Ring. Ding. Ping. These are all familiar sounds that constantly emit from our smartphone devices to notify us that there is something worth checking out. Like Ivan Pavlov’s dogs from his classical conditioning experiment, we have become accustomed to picking up our phones in the hopes of receiving a dopamine hit from a notification, message, or alert. While communication technology has definite benefits, such as increased global communication and access to information, there are downfalls to being consistently logged on and locked in to our phones. As society is becoming more and more addicted to our cell phones and mobile devices, it is important to look at the negative effects of communication technology and the lasting impact it will have on society. Specifically, the elicited omnipresence and dependency of social media breeds insecurity, comparison, and low self-esteem amongst the most impressionable individuals and groups. While the seemingly harmless rings, dings, and pings may have already become background noise to society, we must look at the consequences and sound the alarms before it is too late.
The occasional dopamine rush from a like, engagement, comment, or message makes people continue to check back into social media for the next rush. Specifically, users are now on average checking their phones approximately 150 times a day in hopes that something will be there that will satisfy their desires (Grebing, R., 2017). Moreover, our brain chemistry has changed as a result of social media and smartphone dependency. The addictive nature of cell phone and social media addiction is so real that our brains look the same as drug abusers (Grebing, R., 2017). Despite these very apparent addictive tendencies, social media dependency and its implications are not well-known or talked about enough.
Many people are aware that social media is an avenue for people to heavily curate their lives and only present a highlight reel, but it does not prevent feelings of envy, jealousy, and depression. It was found that viewing other people’s happy/perfect pictures leads to comparison, which can elicit feelings of jealousy and decreased life satisfaction (Wang, R., Yang, F., & Haigh, M. M., 2017). Furthermore, it was found that users who spend more time on Facebook report feeling less confident and less happy (Brown, J., 2018). These negative feelings are affecting individuals and how they perceive the world around them, especially for impressionable women. When looking at gender differences in terms of social media addiction and usage, women are more likely to be addicted to social media than men (Su, W., Han, X., Yu, H., Wu, Y., & Potenza, M. N., 2020). The addiction that women feel to social media can evidently hurt their self-esteem and body image, which is a toxic culture and environment. As a result of these findings and statistics that prove how harmful social media can be, we must hold social media corporations accountable and address these problems by taking action.
We need to call it like it is – social media is addictive and harmful. While communication technology increases our global connections and presence, individuals and communities are chemically and behaviorally addicted to these platforms and it is resulting in harmful mental health consequences. If we do not raise awareness of these pitfalls of social media, we will not be able to ever fully reap the benefits of communication technologies. Therefore, we must sound the alarms before it is too late to do so.