Has social media actually turned us humans anti-social? Is virtual reality slowly taking over the human bonding? Are hologram communications the alternate to physical interactions? These have been the pressing questions that the millennial are posed with in the rapidly emerging technological era. The concept of social media was to build a platform to bridge the communication gap between people and make the whole communication process more effective. However, it soon turned into everything except the platform to bridge the communication gap. In today’s life, social media has become the reason for the communication gap among generation and even the same generations. Most of us have experienced family gatherings where everyone is on phone and most of us are tired of teaching the elder generation about the latest updates on various social media networking apps. This has raised serious concerns about how much time people are spending on their screens and what kind of content are most of the users consuming. Companies are running on the core aim of how to predict social media trends, how to escape social media networking addiction and how to ensure that the user is only spending a limited and healthy amount of time online.

According to stats, on average, a user spends around eight hours on various social media sites every day. This time has increased over the years and is still growing at a very high pace, which is the reason companies and brands are now raising awareness about limiting the screen time. There are multiple lock and screen time tracking apps that help the user limit the screen time by locking the apps for a specific time period. According to recent research by Google, around 78% of the users are happy with limiting their social media exposure after using these lock screen apps.

When it comes to exposure obviously, the younger generation is more aware of the hazards of technology and this is the reason they are trying to limit their screen time. Youngsters are now using social wellbeing and lock apps to limit their exposure, however, only 25% of the users that fall in the 25-34 years use apps to limit their screen time. Surprisingly, these global stats only reduce as they move up the age limit which clearly depicts that the elder generation is least bothered by the idea of limiting the screen time.

Globally it has been seen that the age limit, generation, gender as well as the ethnicity matters when it comes to spending time on social media. It has also been observed that the ethnicity of the individual plays an important role in their time spent online. Since most of the users are shifting to online platforms, brands are automatically coming to these social media networks for the marketing, however, just like a dark web that is not publicly accessible there is a dark social where people don’t post their information publicly instead they use private and direct mediums for marketing their brand.

Use of social media has now lost its true meaning, more people now rely on social media for news, entertainment, and updates as compared to people who use these apps for communication purpose. When it comes to consuming the content, a larger audience is shifting to the video viewers and. People like to second, their time watching short, entertaining yet informative videos.

Living in 21st century, where technology has become a universal safety blanket, it becomes really important for us to understand some integral part of this technology and social media. The modern society has become more and more obsessed with technology and Social Media has transformed the way we interact and meet each other. However, it is a very threatening situation to most of the people that due to addiction with the social media websites and apps such as FaceBook, Yahoo, Whatsapp, Tinder and many others, we are losing interactions in real lives with other people who are even closer to us.

Have you ever talked to a person selling newspaper on a street or have you ever conversed with a person working in a fast food chain? The answer would be a straight ‘No’. In today’s world, mobiles have become more than just devices, it has become our lives, a device that we desperately cling to while waiting for someone, standing in a queue or even while sitting at our homes with our loved ones.

Because each one of us would either be using WhatsApp and a few would also be using Facebook or a few on Google Talk and so on. We just hang onto our electronic devices waiting for someone to be online without realizing that our loved ones are waiting for us outside this social networking world. We have hundreds of friends on our friends list but a few of them are those whom we have never ever seen or met and a few are those whom we have never ever chatted with. At the end, we realize that we are doing a mistake by hanging onto Facebook, WhatsApp, Google talk or others. The moment we pause to check a notification in mid-conversation, we’re sending an indirect message that the person on the other end of the phone is more important than the one in front of us. As we become more and more accustomed to interruption, our ability to have meaningful, focused conversations weakens. Our real life relationships may begin to mimic the shallow relationships of social media if we’re unable to dedicate uninterrupted time to deeper connections.

Social media has created barriers among people, it causes teenagers, adults and children to develop a habit of checking their phones, Twitter, Facebook, etc., instead of having a conversation with the people around them. Yes we may have a million friends on Facebook or thousand followers on twitter but how will they ever help us, even if they wish to. Virtual friends will never beat real friends. This is something many people can’t perceive as true.

At the moment the world has become fully dependent on the technology, most importantly Smart Phones and the Social Media. These technological creatures were developed to serve mankind, but their excessive use really creates a serious issue in our lives especially in younger generation. Social networking is really a double-edged sword and really does make us less social if we are not careful.

When our phone buzzes, we look over and see a notification from Facebook and our heart quickly begins to race. We open the app and the bright red notification button tells us that someone has “liked” our photo. A sense of excitement rushes over us, and for the remainder of the day, we anxiously check Facebook, waiting to see how our post engagement will play out. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t care about the number of likes or comments we receive on a social media post. In fact, it sometimes boosts our self-esteem and gives us reassurance that people still “like” us. But this high is only temporary. As much as social media makes us feel “good” about ourselves, it simultaneously makes us feel sad and disconnected. In recent days, we’ve started to spend more time browsing through social networks and become more isolated in actuality.

Studies have shown that people who spend a lot of time on social media are at least two times more likely to feel socially isolated. Social media use displaces more authentic social experiences because the more time a person spends online, the less time there is for real-world interactions. When a person is spending more and more time on social media, they’re disconnecting from real life and are feeling less connected with themselves. It’s not the real life multi-dimensional experience of connecting and feeling a sense of belonging. It’s possible that one of the reasons people continue to use social media is the need to fill a void. But, ironically, social media has created a new void in our lives through social comparison. As one disconnects more and more from life, one is going to feel more depressed and directionless. Being involved in social comparison impacts one’s self-esteem and self-worth. By continuously engaging in other people’s lives through social channels, we begin to compare our “behind the scenes” with their “highlight reels; seeing only a filtered glimpse of their world and not the entire raw footage. Therefore, when we compare every aspect of our self, from relationships to body image, we feel more depressed and dip further into a false reality.

The prevalence of social media is also greatly affecting the psychological and social development of children. In early childhood, children need less uni-dimensional technological stimulation and need more multidimensional stimulation and socialization in the outside world. The human brain requires multi-sensorial interactions early on to promote healthy neuro-connections and functioning later in life. Unfortunately, when children replace multi-sensorial interactions, such as face-to-face socialization, communication and play with uni-dimensional technologies, their brain development is altered. The young brain becomes stymied, or even over-stimulated, by ‘social’ media that, ironically, does not promote healthy human socializing or communication, further thwarting healthy socialization at later developmental milestones in life.

If you begin to notice that you’re saying “no” to real-life engagement, it could be a sign it’s time to take a break from social media. And just as children need to “turn off” from social media and technology, so do adults. Psychologists recommend limiting the quantity and quality of time spent on social media, as well as trying to go cold turkey for a while. But most importantly, investing your time to stay connected in the ‘real world’ and making time for face-to-face interaction with friends and family is all that counts.

At times, it may seem that social media is completely negative, but it’s not. Social media offers many rewards, allowing us to stay connected to loved ones instantaneously, reconnect with old friends and find commonalities with those in the world around us. Yet, as the world revolves around this powerful communication tool, it doesn’t take long for us to abuse its functions. We all are guilty when it comes to the social media addiction, but we should make it a priority to put our mental health first, not our Instagram profiles. We only get one life to live, so let’s remember to LIVE it.

About Zahid Shaukat

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