Barren & Metcalfe
When I embarked on my journey of research for this three-part series, I quickly discovered there was enough information for a 20 part series. The subject is complex.
Some of the resources used are the books and lectures of American social psychologist, Dr. Johnathan Haidt.
He stressed that although social media likely has the worst impact on young minds, it is not necessarily “safe” or wise for adults. I found the following comment of his very compelling:
“Grownups often have a false sense of safety when it comes to the use of social media. The reality is, many adults are no more mentally or emotionally developed than teenagers. Clinical research has proven that depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness are also more prevalent in adults that engage in social media interaction daily. There are more psychosis and reports of medications taken for bipolar disorders in adults who spend one or more hours a day on social media.”
Many adults feel that engaging in social media is a savvy way to stay young. Because the ever-popular likes, hearts, and comments that come with posts release dopamine (the same happy brain chemical released by rigorous exercise) it may feel like a virtual Botox injection, but it doesn’t last. Users will use everything from their kids or partner to their latest biscuit recipe to get the thumbs up from people they often don’t know in the real world. Some take it even farther, showcasing revealing pictures on Snapchat or 500PX to feel complete. When the dopamine “high” subsides, the social media user will seek the next high, and frequently project a false reality to get it.
One realization is that there is no sense of privacy left in the modern world thanks to social media. Everyone feels that everything is everyone’s business, when only a few decades ago such a notion would have seemed silly, perhaps even perverse.
While investigating the criminal aspect, I found instances of stalking and identity theft have multiplied tenfold since the rise of social media. The definition of stalking has also changed. While sneaking around someone’s home or defacing their vehicle is still stalking, the definition has broadened. An obsession with another person whose clothes and accessories you mimic thanks to the peeping-Tom nature of social media can also be classified as stalking. It may seem harmless, but it can go much farther.
For example, if cousin Beth called because she discovered some unknown person was contacting friends, family, and co-workers calling themselves by your name, it would be alarming. If they used your address, or credit card information to check into a hotel, it would be even more alarming.
The avenues for misuse are plentiful.
People with narcissistic personality disorders or other psychosis may use the outlet as a manipulative tool for a smear campaign against someone who rejected them, dispatching “friends” to side with them in a public arena. An untruthful comment in a pretend world can change a person’s existence in the real world when rumors fly. A teenager might commit suicide because classmates use it as a means to bully and belittle. A young woman might meet a friendly stranger and run away, never to be seen again. These things are happening to countless people each day.
The big platforms making big money are not eager to give up their power and have been very lax in reporting real statistics. However, as you will read, statistics from reliable sources do exist, and the impact is undeniable. Please read the third and final part of the series next week.