Hard Pill to Swallow: You should delete your social media apps

By: Daniel Finegan

I have been exceptionally lucky in that my parents did not allow me to have social media in high school. Now that I am older, I have made that decision for myself and have never regretted it. Many of my generation have not had the same fortune. All around me, I see my peers addicted to their phones. Often, when I am with my friends, those whom I love and want to spend time with, they pull out their phones and start mindlessly scrolling through social media. I do not think people mean this purposefully, but it gives the impression that the lit up screen (often pressed just inches from their face) is more important than the real people around them.

Excessive use of social media is not just like an addiction, it is a quite literal addiction. Social media use causes the release of dopamine in the brain, a chemical that motivates us to seek pleasure. After we finish the activity causing the dopamine release, the body hits a dopamine low to compensate for the high. What’s worse, the more one uses social media to achieve this dopamine hit, the less intense the high, but the more dependent we become upon the stimuli to function. 

Waltonian | The Waltonian Source: The Social Dilemma on Netflix

As neurology researcher Dr. Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco points out, “The prefrontal cortex, this area of the brain that is involved in our cognitive control, our ability to process and direct our attention based on our goals, is the last part of our brain to develop.” This area of the brain is not fully developed until our late twenties, which means that children and teenagers find it especially difficult to control their impulses, such as binging on social media. Of course, it is not only a problem for youth: according to one report, people spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on their phones. How many of us can honestly say that we are not addicted? 

Overindulgence in screen time is linked to depression and anxiety. This is certainly true for me; after a few hours of staring at my phone, I feel lethargic, stressed and unmotivated. Correlation does not necessarily mean causation, but over the past decade, as social media has become more prevalent, rates of suicide and self-harm have risen. 

It can feel like we need social media; without it, how can we keep up with our friends? But here is a great irony: social media inhibits our ability to interact with our friends. I am in college, surrounded by wonderful people, and yet all I can do is stare at my phone. Those 4.8 hours a day we spend on our phones could be spent with real, complex, beautiful people, instead of celebrities or the carefully curated and edited images that people present of themselves. It gives us the impression of a connection between people, but it is a false connection that makes us anxious.

Social media does offer advantages, such as the ability to connect with people who live far away. However, the costs greatly outweigh the benefits. Many of us are willing to admit all of these downsides, yet how many of us are willing to change our behavior in light of this knowledge?  It is hard to break a social media addiction. It takes willpower and self-control, abilities teenagers are notoriously bad at. We have a choice in front of us: succumb to the addiction, or fight it. 

Most of you reading this article probably feel galvanized against social media right now–and in a few minutes, you will be back scrolling through the app that has become your god. There is no shortage of people who are willing to talk about the problem, but how many are willing to make the hard sacrifices it takes to make things better? I want to challenge you to resist. As Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Rage, rage against the dying of the light in your eyes.

Sources: All Poetry, BBC, The Guardian, The Social Dilemma, Psychology Today

Leave a Reply