It's a habit I haven't kicked. When I have a spare moment, I’ll unlock my phone and check social media. Besides my messages, it often eats up most of my screen time. There are photos to see on Instagram, pictures to send on Snapchat, politics and jokes to read on Twitter, family news on Facebook and new dances to watch on TikTok — including some from Fairygodboss employees.
While social media can connect us, teach us new information, or even just give us a laugh, it can also have negative impacts on our health — especially in times like now, where the world is experiencing a crisis. According to BroadbandSearch, we spend an average of 144 minutes on social media. This number has been growing since 2012 and is likely continue to rise; more users are joining social media platforms daily.
Is it time to get on the social media wave if you haven’t already? If you have, is it time to post and use more than ever (especially with all your potential extra free time)? Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Social media has its ups and downs, and using it positively means using it effectively.
Social media’s a great way to connect with friends, and with multiple social media platforms, you can connect in a multitude of ways. Want to send a picture with a dog filter to your high school best friends? Snapchat will help you out. Want to share a funny joke? Post on Twitter. Need to get professional? LinkedIn can help build your network. Social media can connect us even if we haven’t spoken in months or are thousands of miles apart.
When I started college, I made a Facebook album and shared my favorite pictures of each semester. My family at home, my friends at other schools and even former teachers loved being able to see what I was doing. Social media is a great way to keep others updated about your life, whether it’s through pictures — like the Facebook album or even an Instagram post — a status update or even a link to your newest work.
According to Hootsuite, 12% of Americans get their news from Twitter. Because 22% of the American population is on Twitter, that means 71% of Americans on Twitter are using it to read the news; 42% use it to discuss politics. Because social media is fast-paced and relies on quick communication, sharing news on these platforms is easier than ever. While you should still check your news sources, social media can help direct you to information about the world and keep you updated on what’s happening in it.
Do you want to make something new for dinner, but you don’t know what to try next? Do you want to make a friendship bracelet, but you don’t know how? Do you want to hit that high note so you can rock your choir group? Social media has your answers. Instagram hosts foodies who share salivating photos and recipes. Pinterest can show you all of the coolest bracelet designs. Check out YouTube for singing lessons, where professional teachers will give you the best advice.
According to Hootsuite, 75.3% of businesses will use Instagram in 2020. Brands and companies have been using social media to get their name out for years. It’s a great way to gain traction, new customers and fans and even share updates. You can show a day in the life on a platform’s story, do giveaways, announce a product reveal, or even just post relatable content. Whatever you do, social media will help promote your business or brand and get users liking, commenting and sharing your work.
Life can be overwhelming, and while social media also can be that way, it’s a great place to just have a laugh. I love going on Twitter and seeing my favorite celebrity’s funny Tweet or sending my friend something that will make them giggle. Social media has an endless amount of fun memes, GIFs and jokes that can brighten your day.
Because we spend an average of over two hours a day on social media, this time can eat away at precious work time. Even if we’re not spending 30 minutes on our phone, checking social media constantly — even for a few seconds — can distract us from our daily tasks.
Interacting with others online can help connect us, but it also has harmful effects on the way we interact in person. Communicating online can be very different from communicating face-to-face; when we become accustomed to talking to others only through social media platforms, it can make in-person interactions difficult. We may have trouble reading social cues and the other person’s emotions or have trouble expressing our own.
Because we’re at risk for losing face-to-face communication skills, our connections to others are in jeopardy as well. Being online gives us access to others, yet only through a screen; we don’t have to physically interact with anyone else to still speak to someone online. Even when we’re online, we can still feel lonely. In fact, being online can increase our chances of getting FOMO — fear of missing out. If we see pictures or updates about our friends hanging out without us or even see other people posting things we want to do but aren’t doing, we’re likely to feel upset.
While social media is a great place to share updates, if we’re reading and seeing these updates, we’re likely to compare ourselves to the person who posted them. This can trigger deep insecurities about our appearance, personal success and life status. Even if you’re happy for all of your friends who just got promotions, seeing them post about it constantly may not make you feel your best.
Why would people willingly spend hours of their day on a social media platform? They may like it, but it also may a form of addiction. People are not only checking these platforms often but compulsively checking them, worrying they’re missing out on the latest update if they don’t look every few minutes.
Social media is only on the rise, and as more users join, they’ll have to decide for themselves whether social media is the right choice for them. While it can offer great ways to connect with others and stay updated, it also has negative health effects, ones that can damage our real-life connections. Before you delete your Instagram, consider how you’re using the platform. Is your use time eating up your productivity? Are you comparing yourself to Instagram models? Are you liking your friends’ posts but not keeping up with them in real life? Understanding the cons of your social media use can help you use it more effectively and positively, allowing you to connect with others both online and off.
Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoeakaplan.com.
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