The Double-Edged Sword of Social Media - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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November 27, 2018

The Double-Edged Sword of Social Media

Although for most young adults, it seems like the Internet has always existed, it wasn’t until the period between 1994 and 2000 that the massive growth really occurred. The first search engines began to appear in the 1990s. Online shopping was born in 1994 with Amazon.com, the first large commercial site that concentrated solely on books. Some people believe the World Wide Web grew by 2300 percent in 1994.

And look where we are today. More than 4 billion people worldwide use the Internet. Over half of the world’s population is now online, and the latest data shows that nearly a quarter of a billion new users came online for the first time in 2017.

Social media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

In a 2017 article, SUCCESS Magazine lays out a balanced list of pros and cons for social media.

On the pro side:

  • Social media increases voter participation and facilitates political change.
  • Social media helps reduce loneliness in senior citizens who are socially isolated.
  • Social media allows for quick diffusion of public health and safety information during crisis events.
  • Crowdsourcing helps people attain a goal, empowering users to achieve positive change.
  • Social media provides academic research and online courses to a wider audience, giving people access to previously inaccessible educational resources.
  • Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn help companies find personnel and job seekers find work.

However, it’s notable that the International Stress Management Association’s (ISMA) theme for Stress Awareness Day 2018 is “Does Hi-Tech Cause Hi-Stress?” Along with all of the positive advantages technology has brought over the last few decades, our 24/7 plugged-in lifestyle can definitely take a toll on our physical health, emotional well-being, personal relationships and job performance.

The adverse effects of too much screen time

Studies have found a direct correlation between hours spent in front of a screen with loss of empathy and lack of altruism, reports the University of Minnesota. Time spent in front of a TV or computer screen also decreases time spent in nature, which is associated with depression and isolation. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that “time in front of a screen was associated with a higher risk of death, and that was independent of physical activity.”

Research also proves how disruptive the blue light waves coming off a screen are to the body’s 24-hour circadian rhythms. Blue light suppresses melatonin production for more than twice as long as other light wavelengths and causes sleeplessness. This biological interference can have a significant effect on the health of your cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems. It can also disturb your mood and compromise cognitive functioning.

Social media consequences for college adults

If you’re a heavy social media user, your grades might be paying the price. One study found that college students who are on Facebook while studying or doing homework earn grades that are 20 percent lower “than students who don't have the social networking site in visual range or running in the background on their computers or mobile phones.”

You probably know that social media is a drain on your time and it robs you of hours you can’t get back. Part of breaking the addictive cycle is distinguishing between the nourishing versus destructive ways to engage with technology.

In her video 2 Minute Tips: Breaking an Addiction to Technology, author Kelly McGonigal explains that a “targeted response” to a friend’s post on Facebook can make you feel happier and strengthen your real-world connection. This is different from the compulsive scrolling through news feeds and getting “lost” online.

McGonigal suggests that when trying to change your online habits, you pay close attention to what really matters to you. Ask: “What is this behavior getting in the way of?” and then implement small behavioral changes that support your intention to reduce your time online. Try these tips:

  1. If you take your phone to bed so you can check emails as soon as you wake up, start sleeping with your phone in another room. Brush your teeth, feed the pets, and grab your first cup of coffee or tea before looking at your phone.
  2. At the end of the day when you return home, put your phone in a drawer for the first hour. This lets you give your partner, kids, pets, or roommates your full attention without distraction.
  3. Don’t look at your phone or laptop screen for the hour immediately before you go to bed. Not only can surfing the web keep you up later than you intend, the blue screens promote sleeplessness.

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.