Throughout the years, the world has advanced more through the usage of technology and the benefits it brings. In the beginning, there were only desktop computers that could do a limited amount of work, and now they have been transformed in portable tablets, laptops, and even phones. With this much portability on technology, it was certain that certain websites dedicated to keeping in touch with people were invented. The first successful social media website that was around during the early days of the internet was Myspace. Just like the social media websites today, a person could update their page and add their friends, family, and their interests. In today’s age, social media has gone beyond doing those simple task. Now, people are able to instant message, post immediate videos and photos of themselves, as well as communicate with people across the global at any given moment. All these social media websites have done wonders for when it comes to receiving and sending information, keeping in touch with friends and family in different locations, and even knowing the current issues in the world. However, despite these benefits there is a dark side to the world of social media websites. This “dark side” effects teenager and young adults in general since they are the ones who gravitate to these forms of communication. In recent years, there have been studies conducted on the effect that social media has on the mentally stability of teenagers and young adults (people aged 20-24) as well as the type of behavior these people partake in thanks to social media. It has been discovered that the continuous usage can cause a person to develop depression as well as develop a substance abuse thanks to the websites. Not only that, but social media has been attributed to teenagers and young adults being vulnerable to succumbing to peer pressure as well as the inability of self-regulation. The essay will examine the reasons as to why teenagers and young adults have become addicted to social media and the consequences that come with this newly forming addiction.
Many popular social media platforms that people use are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Facebook and Twitter services allow users to add and follow friends, family, and celebrities while also posting long or short updates on their thoughts. The purpose of Instagram is to specifically share photos, which has made some people “Instagram famous” due to the many followers they have garnered since the creation of their account, while Snapchat is for sending videos and photos that quickly get deleted after a certain amount of time. All of this behavior sounds harmless when their websites are used properly, but many teenagers and young adults use these outlets to either boost their self-esteem by getting as many followers as they can or to become internet famous. Since the invention of smart phones, a person has access to various forms of social media 24/7 thus leading to them forming an addiction to the websites. In an article on the Huffington Post, writer Kate Bratskeir compiles a list of images with quotes from users who are addicted to social media and their reasons. A few of the images includes text that entails statements such as: “You get a dopamine rush when you interact with social media” and, “I’m addicted to social media because I want people to be interested by me. Because I don’t even interest myself” (Bratskeir, 2016). The user comparing social media to a dopamine rush shows that these people feel a sense of reward and pleasure when they post a status or picture that other people like and agree with, thus making them continue to do it. Jason Thibeault, a social media marketer, explains what the addiction felt like to him in an interview with CBS News. “when I was checking status updates on Facebook, my brain was rewarding itself with Dopamine; when I wasn't, and Dopamine levels dropped as a result, I started 'jonesing for a fix” (Augenbraun, 2014). Many people who are on the threshold of getting addicted to social media start off this way and it slowly dissolves into them checking their accounts every minuet and hour of the day. The other user shows that they turn to social media in order to be found interesting by other people since they do not think of themselves as being interesting. These confessions show that the driving force of young adults and teenagers becoming addicted to social media is to feel accepted and rewarded by their peers and large amounts of people. An addiction to social media websites falls into the category of being a cyber-relationship addiction (Kuss & Griffiths, 2011). The reason it falls into this category is because teenagers and young adults use social media to maintain the relationships they already have as well as to form new ones with people online. Griffiths and Kuss have also determined that personalities are a factor in what kind of young adults and teenagers get addicted to social media. People who are extroverts, introverts, and those who have narcissistic personality traits are more likely to become addicted to using social media (Kuss & Griffiths, 2011). These types of behaviors tend to seek out more people for approval and to expand their circle of friends, or to gain confidence in having more friends. Regardless of the reason, it leads to them spending more time on social media websites which poses a risk of them developing adverse effects on their life. Many of these effects have psychological impacts on the individual such as partaking in substance abuse and risky behavior.
Depending on the amount and type of social media addiction, teenagers and young adults are at risk of developing abusing substances as well as the addiction to the social media. Researchers at the University of Albany have surveyed social media usage, emotion and alcohol regulation, and internet addiction when it comes to their undergraduate students. “They found that roughly 10 percent of users experience “disordered social media use,” meaning that they exhibit addictive behaviors in the way they use platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram” (Gregoire, 2014). The ones who admitted to struggling with their social media addiction were more likely to have drinking problems and poor impulse control. The social media website that had the highest amount of people being addicted to it was Facebook. “New notifications or the latest content on your newsfeed acts as a reward. Not being able to predict when new content is posted encourages us to check back frequently,” states psychologist Julia Hormes (Gregoire, 2011). According to Hormes research, the inability to know when new content will be posted causes people to check back constantly which is effective in creating addictive behaviors to the website. Facebook has also made this behavior more common as it has allowed people to be connected to the website through the creation of its mobile application. “Our findings suggest that disordered online social networking may arise as part of a cluster of risk factors that increase susceptibility to both substance and non-substance addictions,” Hormes said” (Gregoire, 2011). There have been news cases of teenagers and young adults being arrested due to the risk behavior that participate in simple to post on their social media accounts. According to the Tarzana Treatment Centers, alcohol and drug usage has increased among teenagers due to the prevalent peer pressure that comes from social media. “Social media seem to be contributing to the overall trend, with 75 percent of teens saying that seeing photos of other teens partying on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites made them want to do the same” (Tarzana Treatment Centers). The teenagers admitted that when they saw other people their age participating in drinking and drug use that they believed they were having a good time and made them also want to try it. Teenagers who saw those photos were extremely more likely to indulge in trying marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco compared to teenagers who had not viewed the photos. Since cameras are on every smart phone, tablet, or notebook, it only makes these types of photos to spread across every form of social media and reach larger audiences of teenagers and young adults. Not only have teenagers started using drugs and drinking alcohol, but some have even turned to using social media to sell drugs thus increasing the risk behavior from being addicted to social media. CBS News in British Columbia reported a teenager going from using drugs to selling them over Snapchat. The teenager began using drugs such as Xanax, cocaine, and codeine at the age of fourteen. He later turned to selling the drugs for money and working for people who also sold the drug. He would advertise his selling on the app Snapchat since it can be posted anonymously and deleted within a few seconds. This lead to him getting in trouble with the rival gang and drug dealers and putting his life as well as his family in danger. His family now fears that they will hear a news report of him getting killed or him killing someone else (Rankin, 2016). This is but one example of how people have become addicted to social media and turning to risky behavior. There have also been cases of students being arrested due to bringing a gun onto their school grounds and posting a video of it on Snapchat as well. Some who have been arrested claim that they only did it to seem cool, while others cite their reason for bringing it as protection. Either way, both of the cases show that they chose to post it on social media for attention rather than doing it without all the attention. This risky behavior is not found only in teenagers either. Many young adults have gotten in trouble with the law due to them posting something illegal on social media websites and being caught by the police. One example comes from Astoria, Oregon where and eighteen-year-old was arrested for a hit-and-run incident. Jacob Cox was arrested by the police after linking his Facebook post (“Drivin drunk classsic ;) but to whoever's vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P:”) with the time and location where the accident happened (Russell, 2013). The victim of the damaged car spoke out and said that Cox had basically admitted to the crime due to his need to update the people on his social media account about his actions. When confronted about the post, Cox stated that it was “big joke” and he only hit the cars because the roads were icy (Russell, 2013). Cox was not charged with drunk driving die to it not being able to be proven, but he was charged with failing to perform the proper duties of a driver. If Cox never updated his Facebook profile, then there was a chance that the police would have never connected the crime to him. However, his need to let his friends know and to seem “cool” clouded his judgement to the point of posting that he supposedly was drunk driving. Another incident where an accident was caused because of social media was fatal and took the lives of three women in their early twenties. On December, 20th 2015, a car crashed into a tractor-trailer and burst into flames, burning Amonie Barton, Gia Scavo Abgarian, and Candice Walker alive. The investigation revealed that Gia was a huge fan of Snapchat and would update where is was at and where she was going on it. Before the crash, Gia’s snaps revealed at they were at a bar and then a house party before getting into the car. The final snap showed them in the car at how fast they were going using the MPH (miles per hour) filter to show her followers how fast they were going in the car, which was 73mph. Ethe Hill, Amonie Barton’s mother, blames Snapchat for her daughter’s death as she states, “I think it's really horrible. I think that's horrible that there is something out there to tell them 'Hey go faster,'” (Saltzman, 2016). Although what happened is tragic, the use of Snapchat’s MPH filter cannot be attributed to the young women’s death, but their addiction to the app can be attributed. Throughout that night, they updated their followers on their activities even going as far as to show that they were presumable drinking alcohol before getting into the car. To further satisfy their need to keep their fans entertained, they decided to snap their driving speed which lead them to going over the speed limit and crashing. Snapchat may have been a factor in their death but the real blame lays on the ladies not being able to regulate self-control on themselves. An addiction to social media not only has a way of affecting what a person experiences with and acts, but also how they think and how their minds develop.
It has been proven in many studies that social media websites, Facebook, in particular, can lead to teenagers and young adults in experiencing depression. In a study conducted by Charlotte Rosalind Blease at University College Dublin, she examined the behavioral issues associated with the users of the website. The researched showed signs that twenty-five percent of college students admitted that they fill depressed sometimes when they are on Facebook (Vitelli, 2015). This can be attributed to the fact that many people compare their lives to their friends and other people they see on Facebook. They may not feel that their life is on the right track when seeing a friend post about their international vacation, significant other, or new business venture. By doing so, many social media users find themselves in competition with the people they added to see if they are better off than the other person. Teenagers are more likely to succumb to depression because of social media due to them not knowing how to correctly handle their emotions. If left unchecked, teenagers are at risk of developing more serious dorm of depression later on in their life. Blease’s studies states that there are four reasons as to why people are prone to develop depression from Facebook. These reasons include the amount of Facebook friends they have, the amount of time they spending reading updates, how many of these updates are bragging, and how frequently do they see these updates (Vitelli, 2014). Not only do teenagers have to worry about developing depression from social media, but other mental ailments as well. According to Live Science, sleep deprivation, anxiety, and low self-esteemed in teenagers can be linked to the continuous usage of social media (Blaszczak-Boxe, 2015). The users who log in at night are more likely to experience sleep deprivation than those who log in during the daytime. Teenagers are more vulnerable to developing long-term mental affects than any other age group. The expansive reach of being able to be connected to various forms of social media has started to become a problem that should be addressed.
Social media has brought a positive change to the world. It has now become easier to stay in contact with friends and family members who have moved away. It also allows for people to be informed about the events in the world as well as establish new connections with people. However, underneath this positive exterior hides a darker interior that affects the youth of today’s society. Social media has led to people forming unhealthy addictions to it. This addiction has caused young adults and teenagers to partake in substance abuse as well as risky behaviors. Some examples include posting on their social media accounts when doing dangerous tasks such as driving, bragging about driving drunk, and even going far as to sell and use drug simple because they saw photos or videos of people doing it and thought it looked cool. Not only do they have to deal with peer pressure of wanting to follow their friends of social media celebrities, but there is also the risk of them developing a mental illness from being addicted to social media. Facebook has been known to cause depression in college students as well as sleep deprivation and low self-esteem in teenagers. With this evidence, it has become clear that social media is starting to pose a serious problem for people today. When using social media, a person should take serious precaution to make sure that their Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram account does not take over their life.
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