Section: Opinion

Social media addiction is harming the wellbeing of students

Social media is addicting. Even as I make an effort to limit my consumption, I’d be embarrassed to share the amount of time I spend mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. Being away from social media for a few hours can be painful: What could I be missing out on? I’m not alone in this sensation; everyone seems to feel the same way. Nearly 80 percent of Americans have a social media account of some sort, and more than 210 million individuals worldwide suffer from social media addiction. Per the Washington Post, teenagers may be spending more than nine hours per day on average consuming digital media—with much of it being social media.   

Social media addiction has significant effects on the lives of those afflicted with it. It hinders communication skills, as conversations over Snapchat or Facebook allow for little of the same development as face-to-face communication. As Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair of the Child Mind Institute says, “There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating—it’s not like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.”

This can also be seen here on Kenyon’s campus, where students are often more absorbed in the media on their phones than the people in their environment. Rather than connect with those around them, Kenyon students can often be found glued to their phones—be it at Peirce Hall, waiting for their friends to join them at a table, or on Middle Path, making their way to class. This addiction only detracts from the social environment on campus, and limits the ability of students to connect with others.

Addiction to social media also has adverse effects on self-image and self-esteem. Others’ posts on social media aren’t actually indicative of their lives or realities—but often, it can feel as if they are. Does everyone else have more friends than I do? Is everyone else living a better life than I am? These feelings are only more intense in social media users already suffering from low self-esteem. Body image issues also arise on websites and platforms populated with young users; countless psychological studies draw a connection between social media use and such issues as body image concerns, dieting and self-objectification.

But nothing is more damaging than the mental health effects brought about by social media and social media addiction. For one, the use of social media has deep ties to the loneliness epidemic (an entirely different, but related issue; according to Cigna, as many as 46 percent of Americans sometimes or always feel alone) that plagues modern society. The sense of ‘togetherness’ brought about by social media is superficial, and it leaves many feeling emptier than they were before logging on.

According to a study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, young adults that use social media for more than two hours a day are twice as likely to experience anxiety. And those who use social media the most—defined as 50 or more visits to a single platform per week—are by far the most likely to experience feelings of isolation and exhibit symptoms of anxiety.

Mental health is already a pressing issue for so many of us, so why make it worse? I am committing myself to limiting my use of social media, and I encourage every reader of the Collegian to do the same.

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