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Mankind is a social animal, and we like to be liked. At the same time, we are a competitive species and we like being admired by others for our abilities and success. This desire for acclaim leads us to buy bigger houses than we need and fancier cars than we can afford. Many of us spend hours at the gym, have plastic surgery, and spend a lot of money on make-up and hairstylists—all to feel good about ourselves.
When friends compliment us on our looks and accomplishments, we get a dopamine burst. Before the development of digital photographs, our family reunions, vacations, and awards could only be captured on film-based photographs and video. Only friends who saw the photographs firsthand could appreciate our experiences. Since cell phones and social media were invented, you can post photos of your vacations, family, or even your latest meal for everyone to see. Friends, family, and other followers can “like” your posts and rave about them in their responses.
Social media allows a flood of praise and compliments with each photo. Bursts of dopamine flood your brain. I don’t mean to sound cynical. In reality, social media is fun and a good way to stay current with loved ones. Yet, as with any activity that can become a sensual addiction, you have to be aware if you are developing a dependency. Do you spend more time in the virtual world than you do in the real world? Do you think about your social media even when you aren’t on your phone or tablet?
Time spent on social media can easily increase without you noticing. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media sites constantly encourage you to expand your network of ‘friends’ and spend more virtual time with them. One might think that a lot of social activity, even if it is only online, will make one happy. But for many people the opposite is true.
Facebook, with its 1.23 billion active users, has not led to happiness; instead it has led to a phenomenon known as “Facebook depression,” whereby the more “friends” one has on Facebook, the higher the likelihood of depression. There is also, as mentioned, the double whammy that the more time spent on social media and the more texting a person does, the higher the likelihood of not just depression but tech addiction as well.
Anyone who is a user of Facebook is probably not surprised by this finding. This phenomenon is also known as “social comparison,” or the “class reunion effect.” This may seem fairly innocuous. In essence, Instagram could be considered an online photo album. But each of us likes to feel successful—and success is all relative. For you to feel successful, others have to be comparative failures. So, social sites can become a never-ending competition as players judge who had the most fun vacations, who has the cutest children, and who has the best life. Such comparisons play to our insecurities, reduce our satisfaction with life, and add to our anxiety that we have wasted our time on earth. No wonder Facebook adds to depression.
If this is a good description of your feelings while using social media, maybe you should consider cutting back on your use. You need to guard your mental health.
Elder David A. Bednar gave the following advice about using social media:
"Our content should be trustworthy and constructive."
“Our messages should seek to edify and uplift, rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.”
“Be courageous and bold, but not overbearing, in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples, our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Too much time can be wasted, too many relationships can be harmed or destroyed, and precious patterns of righteousness can be disrupted when technology is used improperly. We should not allow even good applications of social media to overrule the better and best uses of our time, energy, and resources.”
“We need not become social media experts or fanatics. And we do not need to spend inordinate amounts of time creating and disseminating elaborate messages.”
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!