Social Media

Is social media making us dumb and dumberer?

Image result for Is social media making us dumb and dumberer?Bottomless scrolling of posts for videos, pictures, comments, debates, et al can be both fab and fad.

Is social media making the next generation anti-social? The jury is still out, but a recently tabled report by a group of British parliamentarians has asked for social media addiction to be classified as a disease, and demanded that platforms like Facebook and Twitter be taxed to fund research “into understanding the extent to which the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and well-being is one of cause or correlation and into whether the ‘addictive’ nature of social media is sufficient for official disease classification”.

We’ll come to the addiction part in a bit, but I really like the idea of social media platforms being taxed to fund research against themselves. There is a precedent, of course – cigarettes are taxed worldwide by governments to fund healthcare programmes that undertake cancer research and smoking prevention plans. Similarly, a so-called ‘sin tax’ on sugary drinks, alcohol, fast food, etc. is used by countries to fund projects to counter the ill-effects of these very goods. In that, it’ll be great if the funding to prove (or disprove) that social media is driving us crazy is sought from the very platforms profiting from our indulgence.

Now to the addiction part. Bottomless scrolling of posts for videos, pictures, comments, debates, et al can be both fab and fad. And bad. The tendency to follow like-minded people on social media – and being followed by the same group – can and is leading to a sub-tribal kind of mentality. A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology demonstrated a causal link between the increased use of social media and its negative effects on well-being, primarily depression and loneliness. The authors of the study “strongly suggest that limiting social media use to about 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.”

That’s not to say that social media doesn’t have its solid and substantial advantages – of course it does, including providing a platform for broad-based and meaningful conversations, integrating introverts into such conversations, helping individuals form and popularise their opinion, etc. But whoever said ‘too much of anything is good for nothing’ may have had social media on their mind.