SOCIAL DISTRESS

Ashley Radcliffe 

“We have become so obsessed with social media that we’ve almost completely stopped physical interaction with people.”

Bilal Dawson, Toronto comedian and Social Media Content Creator believes what he says is true, but that doesn’t mean he thinks it’s funny.

More importantly, it could be interfering with our mental health.

Founder and CEO of Skills Camp, Bailey Parnell has posed the popular question, “Is social media hurting your mental health?”

Although the act of scrolling through our media timelines may seem harmless, she said viewers should ask themselves how the intake of mass media is affecting them. Parnell admits that she too is guilty of some of the toxic behavior that comes along with being active on social media. But she realized this issue, and has brought awareness to the idea of social media detoxing in her TED Talk at Ryerson University.

In the TED Talk Parnell said, “The Center for Collegiate Mental Health found that the top three diagnoses on university campuses are anxiety, depression, and stress. And numerous studies from the U.S. , Canada, the U.K. have linked high social media use with these high levels of anxiety and depression.”

With the option of privacy online, people have had the opportunity to make fake identities a part from who they are in the real world. This has led to a severe bullying issue over the internet, where people use social media apps to put down others, and has raised the beauty standards for the current and younger generation. Social media users depend on the apps to give them confidence, but this has only given them low self-esteem that can only be boosted with likes and comments on sites such as Instagram. This has given everyone with access to a social account to fake the funk, and pretend to be something or someone they are not.

Dawson has always been using platforms such as YouTube to put out music videos and short films, but since 2017 he has found success on Instagram making comedic short skits. His passion for film and comedy has shone through the platform, and has led him to greater opportunities.

Social media turned into a career for Dawson, and has become an opportunity to make an income through the connections he has made. Dawson has said that the way Instagram is designed for content creators like himself is that the less amount of content you put out, the less engagement with his followers. As a creator he has to constantly be up to date with the latest news in pop culture.

With technology constantly making new advancements, the newer generation has been occupying their time by indulging in the social media world.

This has caused them to completely ignore reality, and to compare themselves to influencers, which is a new demographic that has made social media into a career.

Influencers have created new occupations such as Brand Ambassadors, YouTubers, Bloggers, and so much more.

These influencers have found a way to make their time on social media productive, and are making a consistent income off them. However, the consumers on the other side of the social apps have found themselves excessively spending time on the digital profiles of other people’s lives. This has had an impact on the consumers and producers’ mental state. Many people are finding themselves going into deep depression by being a part of the cyber world.

“I still feel like the people who consume the media are on it more than me,” Dawson said. “But when I go on Instagram, and I go

on these social media platforms, it’s almost like I’m clocking in. And you wouldn’t want to be at your job all day every day.”

“Social media is our personal highlight reel. It’s where we put up our wins, or when we look great or when were out with our friends and family,” said Parnell in her TED talk.

Some people take a break because they realize how addictive it can be. The addiction to social media has been a silent but growing issue that has attacked this generation severely. The approval and acceptance of others has forced people to second guess whether they want to make a post or not. This is based on the amount of likes and comments they want to receive. The attention has become something the consumer craves.

“Regarding of social media, we are already experiencing an impairment similar to substance dependencies,” Parnell said. “With every like you get a shot of that feel-good chemical, dopamine. You gain more of that social currency.”

Many people go on social media detoxes for different reasons. Some people do it because, their time on the internet feels

unproductive. For people with a large following, they tend to take breaks because they spend more time in the online world than the actual world. However, there are benefits and negatives to social media. One is how much of a harmful impact it can have on one’s mental health. The other side is how social media has become a source of income, while being entrepreneurial.

“I still feel like the people who consume the media are on it more than me,” Dawson said. “But when I go on Instagram, and I go on these social media platforms, it’s almost like I’m clocking in. And you wouldn’t want to be at your job all day every day.”

There are many negative sides to social media platforms. The opportunity to cultivate the type of persona you want on these platforms has prevented in- person interaction between people in this generation. As Parnell mentioned, social media has made a big impact on the younger generation, especially students. Social Media Today published the amount of time that has been spent on social media for average student is two hours per day. This adds up to a little over five years in a lifetime. This could

be shocking to most because, it exceeds the amount of time eating or grooming oneself.

York University student, Thanh Huynh said, “Social media is very accessible, so it’s not hard to constantly occupy your time on Instagram or Twitter. But I think the problem with it is that I may say I’m only going to scroll on Instagram for five minutes, but then end up going through a worm hole of useless content and end up spending a straight hour on Instagram alone.”

This constant need for attention and staying up to date has destroyed the idea of having in person interaction with others. Students have been affected by this issue the most.

Although there are many positives as there are negatives to social media, the question that needs an answer is this: is social media affecting people’s mental health? Parnell has a unique response to conclude what possibly could be the solution.

“The answer is it does not have to. Social can tear you down yes, or it can lift you up, where you leave feeling better off, or have an actual laugh-out-loud,” Parnell said.

 

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