The good and the bad of social media

It’s hard to go anywhere these days without seeing someone on their phone on social media.

Whether they’re scrolling endlessly through Facebook, trying to find a date on Tinder or uploading selfies on Instagram, social media use has become widespread and it’s only increasing.

According to Brandwatch, there are more than 1.71 billion people on Facebook alone and more than 400 million people on Instagram.

The statistics also show that the average Facebook user has 338 friends and 72 per cent of all adults (United States based) visit Facebook at least once a month.

On Instagram, there are more than 80 million photos uploaded each day.

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A report by Australian company Sensis has also found that we’re spending more than half a day per week (12.5 hours) on Facebook, up from four hours in 2014-15.

The average person reportedly visits Facebook 32 times per week, spending an average of 24 minutes scrolling through their news feed, posting or messaging.

The report also revealed 76 per cent of people use social media mostly on their smartphone.

Our seeming addiction to social media is leading to a new range of conditions, according to psychologists.

These conditions include FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), FOBO (Fear of Being Offline) and NoMo (the fear of having no mobile phone).

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So, what makes social media so addictive?

Perth psychologist Marny Lishman told the ABC earlier this year that most people are checking their Facebook or other social media accounts whenever they have a spare moment.

“We are filling blank moments that your body would normally be recharging, and the minute you read social media your brain is firing, it’s making judgements, it’s stressing,” she said.

“There is that rising anxiety causing the urge and if you don’t get to check it because you are at work, or out of mobile range, or have forgotten your phone, it is quite stressful.

“And because of smartphones we can be connected all the time. We can check social media the minute we get up, we don’t even have to get out of bed.”

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She also pointed to positive reinforcement and messages from friends as a key factor in people becoming addicted to their devices.

We are all (well, most of us are) using social media a fair bit — yes, even those over the age of 60 are guilty of using social media quite frequently!

But is that really a bad thing?

While we’re more in touch with each other and contactable than ever before, you only have to look around to see someone the downsides of social media.

Don’t get it wrong, it’s great for keeping in touch with your grandies and family and friends who live abroad.

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But then there’s the nasty stuff.

The website Digital Citizenship lists some of these issues — and if you’re a user of social media, you’ll be able to relate to many of these.

Social media has raised a number of issues including stalking, trolling/bullying, gossip and rumour spreading, hacking and identity theft — not to mention the damaging affect it can have on your relationships.

In some of these instances the consequences of have been extreme, leading to murders and suicides.

Psychologist Sherry Turkle said while social media was a great way to keep in touch, it shouldn’t be used as a substitute to face-to-face interaction.

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“A recent study found that if you place a phone on a table, personal or heavy topics won’t even come up,” she told Real Simple.

“You wouldn’t want to bring up your mother’s illness if there’s a good chance that you’ll be interrupted and feel hurt.

“It’s not that people don’t have profound things to say. But we’re stripping away the conditions for saying those things to each other.”

Then there’s the countless number of people whose behaviour on social media has led to them being fired from their jobs, or gaining notoriety for all the wrong reasons.

What’s the solution? Should we just delete social media?

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Just like having a drink or eating unhealthy food, it all comes down to a case of moderation, according to experts.

Website writes that it is “perfectly healthy to have a social media presence” provided it doesn’t “take you away from real world relationship”.

“Actual human interactions are necessary for social and emotional development, and no amount of social media involvement can replace person-to-person contact,” the website writes.

“Social media is a powerful tool, and it is responsible for some amazing innovations in communication over the last few years.

“That doesn’t mean that it is perfect though, and it is important to recognise when you are spending too much time online.”

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So, try putting your phone down once in a while, especially when you’re out spending time with family and friends.

Your social media account will still be there when you get back!

What do you think? Are we using social media too much? How often do you use social media?