Don’t seem to find satisfaction in social media anymore? You’re not the only one. Former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya went so far as to say he feels “tremendous guilt” over his role in growing the company.
Concern about social media’s influence has been rumbling for some years. As social media usage rocketed in the early 2010s, studies show that people experience signs of addiction, anxiety, and depression from overuse. These are five ways social media makes users unhappy.
1. Social Media is Designed to be Addictive
Former Google product philosopher Tristan Harris explains how social media is specifically designed to keep people coming back for more. The designers and engineers behind these social products may call the process “behavior design”, but their critics call it for what it is — a digital slot machine.
Many people feel that they use social media too much. But just as with other addictive behaviors, cannot seem to stop: always returning for a new like, a new follower, and a new dopamine hit. Some peoples’ self-worth can become so wrapped up in their social media presence, causing anxiety and stress over every post and like.
Many messenger services are also designed to draw you back in. Displaying if the receiver has read the message yet, can cause anxiety when someone doesn’t reply immediately, or guilt for not responding as soon as they feel they should have replied.
2. Social Media Traps People in the Hive Mind
For people using social media more and more, their selves can even become wrapped up in it. It can be easy to lose the ability to spend time with your own thoughts, and instead, turn to the phone for distraction. It can make it easy to lose track of your own opinions and get trapped in collective thinking and the hive mind of many.
3. Social Media Isolates People
Though people may go on social media to lift their spirits, many come away feeling worse. Others often display a more interesting, happier version of themselves on the apps. It is easy to compare yourself unrealistically to other users.
It can also become a false illusion of connection — maintaining weak relationships with many dozens or hundreds of people. Meanwhile, users let their real-life relationships slide, with a third of users reporting that they speak less with their children, parents, friends, and colleagues.
Social media companies are so good at attracting users’ attention that it’s hard to have the willpower to look away. Many end up craving the distractions and it can start to replace social interactions in the real world.
4. Social Media Keeps People From Sleep
Social media also make people stay up later, causing problems with sleep patterns, sleep deprivation, and insomnia. This can be especially problematic in young adults, grown up with social media habits, influencing their developing brains. It can be an endless scroll; looking for endless new content, or just the hopes of getting more likes.
It doesn’t help that the screens emit mostly blue light, which, because it’s similar to daylight, prevents the mind from recognizing that it’s time for sleep.
5. Social Media Causes Information Overload
Overloaded with information about their friends, country, and the world, users still come back for more. Feeling like they are learning useful information — it is hard to resist. Social media taps into the human brain’s insatiable demand for helpful information. However, the brain needs time to process all that information. Even though it may feel like you’re learning more and more, too much time on social media can hurt your ability to be efficient and productive.
Social media is designed to be compulsive and addictive and does not make most people happy. So if you find yourself using it a lot, consider if it really adds value to your life. Does it make you feel unhappy? If so, cut it where you can and keep any elements required for work or school to a minimum.