(elginobserver) -- How often do you think about the time you’re balancing between scrolling through apps on your phone and being productive? Our society has accepted social media as a tool we depend on to stay connected with each other on a daily basis.
Social media is used mostly for sharing pictures and posts to stay connected with our friends, getting important information shared to us and discovering new interests and talents with people around the world. This exists all in the palm of our hand.
But the new non-stop media on our phones has also been proven to keep our minds on unhealthy alert for long periods of the day, which has been related to an increase in mental health symptoms, according to a study led by Erin A. Vogel at the University of Toledo.
Researchers have been testing the correlation between social media use and problems with our mental health and found that it can cause anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
The reason social media is impacting our culture in a substantial way is due to its ability to diminish satisfaction with our own lives through social comparisons.
As part of the individualistic culture, we socially compare to one another to boost our self-esteem and organize our thoughts, feelings, and actions, which gives us our sense of self, according to David Myers, the author of the 12th edition of Social Psychology at the University of Iowa.
“We have all kinds of things we learn from the culture,” said Joyce Fountain, professor of sociology at Elgin Community College. “One of the things, good, bad or indifferent, is the concept of one-upmanship.”
Evaluating our self-worth in a generation that has so many external outlets makes it easier for our culture’s ideologies to impact our self-views. Our culture gives us an independent view of self that shapes us to favor individual superiority over the harmony of a group, which in the end breeds conflict in our society, according to Myers.
“I think social media in its multiple forms, and even in the forms to come, will grow our culture more [to become more] dependent on it,” Fountain said. “We will presume that the information being shared on it is real and that will continue to form our opinions and impact our values.”
The generation of college students has been influenced through the socialization of our culture to use social media as a way to value each other through an identity of a profile that has been altered and edited.
Comparing oneself through the lens of the internet may construct ideologies that favor more desirable traits.
This pressures us to change our behavior in search of acceptance due to the anxiety we feel from our self-esteem being threatened, according to Jessica Strubel’s study at the University of North Texas.
“Facebook users are choosing to feature the more exciting and positive aspects of their lives,” Ethan Kross said in his published study at the University of Michigan. “This biased social comparison might be one reason young adults who use Facebook were more often anxious, lonely and less satisfied with their lives.”
We feel the social anxiety of needing to feel connected to our phones because it is the first media source that gives us influential feedback by comparing ourselves to our friends. It’s also available to anyone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, according to Strubel.
“Through social media sites, people receive direct and indirect feedback about how they compare to others who are in their social sphere,” Strubel said. “And it is through such interactions that their self-concepts can be inﬂuenced, and perhaps, distorted.”
Social media gives us a new way to evaluate ourselves, and it is controversial whether or not this is healthy feedback for your self-esteem. People also had positive experiences with social media and believe the increase in its use in our society is a more efficient way to stay connected, according to Myers.
“I feel like a lot of people post just to acknowledge how they feel or just get things out there like a diary,” said Lisette Pena, a second-year student at ECC.
Social media gives anyone an opportunity to make a profile for free and use that app however they want. Many people use that profile as an outlet to share a post that lets them express themselves and feel gratified afterward. Having an outlet like social media promotes your self-esteem and overall satisfaction of life because it allows you to be socially connected to your family and friends even when you’re physically all by yourself, according to Strubel.
Social media is also recognized positively for its ability to bring together communities of marginalized groups to support real friendships with other people that relate to you. It also creates an environment to get more people to recognize a cause you support. We discover multiple donation organizations, new music interests or sports you may not have seen if it weren’t for social media.
“Facebook provides people with a comfortably safe environment where they can create and maintain social connections with others from different backgrounds,” Strubel said. “Which might be a beneﬁcial alternative for social comparisons.”
Although the positive impact of social media is helping bring a lot of our communities together in an efficient way, the research still shows us that the use of it is causing depressive symptoms, like anxiety.
Social media is still flawed by altered impressions that do not show true physical and personality traits. Users on these apps are influenced by beauty ideals that have been established in our culture. This leaves users in a vulnerable place, feeling anxious and jealous of others, according to Vogel.
“Those who spent more time on Facebook were more likely to believe that other users were happier and had better lives than they did,” said Nicholas Edge in a study at Utah Valley University.
There are healthier ways to pass the time when we’re waiting or when we’re bored other than just scrolling through our social media.
“If our phones are keeping us from being positive and mindful, we have to challenge ourselves,” said Mary Grimm, a wellness professional at ECC. “Ask yourself if you need to get up and take a walk, meditate, journal, give someone a call or anything else that can break the avoidance.”
If you feel like you are having trouble with anxiety in your own life, our own ECC Wellness Center provides free resources for the students that are proven to be beneficial.
Grimm is one of the two wellness professionals at ECC that are there for their experience in student therapy. Students come in to see a wellness professional for many reasons, including maintaining their mental health and overall wellness.
According to the Counseling Center of Psychological Symptoms, an organization that monitors wellness centers at colleges across the United States, students are using the wellness resources more and more each year since it started nationwide in 2010.
The data by the CCAPS in 2018 shows students top three concerns are anxiety at 59%, depression at 49% and stress at 31%. Anxiety was shown as the biggest increase of mental health concern from 2017, as it went up 4.3%.
The CCAPS also provided data that after four sessions with a wellness professional, students reported a decrease in 94% of generalized anxiety, 94% of depression and 93% of social anxiety. Also, 92% of students said the wellness centers helped them feel better about themselves. Grimm said these numbers are accurate in how they reflect with the success of ECC wellness.
“Typically, with most college students it tends to take those 3-5 sessions to help someone process and get back on track because of the anxiety that comes with the adjustment to college,” Grimm said.
ECC has the wellness center and a student life center that focuses on the happiness of their students.
Student Life provides destressing activities during finals weeks, like playing with therapy dogs and making your own stress balls. It’s an opportunity for students all over the campus to come together, leave their stress behind them and enjoy being a college student.