Technology: the new social drug?

Technology: the new social drug?

Note from Andrew

Hi everyone, I want to take a minute to introduce you to Laura. She’s a local South Delta resident who is going to be volunteering with us. She is a graduate student, currently enrolled at Trinity Western University, working toward becoming a counsellor. Her program works to provide counselling knowledge in different areas of mental health, multiculturalism, family domestic violence, career and vocational counselling, psychotherapy, sexual abuse, addictions, child protection and family and child therapy. Laura sees herself as a sounding board for people to become empowered finding solutions and to be a source of support during times of change or reevaluation. During her undergrad, she volunteered at a suicide crisis hotline and also worked at an afterschool program for at-risk youth where she discovered her passion for counselling. We’re excited to have her on board, and you’ll be hearing more from her in the coming months!


Technology: the new social drug?

The world of technology has given people new ways to connect, share, and keep up to date with friends and loved ones. In just about 20 years we have gone from not having an email to being able to watch the live stream of our friends’ daily activities. We have the ability to show the world what we want of ourselves whenever we want to. There has been a recent wave of new types of social networking sites (SNS) as well as a flood of concern for the young people of this generation who are growing up in a technological age.
The purpose of this article is not to deter anyone from using social media websites (or else you wouldn’t be reading this). The hope is that by the end of this article you will have gained some awareness of how SNS’s, particularly Instagram, can affect our mental well-being as well as behaviours. Having an honest conversation with ourselves about our purpose for sharing and posting particular content could be helpful for identifying a particular need that has not been met in our personal lives.

Instagram is sometimes called the new Facebook. When a user scrolls through the home page of Instagram they will see only pictures with captions underneath that have a limit of 2200 characters but rarely exceed 20 characters. The captions are very small and the photos people share take up the entire screen of the smartphone.

Studies involving college-age students have identified that larger amounts of time spent on SNS’s are correlated with a greater body dissatisfaction. Women are more likely to have greater body dissatisfaction than men because they tend to compare themselves to members of the same sex more frequently. Comparing oneself to one’s peers on an SNS has also been shown to lead to emotional eating for girls.

Research is also highlighting that the more followers someone accumulates on Instagram the more selfies that person will post, almost as if they feel they are in demand. Students who take more selfies to show off their appearance are more likely to believe they are perfect but also believe that no one else sees them that way. This form of narcissism can be referred to as vulnerable narcissism. This is in contrast to grandiose narcissists who believe they are perfect and insist that everyone around them agrees. Murray’s research also shows that young adults and adults who take selfies to show off their appearance report characteristics of fragile self–esteem and a tendency not to reveal their weaknesses. This could show that people who are vulnerable narcissists use their physical appearance selfies to declare a sense of confidence through social media, where it feels safe. In short, people are using social media because it makes them feel better in the moment but has the opposite effect long-term. It may be important for us to keep this in mind next time we scroll through our Instagram feed and find a gorgeous peer who seems to have it all. It may be wise to give it a second thought – appearances are not necessarily what they seem.

All of this information brings up the question of what people are trying to do on social media. Many people seem to be after a sense of connection – but this usually isn’t the result. Research is showing that people who post a high amount of self-pictures on Instagram are much lonelier than either passive browsers or users who use it to message people. In other words, on social media, the harder we try, the lonelier we become!

Fortunately, if you identified with any of the people groups, it doesn’t have to stay like that. Social media can be a great distraction from loneliness or insecurities. However, distractions do not fix the problems just like comparing yourself to others and getting likes and comments from strangers won’t make you like yourself more or feel happier in the long run. Admitting that we are not perfect can be scary and difficult but it can be empowering if we are willing to put down our quick fixes and honestly evaluate things we may like or may try to ignore about ourselves. Perhaps the first step might be putting down our phones and getting off social media for a bit and meeting a friend in-person at a coffee shop?