Written by Fanny Wolte
Social media’s unfavorable impact on humans’ productivity, mentioned in Part 1, is not the only issue that arose with the development of these networks. Their effect on humans’ well-being might even be more dramatic.
Social media makes life better – or maybe not
The intrusiveness of social media to the lives of people has reached a level where it takes away quality of life. The presence on social media sites can significantly interfere with tasks, responsibilities, and joy from real life offline. The resulting reduced well-being because of social media use was confirmed by the study, mentioned earlier, conducted by Brooks (2015). An additional study conducted by Kross et al. (2013) showed similar results by confirming that the more time young adults spend on the social networking site Facebook, the less they were satisfied with their lives. On the other hand the research showed that face-to-face interaction had no negative implications in this context. This study definitely justifies the questions ‘Has social media actually brought as many benefits as people praise it for?’ and ‘What price do social media users pay for these benefits?’
I’m never alone; social media is always with me
Humans’ heavy use of social media often results in a lack of time with oneself. If someone is always on the run awaiting messages, calls, emails or other notifications online he/she does not have any time to reflect upon and process happenings of the day. Neither do people find time to talk to or discuss an event or a decision with others. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, stressed, insecure and exhausted and might find its end in burnouts or other mental and physical illnesses.
In the past these negative feelings were often tackled by engaging in sports activities and being active. These free time duties helped in escaping from problems and difficult decisions at least for a little while and also featured a social factor, one that did not have its origin online.
Today the attachment to social media, the fear of missing out on something important, and being reachable all the time, keeps people from moving and being active during the day, which eliminates this highly efficient and cheap way of handling stress and pressure.
There is plenty of media coverage on the negative implications of a sedentary lifestyle as well as research that confirms the positive correlation between physical activity and people’s quality of life (Brown et al., 2014). Therefore, the problem is not that people do not know about the importance of physical activity but rather that they decide to ignore it.
As a result, there is a trend that people do not go outside anymore to do their grocery shopping or other activities because nowadays everything can be done online through a couple of clicks. Instead of walking or riding the bike to the bookstore where people spend 30 minutes or an hour looking at different books and reading the backs of them, they just go to Amazon, type in what they are looking for, read some reviews and order it straight to the door.
It might seem time saving and much more efficient but that person, most likely, did not move a meter from where he/she was when he/she started, nor has he/she increased his/her heart rate, got some fresh air, or was physically active. In this context it is important to, once again, ask the question what price humans have to pay to achieve this increased efficiency. Is it worth being more productive and efficient if people have to pay for it with their own health?
No phones during dinner – nice try!
Overlooking the negative implications on health and well-being, one can easily cut time with oneself if he/she thinks that working has more benefits and is a better time investment. It is a different story when that person decides to cut time with the people in life that matter the most like family members or friends. He/she is not the only one influenced anymore. Other people have to suffer as well.
An example of this behavior can be observed on a regular basis when visiting a restaurant. A family, two parents and two children, sit in a restaurant at a table waiting for their food. Instead of talking to each other in person about what they experienced that day in school, at work, or in their free time, they are caught up with their smart phones and tablets checking social media sites, emails or making calls. Nobody is interested in how the others feel or asks what might bother other family members. Even the children are already so attached to their devices that they do not want to do anything else.
I still remember the time when I was a child. Using a cell phone during dinnertime was considered disrespectful and bad manners. There were no phones or other devices allowed at the table.
Today, it is commonplace and parents do not even care anymore. Children do not learn that there is also a different way of spending time with the family at a restaurant.
If people are made aware of this situation they, in general, agree that this is not the right behavior and that the same scene without mobile devices would be much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, these situations go unnoticed most of the time and quality time that could be spent socializing with important people is lost.
Without a doubt there are a lot of positive developments that social media and the Internet have brought about within the last couple of years. Nevertheless, some of the often-praised benefits do not hold what they promise in all cases. This is also true for the two factors productivity and well-being.
As shown by the examples and research above, social media and the Internet can have a quite counterproductive effect on these two factors. The important point here is that most of these negative implications are not obvious enough to the people that experience them. They are hidden and happen unconsciously. Many times they only come to their awareness afterwards when they reflect upon their actions and also only if they find the time to do so. Therefore, it is critical to point out these threats and to call them into people’s awareness. Only if people see them and realize that they take place at that very moment, it is possible to do something about them and lessen their impact on people’s productivity and well-being and ultimately their quality of life.
The next step would be that in order to take away the best things from the Internet and social media while still preserving the quality time spent with people that matter the most away from the computer, users have to make careful decisions on how to use these technologies. People have to make their quality of life, well-being and level of satisfaction a priority no matter what social media demands from them. It might be difficult to ignore incoming messages or emails in the beginning but a realistic weighing between benefits and costs should be done beforehand if possible.
While adults are in a position of being able to make informed decisions, the younger generations are likely to fall easily into the traps of social media. Therefore, it is important that children and young adults are educated in an appropriate manner on how to use the Internet and how to balance their presence in these networks with their lives offline. It has to be made clear to them that the experiences people make offline are those that count forever and that life also features moments without technology.
Priority number one for everybody should be that the time people spend online does not interfere with the social life humans have when they are away from their computers. Likes and friends on Facebook might give some short-term satisfaction but their value will decrease over time and soon disappear from memory.
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