactly how the huge impact of social networking and its time is taken to develop has blocked any sort of remedies that can heal the gaping wound left by social networking.

Reflecting upon all of the past two decades and the addition of social networking to our complex world, we can see the pros and cons. However, when closely examined, we can see the huge imprint that has been left by the exponentially growing networks. This hindrance that has been left by the creation of social networking and artificial communication is one that will last as long as we do, or at least as long as there is power. Power to supply the world with the luminescence that fuels the eyes and fingers that furiously type their messages to people halfway across the world. Social networking is the biggest social, physical, and mental hindrance that has been introduced in the 21st century.

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