Is social media making you unhappy? If your answer is yes, then you and me both suffer from social media's negative implications on our ability to be happy human beings. Debate is raging on scholarly circles regarding whether social media use has implications of increasing the level of unhappiness in society. Although there are opposing views in support and in opposition, the bottom line for me is that I feel unhappy from using social media. That is why you will not find me spending a lot of time on Facebook, Snap Chat, WhatsApp, and the latest Tic Tok among others. As a matter of fact, I do maintain very minimal social media profiles mainly WhatsApp and Facebook that I only use when extremely necessary. I guess I can describe myself as a very moderate to a minimal user of social media. I remember growing up in the 2000s in my teens when Facebook and Instagram were quickly gaining popularity. To this end, I did what any teenager would do to avoid being branded as weird and joined Facebook and Instagram. I was soon to realize what a big mistake that was because I transformed from bubbly personality to a reserved person who is always self-conscious about what others think about me and I hated how that made me feel. I still do to this day.
Research conducted by Bono presents reasons for unhappiness stemming from the use of social media. One of them is social comparison CITATION Bon18 \l 1033 (Bono). This is so true to my experience as I always admired what my friends posted on their Facebook page and wanted to do the same or outdo their posts. Whether a friend posted a photo of himself partying with friends or having a good meal, I felt the urge to do the same or make a better post than that. I realized later on that it was futile to keep up since my best post would soon be outdone by another friend's better post. I could not keep up, and this made me very unhappy since I could not satisfy my desire to be the best on Facebook. Furthermore, I felt like I was competing with my friends for the number of likes I received on my posts in comparison to theirs. I quickly deteriorated into a bigoted personality since all I cared about was becoming noticed on Facebook rather than actually maintaining my friendships.
Jennifer Graham writes about her experiences of unhappiness in the use of social media as she wonders "where people get the time to have a good time" when she had to work. "Don't they have to go to work?" CITATION Gar11 \l 1033 (Garam) she asks as she ponders on how often her friends on Facebook posted pictures of themselves having parties in a night club, skiing, or having a buffet lunch, etcetera. Graham's negative experiences resonate with my own particularly on grounds that social media has a false sense of reality that only exists on social media pages. I can imagine how time wasteful Facebook can be when you have homework to complete but you are distracted by the posts that friends keep updating on their timeline. Graham probably wondered how such individuals could keep posting all day all night when she had to work for a living. I can also relate to her puzzled state of mind on this issue because it is absurd that most social media users will post a picture of themselves at the beach on Monday morning. In reality, such an individual is at work and has just posted an archival image.
Bottom line, a misleading photo of a holiday at the beach on a Monday morning serves to make friends such as Graham who are at work become quite sad and feel unaccomplished. In reality, however, the posts are not only misleading but serve to dampen the spirit of social media users viewing the same image. I can remember how I used to admire my friend's lives who kept posting images of themselves in different locations of the world. I used to wonder how blessed they were to travel the world at such a young age only to find out that they traveled for various reasons and not for holiday per se but projected an image of so much joy it made me jealous. The experience made me feel unaccomplished despite the fact that I equally traveled across the globe for various purposes as well but did not make misleading posts on my social media platforms in pretense that I was holidaying. The experience of social media use is depressing when you have to compare and compete with your friends on every post. It is never enough and it never ends. In the end, I always felt sad that my friend's post is better.
Another far-reaching implication of social media use according to Gil is described as when a social media user compares his fake posts of joy and happiness with the reality of his life, depression sets in and he becomes wary of the fact that he is not living to his expectations. I have often compared my posts from my past with my present and noticed how I have always strived to project a fake reality from what my life actually is. To that extent, I begin to detest the kind of life that I am leading just because I am ashamed of myself. The truth teaches me that I am living a lie on social media, however, I feel like I am addicted to the sense of gratification if gives. According to Bono, social media addiction is a very real thing that can cause depressive states of mind given the short-lived dopamine effect that is created on the brain. Consequently, an individual will keep turning to social media for another dose of dopamine which never gets filled. That describes exactly how I feel every time I log in to my Facebook account. I will want to make a post that makes me appear happy only to notice that I need to follow it up with a happier one. Before you know it, I am sadder than I was before logging into my Facebook account.
Sentiments by Heid present the notion that people who lived before the advent of pervasive technologies of social media were happier than those who were bombarded with social media especially in their teenage formative years. Research from the 1980s and 1990s shows that teens were happier as they found fulfillment in life through the development of personal relationships. In the 2000s when I was growing up as a teenager, the advent of Facebook and other social media websites presented a destructive effect in the development of personal ties. Bono observes that dismantling of real relationships and replacing the same with online friendships is one of the drawbacks of social media. I can attest to feeling isolated from physical people who I only interact with on social media. In that regard, I feel like I have replaced real-life friendships with Facebook pages of friends. Notably, I find that I have extensive conversations with friends on social media, many among whom we cannot utter a single word to each other when we actually meet in person that extends beyond 'hi?' or a nod of the head.
Twenge sums up my thoughts about the impact of unhappiness that social media can have on people and particularly on my ability to be a happy human being. Twenge advises that 'everything should be done in moderation.' Consequently, that implies using social media to connect with friends in a manageable frequency that does not compromise an individual's ability to be happy. Bearing this in mind, I decided to pull back on the rate of my use of social media back in the year 2016. My goal was to reduce my social media platforms to the essentials and meaningful ones. To this end, I settled on WhatsApp and Facebook as the only social media sites that I can find a meaningful use for in my life. By deleting all other social media profiles other than the two, I have since grown to appreciate the value of real-life experiences outside the warped sense of reality that is often created on social media sites. Going by Twenge's principle of moderation I am increasingly using social media responsibly and feeling happier with myself as I do it.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Bono, Tim. "6 reasons why social media is making you unhappy." Mail Online 16 April 2018. Web. 12 04 2019. <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5620939/The-6-reasons-social-media-making-UNHAPPY.html>.
Garam, Jennifer. "Social media makes me feel bad about myself." Psychology Today 26 September 2011. Web. 12 04 2019. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/progress-not-perfection/201109/social-media-makes-me-feel-bad-about-myself>.
Gil, Kayla. "Social media makes us more unhappy than we think." Odyssey 19 February 2018. Web. 12 04 2019. <https://www.theodysseyonline.com/negatives-of-social-media>.
Heid, Markham. "You asked: Is social media making me miserable?" TIME 2019. Web. 12 04 2019. <http://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4882372/social-media-facebook-instagram-unhappy/>.
Twenge, Jean. "Is social media making us unhappy?" Tonic 23 January 2018. Web. 12 04 2019. <https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/kzn9d3/cell-phones-linked-to-unhappiness>.
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