Social Media And The Human Connection

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In George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, the totalitarian government seeks to eliminate the idea of human trust and connection. The Party outlaws romantic and physical attraction between a man and woman, and the constant limitations they place on citizens of Oceania renders it nearly impossible for people to interact. Such limitations include telescreens and hidden microphones, which abolish privacy and ensure you are always under Big Brother’s watch. Today’s world, though different from the one of 1984, has a similar dependence on technology that reforms human relationships. Modern technology and social media significantly hinder the ability to form human connections by weakening face-to-face communication and serving as a constant interruption and stressful presence that limits interaction.

Technological advancements have consistently been viewed as benefits to society that lead to prosperity and domination, but recent technology, like cell phones and social media, are producing a very different effect. As technology is being developed, individuals are increasingly fulfilling their natural social requirements though their phone screens, as opposed to communicating with the people standing right next to them. For example, a writer for The Atlantic describes how when she is at a gathering and all her friends are on their phones, “the path of least resistance is just to get my phone out, too, and thumb through Instagram,” even though she believes it is wrong (Beck). This culture leads to symptoms of disconnection, loneliness, and anxiety for everyone involved. Psychology Today describes it as, “if you’re at a social gathering and impulsively grab your phone as you feel the notification vibration, even if you do not continue to open the app, this brief moment could cause a feeling of disconnection with others present at the gathering” (Ali). The addiction to phones and social media that is increasingly being reported by teenagers and adults shows how modern technology is detrimental to our lives and, in itself, promotes selfish and fragile relationships. Some say the best way to combat this isolation is to rid yourself of social media all together, or at least limit it to the most useful and personalized applications. For instance, an opinion writer for The Harvard Crimson went on a social media cleanse, where she kept messaging apps that let her regularly communicate with friends, but logged off from the ones that “show us little more than curated content from a range of acquaintances and strangers” (Wong). She goes on the explain how this system has strengthened her relationships with the people she cares about, by relieving her of distractions and giving her time to instead develop existing friendships.

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The negative effects of cell phones and social media are clearly linked. To begin with, a recent study published in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety describes how the average American is on their cell phone for about 4.7 hours per day (BHOPB). Comparatively, Time Magazine reports that “rates of anxiety, panic, and phobias [are] up more than 300% since 2000,” and that number continues to rise (Thompson). Further research concludes that these factors are, in fact, connected, as, “People who used social media the most were about 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than participants who used social media the least,” according to Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches (BHOPB). This undeniable evidence leads researchers to question what it is that leads to this correlation. While these findings are still being developed, a strong suspect is the increased deprivation of the human relationship. The Behavioral Health article hypothesizes that as more phones and media are overused, “[people] do not feel the energy or drive to engage as many in direct social relationships” (BHOPB). Additionally, a study by Kaspersky Lab revealed that subjects “communicate less with their parents (31% of respondents said so), children (33%), partners (23%), and friends (35%), because they can see and communicate with them via social media” (Kaspersky Lab). Many people are losing the instinct to have real-life interactions, and instead elect to hide behind a screen, destroying their relationships with friends and family in the process.

That is not to say that social media is completely negative and doesn’t provide a multitude of excellent opportunities for connection, that of which most people would never get in a pre-digital age. Modern technology and social media strengthens human interactions by making it easier to communicate, especially with those who live far away, and for outcasted people to find others with similar interests. A study by the Pew Research Center says that “57 percent of teens made friends online” (Manacher). In addition, it can bring out the best social skills in people, as “28% [of 1,000 13- to 17- year-olds surveyed] said social networking made them feel more outgoing versus 5% who said it made them feel less so; and 29% said it made them feel less shy versus the 3% who said it made them feel more introverted,” according to a study by Common Sense Media (Wallace). But often enough, these benefits do not translate to real world situations, and they lead teens (and a growing number of adults) to feel more isolated than ever, and completely obsolete when being forced to communicate with other people unmasked by a computer screen. A study on Social Relationships and Health reviles that “social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death” (House, Landis, Umberson). Ultimately, the technological media addiction of today’s age is a psychological and medical emergency the world must fix, before it is too late.

All in all, human interactions and relationships are disturbed by systems that replace texting with conversation, friendship with followers, and connection with loneliness. The isolation caused by excessive use of technology can contribute to loneliness and mental health issues, which can even affect a person’s physical health. Society must strive to preserve relationships, the backbone of our society, by limiting screen time and working harder to maximize the benefits of technology while prioritizing real-world interactions.  


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