speech on social media is making us unsocial

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Social Media is Making Us Unsocial

  • Family & Parenting
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How Social Media Makes Us Unsocial: Allison Graham (Transcript)

  • June 11, 2020 7:47 am September 25, 2023 4:21 am
  • by Pangambam S

speech on social media is making us unsocial

Here is the transcript and summary of Social Media historian Allison Graham’s talk:  How Social Media Makes Us Unsocial at TEDxSMU conference. In this talk, she shares the funny and revealing insights of a life lived online and how social media is used to connect and disconnect us.

Best quote from this talk: 

“I think we would all live life better if we had hands to hold rather than keys to click.”

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Allison Graham – Social Media historian

Hi! Thank you very much.

I’d like to start out by asking everyone to power down their devices during my talk. And for those of you that don’t know the power buttons, it’s either on the top or on the side of your phone.

I’d also like to thank the guys from state.com for permission to use this video.

[Video clip]

“I want to post about how great this coffee is, but I can’t think of a funny way to say it.”

“This post is like a page long. How do I shorten this?”

“Just take out all the vowels.” [Still be the other page]


“Hey guys, you on Twitter? Follow me.”

“Sometimes I want to move to another country where I won’t have to deal with this stuff.”

(in foreign language) “SHHH.. I am working on a Tweet!” “Does this seem too much like I’m bragging?”

“Hashtag I quit. Just kidding.”

“Hashtag multitasking!”

“Hashtag squirmwork!”

“Hashtag road trip dude” “Not while you’re driving, man”

“Hashtag Yolo”

“Is anybody even gonna read this?”

“Basti!” “Copy friends?” “Unsubscribe” “Mini-bagels” xxxx

“What’s up Facebook!”

“How are my new shoes?”

“I love coffee!”

“We are doing virals”

“Driving selfie”

“Desert” “Food world” “Nobody cares”

“I’d all of you”

“Dude! I made the popular page.”

[Video clip concludes]

So I want to talk about three things tonight:

  • How social media is disconnecting us.
  • What’s happening now , and
  • How we can do better.

Gallup took a poll in 2001 and every average American said that they had ten really close friends. VIEW FULL TRANSCRIPT The same poll this year said we had two.

So what happened? Where did everybody go? And I think we know where.

I think we’ve all seen this by now. Maybe even been a little guilty of it ourselves. I see families like this out to dinner all the time, and it drives me nuts. And I see couples on dates clearly together, but on their cell phones.

It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.

But to me what does this say when we are together?

To me it says that there’s someone, anyone on the other end of the screen that’s way more important than you, who’s right in front of my face.

There’s a study by Mary Meeker that says: We touch our phones or check our phones 150 times a day . And we upload 1.8 billion pictures to Facebook . That’s a little over a sixth of the population a day for pictures.

Remember when the Internet was new? Those of us that do. That was really, actually only about 25 years ago, if you can imagine.

I remember, when we had pagers, times seemed a little simpler back then. You’d get the beep. You may return the call, you may not return the call.

Or when we had answer machines, you could always say that you weren’t home. Now we have a list of all these excuses that may or may not work.

But it seems like the more we talk about how technology divides us, the more we demand from it. And I think that’s a huge risk that we’re running in our society today.

We have this shortened vocabulary now. It’s all about the texting. Even my mom! She says, ‘Just text me!’ And she’s a little bit older. I won’t say her age because she’ll see this later.

  • OMG – O h my goodness
  • LOL – Laugh out loud
  • WTF – Why the face

So when we abbreviate our vocabulary what we risk is losing the nuances, subtleties and intimate parts of our personalities that make up our very rich American vocabulary. And with that shortening, we lose and run the risk of not being able to fully express ourselves and communicate, as we move forward.

And that losing our vocabulary equals a potential loss of being able to express ourselves.

How many times does anybody look in horror when their cell phone rings with the personal call? A whole conversation starts happening in your head, when it rings.

‘ Tiffany! Why is Tiffany calling? What does Tiffany want? Why is she calling me?’

And then you have that last ringtone moment where you know you have to pick up that phone or let it go to a voicemail. You may or may not check. ‘Hey Tiffany, what’s up?’ The whole time thinking she could have completely texted this whole message to me.

If I asked everybody in here if they could take their phone, set it down and walk away for an hour – could you do it? An immediate sense of panic comes over us.

We will turn the car around, even if we are halfway to our destination, just to go back and get our cell phones.

I had a Blackberry which I adored and I kept it for a really long time. But you guys remember when we had BlackBerry’s, don’t you? What did we call them back then? That’s right ‘ crack berries ’!

So it’s no surprise where we’ve landed ourselves now.

So I took my Blackberry into the Apple store when everybody else had their Apple phone, and the transition was more than I could bear. Experiencing phone shame!

And I went in and of course it was completely jam-packed at the Apple store. And this cute kid comes up to me and he’s like, ‘May I help you!’

And I said, ‘Yes, you can. I would like a phone that could do this!’

So I took my Blackberry and I threw it on the ground! But pop pop pop…. it goes all the way across the store. Everybody just stops in the store! Gasps!

And I walk over and I pick it up and I said, ‘See the screens fully intact. And it still works!’

And he just looked, not missing a beat, and he said, ‘We don’t have a phone that can do that.’

A new study out by the Cohen’s Children Medical Center in New Hyde Park. Their study says: ‘This year that texting while driving is now the number one cause of death for teens. More than drinking and driving!’

So what this means is…. There’s a lot of drunks on the road.

I was speaking to some high school students and of course you know they’re always willing to make some sort of bargain. And they raise their hand and they said, ‘Well, what if you’re at a stop sign? Or what if you’re at a stoplight?’

And I said, my message was, ‘I don’t think there’s really anything that can’t wait until we get to our destination. And don’t forget if you send that text at the stop sign, they’re probably going to text you back while you’re driving. So maybe not the best idea.’

And I’ll give you an example. If you’re driving 55 miles an hour and you look down at your phone for five seconds, you’ve just now driven the length of an entire football field completely blind .

And it’s not just our kids. It’s us as well. We are constantly at work. Constantly connected and constantly distracted. Everyone of us thinks of some sort of extreme vacation we need to go on, where we may say to our bosses, ‘You know, I’m going to go on a very extreme vacation. There’s just absolutely no way I can return anything during the day.’

But you’re still expected to go back to the hotel and return your work emails.

So if we as adults are this distracted, our kids are seeing this, we’re always at work and where are they? Always on their devices.

And how many times have you guys heard, “What do you mean you don’t know. I posted it on Facebook.” So for some reason now we’re all supposed to know about each other’s lives, because they posted it on Facebook.

And I don’t know that you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, you didn’t tell me last week, when we were at brunch.

And what do we present really when we are on Facebook? We present an idyllic life. Perfect parenting. Great relationships. We hardly ever give any bad news or copy about ourselves, because that doesn’t make for a lot of likes .

Different high school group I was speaking to and they raised their hand and educated me on something I didn’t know. They said, ‘You know, we wait until 5 o’clock before we post our Instagram pictures. Because that’s when we know all of our friends are out and we’ll get the most traffic.’

I thought that was pretty interesting and then they started talking a little bit more about how they get jealous.

So if one person gets more likes on Instagram than the other, then they just take it down. So there’s all this emotional turmoil and strife going on with our number of likes, somehow equaling our self-esteem.

We are all our own public relations firms always trying to figure out how we can increase our numbers. Work sometimes demands that from us as well. Certainly we do that a lot in our personal life.

And this is what we present on Facebook. I mean here’s who we really are in real life, and this is what we present on Facebook. Guilty a little bit of it?

We have the selfie now. And if you think about a selfie it’s rather a sad invention. It’s us taking a picture of ourselves, by ourselves. Maybe we can get two more people if somebody really has a long arm.

The bathroom selfie! I find this hilarious. I see it all the time. ‘I’m like, oh great!’ That’s you in front of a mirror. Great going to a party I probably was not invited to. That you’re going to be selfie-ing your way through, while I watch ‘Home Alone’ on Facebook.

We have the Oscar selfie . That was a lot of fun that crashed the Twitter feed. I think most people know and then we have the funeral selfie. Not so fun. She looks very unpleased.

And we have the driving selfie because I mentioned the research shows that won’t kill you at all.

I think we would all live life better if we had hands to hold rather than keys to click.

Thank you, thank you!

I think we need to take that pause in our life. Make mud pies, build a fort, take the time to gaze at the clouds, for rhinoceroses and unicorns… Screen free!

And if change starts from within, we are that change. We can be that change. And teach our kids what it was like before we lived life in front of a screen.

We can use social media to create positive face-to-face groups and organizations and meeting places like we have tonight. Not hashtag activism but people activism.

We need to look up and see who our neighbor is. We need to look up and put that phone away. Make a human connection, teach human interaction, as if it were as important as the very breath we breathe. Look up at me, look up at each other, and look up at you.

And I’m going to ask everyone in here to take a screen-free challenge. Unplug for one hour a day and if you like this message please share it.

Thank you very much.

Want a summary of this talk? Here it is.

Allison Graham’s talk, titled “How Social Media Makes Us Unsocial,” highlights several key points about the impact of social media on our lives and relationships.

1. Disconnecting Us: Graham begins by emphasizing the disconnection caused by excessive social media use. She shares a video clip illustrating how people are often engrossed in their devices even when in the presence of others, leading to a sense of neglect and disconnection.

2. Decline in Close Relationships: Graham references a Gallup poll from 2001 and 2023, revealing a significant decline in the number of close friends reported by the average American—from ten to just two. She suggests that social media may be a contributing factor to this decline.

3. Over-Reliance on Technology: Graham highlights society’s obsession with smartphones, emphasizing that people check their phones approximately 150 times a day. This constant connectivity can lead to a feeling that whoever is on the other end of the screen is more important than those physically present.

4. Shortened Vocabulary: The talk addresses the impact of text messaging on language and communication. Graham warns that the trend of abbreviating words may lead to a loss of nuance and personal expression in our vocabulary.

5. Distracted Driving: Graham highlights the dangerous consequences of texting while driving, noting that it has become the leading cause of death for teens, surpassing drinking and driving. She encourages responsible smartphone use, even at stop signs or traffic lights.

6. Work-Life Balance: Graham discusses how adults are constantly connected to work through their devices, which can set a bad example for children who then become immersed in their own screens. This constant distraction affects family dynamics.

7. Social Media Image: The talk touches on the facade people present on social media, often showcasing an idealized version of their lives. Graham notes that this can lead to jealousy and low self-esteem among users, particularly teenagers.

8. Selfies and Narcissism: Graham discusses the rise of the selfie and its implications. She humorously points out that it’s essentially taking a picture of oneself, alone. She also mentions the trend of taking selfies in inappropriate places, like funerals or while driving.

9. Seeking Real Connections: Graham advocates for a pause in our digital lives and encourages real-world activities and interactions. She emphasizes the importance of teaching children the value of human connection and interaction.

10. Screen-Free Challenge: To conclude, Graham calls on the audience to take a screen-free challenge, unplugging for at least one hour a day. She suggests that through this, we can reconnect with one another and teach the younger generation the significance of genuine human connections.

In her talk, Allison Graham highlights the need for balance in our digital lives, encouraging us to be mindful of the impact of technology on our relationships and well-being while promoting the importance of genuine human interactions.

Resources for Further Reading:

Ben Halpert: Technology Addiction and What you Can do About It (Transcript)

Connected, but alone? By Sherry Turkle at TED (Transcript)

Bailey Parnell: Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health? (Transcript)

Dr. Cal Newport: Quit Social Media at TEDxTysons (Full Transcript)

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Allison Graham – How social media makes us unsocial – TEDxSMU 2014

Social Media historian Allison Graham offers a witty and ironic view of a society that feels alone together despite the hundreds of virtual connections we have online. With a global population growing up via Facebook and Twitter and a perceptible shift in human interpersonal connections, the constant need for social self-validation permeates our daily existence. This talk shares the funny and revealing insights of a life lived online and how social media is used to connect and disconnect us.

A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Allison has worked all over the country and globe bringing the written word to life on the big screen. Allison has worked for Artisan Entertainment, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema, 20th Century Fox, Miramax and Dreamworks SKG as Assistant Director, Production Manager, and Producer working with such titans as Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Timur Bekmamvetov and Tim Burton.  She was one of the key business strategists behind The Blair Witch Franchise marketing campaigns, leading the team responsible for revolutionizing the way the Internet and film marketing were viewed.

Allison enjoys cooking from scratch, bicycle rides on flat terrain, conga lines and diving boards.

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Social Media is Making us Unsocial

Social Media is Making us Unsocial

October 5, 2020.

A Ted Talk by Kristin Gallucci, a Marketer, specialized in LinkedIn Advertising, shared an experience of a social media conference she attended. She shared how she was trying to interact with people, influencers present there, but was continually being ignored. She also mentioned that people over there chose to connect via social media rather than personally. They were choosing social media over a relationship.

The very first recognizable social media came in 1997 and was called ‘Six Degrees.’ But the real explosion in social media took place once blogging started. And since then, after two decades, we have come a long way. According to Statista data of 2019, an average human today is spending around 144 minutes on social media daily, and this is increasing by two minutes everyday [1]. It turns out to be 5.5 years of an average person’s lifetime being spent on social media. I had my first social media account on Orkut way back in 2010. And today, I am so much involved that I had to take a harsh step; millennials call this by a fancy word, ‘Social Media Detox.’

Social media has made the world a better place for us. But it has also been killing our relationships. Those long discussions in hostel rooms, cousins laughing after seeing old photo albums, and those random conversations in trains; it seems like all this is fading away. Social Media has replaced our experiences as well. While dining out, we let our food get cold to click those perfect images and share them online. Social media today has made us dependent on how people perceive us. We are in dire need of them to like us. But what about the ones who already like us. To them, we are just giving out reasons to dislike us.

According to a study in the USA, between 2009 and 2017, the depression rate increased by 60% among kids from age 14 to 17 [3]. It was also found that for every 10% rise in negative experiences on social media, there can be seen a 13% rise in loneliness. Another survey shows that 37% of teens, between 12 to17, have been bullied online, and more than half of the LGBTQ community faces online harassment. 23% of students are involved directly or indirectly in cyberbullying activities. [2]

Henceforth, I would now like to introduce a phenomenon that exists just because of social media, ‘Slacktivism.’ Slacktivism is the practice of supporting political or social causes utilizing Social Media and is characterized by lesser efforts and commitment. Social causes are what we as humans fight for to make this world a better place. And these causes have been a driving factor in the growth of humans as a race. We are somewhere losing our driving forces behind the face of social media.

In the end, I would like to say that it is not the technology that is to be blamed for making us unsocial, but us humans. We always strive to move forward, and we will make technology to move forward as well. But we can’t be blaming everything on it, because it is us who has created technology and we need it. The human race has come so far, just because of one point of differentiation, our ability to socialize. And if we are giving that away like this, do we even deserve to be this species?

About the Author


Aniket Singh is pursuing his MBA from IIM Udaipur and has an inclination towards Marketing. He is a Mechanical Engineer by profession and hails form the sports city of India, Meerut. Coming from an Armed Forces background, he has had the opportunity to stay and experience the cultural diversity of the country. He is a rubix cube enthusiast and a fan of the series “How I Met Your Mother.” You can connect with him on LinkedIn

  • https://www.statista.com/statistics/433871/daily-social-media-usage-worldwide/
  • https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-cyber-bullying#fnref1
  • https://time.com/5550803/depression-suicide-rates-youth/
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How social media makes us unsocial | Allison Graham | TEDxSMU

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Social Media historian Allison Graham offers a witty and ironic view of a society that feels alone together despite the hundreds of virtual connections we have online. With a global population growing up via Facebook and Twitter and a perceptible shift in human interpersonal connections, the constant need for social self-validation permeates our daily existence. This talk shares the funny and revealing insights of a life lived online and how social media is used to connect and disconnect us.

A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Allison has worked all over the country and globe bringing the written word to life on the big screen. Allison has worked for Artisan Entertainment, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema, 20th Century Fox, Miramax and Dreamworks SKG as Assistant Director, Production Manager, and Producer working with such titans as Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Timur Bekmamvetov and Tim Burton. She was one of the key business strategists behind The Blair Witch Franchise marketing campaigns, leading the team responsible for revolutionizing the way the Internet and film marketing were viewed. Allison enjoys cooking from scratch, bicycle rides on flat terrain, conga lines and diving boards.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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How social media makes us unsocial [tedx].

Here and there , we talked about TED Talks, because we believe the wisdom in these videos can help us grow as individuals and professionals.

As the headline suggests, this speech by Allison Graham is a full-on attack on how we are missing the point of social media: instead of being addicted and sharing solely the best side of our lives, we should leverage social networks to make the most out of the possibilities they unlock.

Also Read: New Tool Lets Facebook Friends Help In Suicide Prevention

Time and time again, we see a group of friends or a family on their smartphones whereas true social moments should be cherished ( I could plead guilty too ). We should all unplug when hanging out with our loved-ones because they’re the folks that make us feel good.

Let’s be honest: Hashtags, Retweets, Likes are also a way to fuel our ego and somehow reflects our self-esteem. We feel bad when no one Likes our status… so we delete it, hoping nobody noticed so you don’t make a fool of yourself. We take selfies for no reason, just to show how good we look today #smile #happy #goodlife. But once we’ve snapped our photo, we go back to that unwelcoming straight face while walking the streets with our music on (so no one can talk to us).

If you like our stories, there is an easy way to stay updated: Follow @wersm

With the forthcoming advent of livestreaming for everyone also on Facebook, does it mean our ego will be put to the challenge? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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speech on social media is making us unsocial

October 1, 2016

Social Technologies Are Making Us Less Social

For the first time in the history of our species, we are never alone and never bored. Have we lost something fundamental about being human?

By Mark Fischetti

speech on social media is making us unsocial

Martin O'Neill

Chances are that you have a smartphone, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and a Facebook page and that you have found yourself ignoring a friend or family member who is in the same room as you because you are totally engrossed in your social technology. That technology means never having to feel alone or bored. Yet ironically, it can make us less attentive to the people closest to us and even make it hard for us to simply be with ourselves. Many of us are afraid to make this admission. “We're still in a romance with these technologies,” says Sherry Turkle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We're like young lovers who are afraid that talking about it will spoil it.” Turkle has interviewed, at length, hundreds of individuals of all ages about their interactions with smartphones, tablets, social media, avatars and robots. Unlike previous disruptive innovations such as the printing press or television, the latest “always on, always on you” technology, she says, threatens to undermine some basic human strengths that we need to thrive. In the conversation that follows, which has been edited for space, Turkle explains her concerns, as well as her cautious optimism that the youngest among us could actually resolve the challenges.


What concerns you most about our constant interaction with our social technologies? TURKLE: One primary change I see is that people have a tremendous lack of tolerance for being alone. I do some of my fieldwork at stop signs, at checkout lines at supermarkets. Give people even a second, and they're doing something with their phone. Every bit of research says people's capacity to be alone is disappearing. What can happen is that you lose that moment to have a daydream or to cast an eye inward. Instead you look to the outside.

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Is that an issue for individuals of all ages? Yes, but children especially need solitude. Solitude is the precondition for having a conversation with yourself. This capacity to be with yourself and discover yourself is the bedrock of development. But now, from the youngest age—even two, or three, or four—children are given technology that removes solitude by giving them something externally distracting. That makes it harder, ironically, to form true relationships.

Maybe people just don't want to be bored. People talk about never needing to have a lull. As soon as it occurs, they look at the phone; they get anxious. They haven't learned to have conversations or relationships, which involve lulls.

Are we valuing relationships less, then? People start to view other people in part as objects. Imagine two people on a date. “Hey, I have an idea. Instead of our just looking at each other face-to-face, why don't we each wear Google Glass, so if things get a little dull, I can just catch up on my e-mail? And you won't know.” This disrupts the family, too. When Boring Auntie starts to talk at the family dinner table, her little niece pulls out her phone and goes on Facebook. All of a sudden her world is populated with snowball fights and ballerinas. And dinner is destroyed. Dinner used to be the utopian ideal of the American family having a canonical three-generation gathering.

What about people who take their phones to bed? They're asleep, so why would they feel alone? I have interviewed enough middle school and high school kids: “So tell me, do you answer your texts in the middle of the night?” “Oh, yeah.” I call it “I share, therefore I am,” as a style of being.

If you're sharing in the middle of the night and responsive to people in the middle of the night, you're in a different zone. And all these people feel responsible to respond. The expectation is constant access. Everyone is ready to call in the advice and the consent of their peers. I did a case study of a young woman who has 2,000 followers on Instagram. She'll ask about a problem at 9:00 at night, and at 2:00 in the morning she's getting responses, and she's awake to get those responses. This is 2:00 in the morning for a lot of kids.

Where does this lead for someone who lives that way? If you don't call a halt to it, I think you don't fully develop a sense of an autonomous self. You're not able to be in personal relationships, business relationships, because you don't feel fully competent to handle major things on your own. You run into trouble if you're putting everything up, ultimately, for a vote.

You're crowdsourcing your life. You're crowdsourcing major decisions. I hope it's likely, however, that a person reaches a point where they're on a job—they're not twentysomething, they're thirtysomething—and this starts to become less comfortable, and they develop emotional skills that they really haven't worked on.

What about our interactions with automated personalities and robots? When we started looking at this in the 1970s, people took the position that even if simulated thinking might be thinking, simulated feeling was not feeling. Simulated love was never love. But that's gone away. People tell me that if Siri [the iPhone voice] could fool them a little better, they'd be happy to talk to Siri.

Isn't that like the movie Her? Absolutely. The current position seems to be that if there's a robot that could fool me into thinking that it understands me, I'm good to have it as a companion. This is a significant evolution in what we ask for in our interactions, even on intimate matters. I see it in kids. I see it in grown-ups. The new robots are designed to make you feel as though you're understood. Yet nobody is pretending that any of them understands anything.

What line does that cross—that there's no empathy? There's no authentic exchange. You're saying empathy is not important to the feeling of being understood. And yet I interviewed a woman who said to me that she's okay with a robot boyfriend. She wants one of these sophisticated Japanese robots. I looked at her and said, “You know that it doesn't understand you.” She said, “Look, I just want civility in the house. I just want something that will make me feel not alone.”

People are also good with a robot that could stand in as a companion for an older person. But I take a moral position here because older people deserve to tell the story of their life to someone who understands what a life is. They've lost spouses; they've lost children. We're suggesting they tell the story of their life to something that has no idea what a life is or what a loss is.

It's crucial to understand that this changing interaction is not just a story about technology. It's a story about how we are evolving when we're faced with something passive. I hope we're going to look closer at people's willingness to project humanity onto a robot and to accept a facade of empathy as the real thing because I think that such interactions are a dead end. We want more from technology and less from each other? Really?

Do avatars and virtual reality present the same issues? In these cases, we are moving from life to the mix of your real life and your virtual life. One young man put it very succinctly: “Real life is just one window, and it's not necessarily my best one.” People forgot about virtual reality for a while, but the acquisition of Oculus by Facebook raised it again—Mark Zuckerberg's fantasy that you will meet up with your friends in a virtual world where everybody looks like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, you live in a beautiful home, and you present only what you want to present. We're evolving toward thinking of that as a utopian image.

But skeptics say your avatar is not different from the real you. Well, we do perform all the time. I'm trying to do my best Sherry Turkle right now. But it's a little different from me hanging out in my pajamas. What's different with an avatar or on Facebook is that you get to edit. A woman posts a photo of herself and then works on the color and background and lighting. Why? Because she wants it a certain way. We've never before been able to have it the way we wanted it. And now we can. People love that.

I asked an 18-year-old man, “What's wrong with conversation?” He said, “It takes place in real time. You can't control what you're going to say.” It was profound. That's also why a lot of people like to do their dealings on e-mail—it's not just the time shifting; it's that you basically can get it right.

One reason for the rise of humans is that functioning in groups gives each member a better chance to succeed. Will the move toward living online undermine those benefits? Oh, this is the question before us. Are we undermining, or are we enhancing our competitive advantage? A lot of my colleagues would say we're enhancing it. The Internet is giving us new ways of getting together, forming alliances. But I think we are at a point of inflection. While we were infatuated with the virtual, we dropped the ball on where we actually live. We need to balance how compelling the virtual is with the realities that we live in our bodies and on this planet. It is so easy for us to look the other way. Are we going to get out there and make our real communities what they should be?

Your critics say there's nothing to worry about because this “new technology” situation is not really new. We went through this with television—you know, TV is there to watch your kids so you don't have to. First of all, television can be a group exercise. I grew up in a family that sat around a TV and watched it together, fought about what was on the TV together, commented on it together. But when everybody watches their own show in their own room, so to speak, that stops. Technology that is always on and always on you—that is a quantum leap. I agree that there have been quantum leaps before: the book. The difference with “always on,” however, is that I really don't have a choice.

You mean, you could turn off the TV and still function. I cannot live my professional life or my personal life without my phone or my e-mail. My students can't even obtain their syllabus without it. We don't have an opt-out option from a world with this technology. The question is, How are we going to live a more meaningful life with something that is always on and always on you? And wait until it's in your ear, in your jacket, in your glasses.

So how do we resolve that? It's going to develop as some sort of common practice. I think companies will get involved, realizing that it actually isn't good for people to be constantly connected. Our etiquette will get involved; today if I get a message and don't get back to people in 24 hours, they're worried about me, or they're mad that I haven't replied. Why? I think we will change our expectation of having constant access.

Any suggestions for how we can get started? One argument I make is that there should be sacred spaces: the family dinner table, the car. Make these the places for conversation because conversation is the antidote to a lot of the issues I'm describing. If you're talking to your kids, if you're talking to your family, if you're talking to a community, these negative effects don't arise as much.

And we should be talking more about the technologies? My message is not antitechnology. It's pro conversation and pro the human spirit. It's really about calling into questions our dominant culture of more, better, faster. We need to assert what we need for our own thinking, for our own development, and for our relationships with our children, with our communities, with our intimate partners. As for the robots, I'm hoping that people will realize that what we're really disappointed in is ourselves. It's so upsetting to me. We're basically saying that we're not offering one another the conversation and the companionship. That, really, is the justification for talking to a robot that you know doesn't understand a word you're saying. We are letting each other down. It's not about the robots. It's about us.

So who is going to stop this train we are on? The most optimistic thing I see is the young people who have grown up with this technology but aren't smitten by it, who are willing to say, “Hold on a second.” They see the ways in which it's undermined life at school and life with their parents. This is where I'm guardedly hopeful.

I have so many examples of children who will be talking with their parents; something will come up, and the parent will go online to search, and the kid will say, “Daddy, stop Googling. I just want to talk to you.” When I go to the city park, I see kids go to the top of the jungle gym and call out, “Mommy, Mommy!” and they're being ignored. They object to being ignored when they're five, eight or nine. But when I interview these kids when they're 13, 14 or 15, they become reflective. They say, “I'm not going to bring up my children the way I'm being brought up.” They're going to have rules, like no phones at dinner.

I also see evidence that dealing with some of this technology is feeling to them like work—the whole notion that you have to constantly keep up your Facebook profile. So I think there's every possibility that the children will lead us. They see the costs. They think, “I don't have to give up this technology, but maybe I could be a little smarter about it.”

Mark Fischetti has been a senior editor at Scientific American for 17 years and has covered sustainability issues, including climate, weather, environment, energy, food, water, biodiversity, population, and more. He assigns and edits feature articles, commentaries and news by journalists and scientists and also writes in those formats. He edits History, the magazine's department looking at science advances throughout time. He was founding managing editor of two spinoff magazines: Scientific American Mind and Scientific American Earth 3.0 . His 2001 freelance article for the magazine, " Drowning New Orleans ," predicted the widespread disaster that a storm like Hurricane Katrina would impose on the city. His video What Happens to Your Body after You Die? , has more than 12 million views on YouTube. Fischetti has written freelance articles for the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, Technology Review, Fast Company, and many others. He co-authored the book Weaving the Web with Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, which tells the real story of how the Web was created. He also co-authored The New Killer Diseases with microbiologist Elinor Levy. Fischetti is a former managing editor of IEEE Spectrum Magazine and of Family Business Magazine . He has a physics degree and has twice served as the Attaway Fellow in Civic Culture at Centenary College of Louisiana, which awarded him an honorary doctorate. In 2021 he received the American Geophysical Union's Robert C. Cowen Award for Sustained Achievement in Science Journalism, which celebrates a career of outstanding reporting on the Earth and space sciences. He has appeared on NBC's Meet the Press, CNN, the History Channel, NPR News and many news radio stations. Follow Fischetti on X (formerly Twitter) @markfischetti

More From Forbes

Social media isn't really all that social anymore—can it be again.

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Social media has also made many of us angrier, unhappy and at times left feeling increasingly ... [+] isolated.

Social media has allowed us to engage with old friends and colleagues that we likely wouldn't hear from all that often, while it also has offered the ability to connect with those with similar interests whom we might have never otherwise met.

If that was all social media did, it would be a true wonder of the world.

Unfortunately, as noted by numerous studies in recent years, social media has also made many of us angrier, unhappy and at times left feeling increasingly isolated. The social networks have also been used to spread misinformation and disinformation, while further dividing us.

How did no one see the potential dark side of social media as the technology was being rolled out? Were the past lessons of the digital age—which heralded in trolls, spam, bots and fake accounts—simply ignored?

"For several years now, we have identified ourselves as the 'Digital Era,' where countless tools have emerged following the invention of the Internet. These tools have allowed us to achieve immediacy in messaging, access to information, and maintain a global connection while identifying groups of people with similar interests, among other functions. If we recall platforms like Hi5, MySpace, and Facebook, the common denominator was socializing through photos, music, design, video games, and entertainment in general," Professor Ubaldo Reyes, Coordinator of the Business Administration Graduate Program at CETYS University, explained in an email.

Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of September 2023

Best 5% interest savings accounts of september 2023, are we all to blame.

In many ways, social media could be compared to the Biblical "Garden of Eden," but we weren't so much cast out, as we just trashed the place—with a lot of help from the platforms.

"Social media has added features, becoming spaces for personal expression, brand promotion, and news dissemination. Undoubtedly, the function of the 'Like' and the concept of 'Followers' have altered the dynamics of online relationships, making shared content as important as personal interactions," Reyes added.

Those features drove the need to engage—even if we didn't always know who were engaging with, or why. Perhaps that should have been the warning sign, but we went with it.

"About 20-plus years ago, social media had its roots in fun, being colorful and whimsical," Susan Schreiner, technology analyst at C4 Trends, noted. "It was an exciting new way to communicate whether creating, viewing or sharing thoughts and videos. From around 2002 to about 2021 we saw the 'golden age' of new media. This era gave us consumer-focused apps such as MySpace in 2003 followed by LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Instagram, WhatsApp, Hangouts, Slack, Zoom, Gmail, Dropbox and others."

As a result, there were no physical or content boundaries. And for a while, it still was about the social aspects of our lives.

"Social media was about making and extending connections, even from afar, and over time it evolved to social validation and becoming part of one's personal and/or business identity, as well as a promotional channel," Schreiner added.

About The Moment

Along the way, social media made the seismic leap to mobile which resulted in more real-time, in-the-moment updates and visual experiences.

"While it freed people to create and broadcast to the world their own personal reality show, in essence, this more curated experience resulted in people sharing a less authentic personality, often masquerading or portraying an aspirational view of themselves, their influence and/or power—rather than who they really were," Schreiner suggested.

Over the past decade, social media further evolved from a tool for the democratization of communications, and became one where brands marketed products, while camps increasingly formed around ideological beliefs.

Then came Covid-19.

"The pandemic with its social isolation and lack of live social interaction opened the floodgates to accelerating the rise in political polarization, conspiracy theories, hate speech, fear-mongering, bullying and worse," Schreiner continued. "There were population segments that were easily gullible—as people relied on their sense of belonging through social media and echo chambers that connected them to their 'mob."

Divided Into Our Own Camps

At the same time, many seemed to have lost their ability to hear and listen to various perspectives rather than a discussion becoming an intolerant binary choice, "my way or the highway." This occurred as the social platforms became the primary source of news and information for many users—who were more likely to trust those they knew or followed, even if the stories weren't all that credible.

That has been made worse as social media platforms have sought to keep users engaged. The more time we spend arguing with strangers, doomscrolling or following the latest conspiracy theory, the better it is for the companies' bottom lines.

"Increasingly, social media safety guardrails have been removed or defanged," Schreiner warned. "Some sites are hiding behind ‘free speech’ as they play for clicks rather than providing a safe platform for conversation, civil discourse and where people can agree to disagree, without threat or harm."

It would be easy to suggest that the solution would be to simply "sign off," but like the rest of the Internet, social media is now simply too ingrained in our daily lives.

Moreover, social media still offers many positives. We just need to focus more on its ability to bring us together, and less on arguing with strangers.

"Social media has transformed how we understand the market, conduct business, address needs, and personalize services, becoming a powerful force in today's society," Reyes added. "Social media will continue to evolve and impact, inviting study, research, planning, and implementing innovative strategies to help achieve business goals."

And maybe it can just become the place where we share our vacation photos with friends.

Peter Suciu

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Social Media Broke Slang. Now We All Speak Phone.

The irony: Online is where we most need the identity cues that idiosyncratic language used to provide.

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It was on the social-media platform some call X that I first encountered the slang term tea , an expression that originated in Black drag culture to mean “ gossip ” or “secret biographical information”—as in, “She said she didn’t get fillers, but her boyfriend spilled the tea.” Tea was common parlance on Twitter by at least the Trump administration. At some point in the past year, however, people started saying body tea, a noun phrase meaning “physical hotness.” This usage was apparently derived from a misreading of the influencer Queen Opp’s remark : “Her body tea, she’s super thick, she’s super pretty.” Queen Opp elided the verb to be from a declarative clause, which viewers seem to have misinterpreted, taking “her body [is] tea” to mean “[she has] body tea.” Body tea as a noun has since become so popular that it threatens to eclipse the original usage. An expression that once had a narrow meaning within a specific subculture has drifted toward meaning “good”—a flattening that is the final destination of all slang terms that spread too far too fast.

As a middle-aged heterosexual, I shouldn’t know any of this stuff. While I think of myself as cool and relevant, objectively there is no reason I should understand any slang term that originated after the final season of Workaholics . But I live under unnatural conditions—conditions dictated by social media and its delivery system, the smartphone. Like most internet users with access to X, Instagram, TikTok, and so forth, I routinely spend two to 22 hours a day competing in a metered popularity contest that rewards, among other things, whoever can deviate the furthest from standard English and still be understood. If the slang that emerges from these deviations excludes anyone, it should exclude me. And yet I comprehend it with terrifying clarity.

Because social media gives me access to conversations among people of all ages, from every place and subculture, I am exposed to a virtual fire hose of slang. The discourse that produces new slang is not only publicly available online, but also amplified based on its ability to attract attention from outside its original context. We all stand before this fire hose now, and some of it gets in our mouths. The situation has created a language crisis, in which Americans of all types and backgrounds use expressions of every provenance, destroying the power of slang to perform its basic function: to signal membership in a group.

The incentives imposed by social media to develop and use slang are, of course, not new. Middle schools, skate parks, barracks, gay bars, locker rooms, and various music scenes have operated on the slang-for-esteem model for generations. But these milieus differ from social media in one crucial way: The wrong people cannot get in. In real life, I do not learn how teenagers talk, because whenever I drift by, they fall silent and glare at me. On social media, there is no such exclusion. Thirty-five-year-olds hear the slang of teenagers, college students are privy to the language of the urban underclass, and advertising consultants learn how to talk like self-diagnosed anxiety shut-ins. As a result, how someone talks is no longer a reliable indicator of where they’re coming from. The irony is that social media—the disembodied online spaces where what we post becomes the entirety of who we are—is where we most need the identity cues that slang used to provide.

These cues are an essential part of life offline, if only at a subconscious level. If I’m in a crowd and someone addresses us collectively, I immediately start assessing that person’s background and orientation based on whether they say “ladies and gentlemen,” “you guys,” or “y’all.” These assessments depend on a whole mess of associations and shifting cultural currents of which I am imperfectly but also instinctively aware—associations that are felt more than considered but nonetheless specific and up-to-date.

Read: The most fun way to learn a language

The valence of any given expression is constantly changing—for instance, the dramatic shift since 2008 in what kind of person says “folks.” Folks was a word used almost exclusively by older rural people until the Obama administration, when the president used it relentlessly . Folks subsequently became so popular with politicians, HR supervisors, and others who professionally reassure the hoi polloi that it is now, perversely, one of the strongest signs of membership in the professional managerial class. When Obama said “folks,” he sent the message that, although he was a graduate of Harvard Law School, a senator, and the kind of hyper-ambitious professional who becomes a candidate for president, he was also a salt-of-the-earth type who spoke the language of farmers and Dolly Parton. He was folksy .

One term for this kind of implied message is exformation . The word has different definitions in different fields, but we will define it for our purposes as David Foster Wallace did in a July 1998 essay for Harper’s Magazine : as information conveyed about the speaker that is not explicit in the content of the speech.

Exformation communicated by slang is a way for strangers to efficiently understand whom they are talking with and where they’re from, based on whether they use double negatives or say “man” versus “bro,” “that rules” versus “that owns,” “pot” versus “weed,” “cool” versus “lit.” Exformation is also a way to announce your identification with other people. When I see old friends from whom I have been separated by time and distance greater than I imagined I could bear, and I say, “What’s up, sluts?,” I could be taken to mean, in the literal sense, that I am greeting them and condemning their past sexual behavior. But at the level of exformation, I am conveying a whole parcel of unspoken ideas about our relationship, our shared cultural consumption , and my perspective on it. The basic premise of exformation is that there’s what you say and there’s how you say it, and they are in scope and function as the ground is to the sky.

Read: Why AI doesn’t get slang

Social media, however, has standardized our language to the point that exformation has become endangered. For the past 10 years, the English language’s wealth of previously exformative, subcultural slang has dispersed into a single, universal argot that is simply Phone. Hence the destruction of tea as a useful expression. It used to be a fun word that implied knowledge of a whole social realm to which most of us are not privy, and then it became a built-in Twitter GIF that told you only that the person using it knew what the GIF button did. Now anyone who uses tea in conversation might give you information—but exformatively, all they’re telling you about themselves is that they’ve been racking up a lot of screen time.

In the absence of distinctive subcultural expressions, social media has become full of empty slang. The locution the way , used at the beginning of a declarative statement—for example, “the way I never thought I would be 46”—makes that statement less formal and therefore less intense but otherwise adds no informative or exformative meaning. The comparably empty “ It’s giving [noun/adjective]” at least turns a sentence fragment into a complete thought—allowing me to respond to a photo of the Tesla Cybertruck with “It’s giving DeLorean” instead of simply blurting out “DeLorean!” like a caveman—but in a potentially insidious way that encourages us to think in vague, unspecified connections, at the level of vibes .

Read: The origin of vibes

Vibes , it seems to me, is the worst offender in the category of slang expressions that help us think less instead of more, a cliché that releases the pressure on language and keeps vaporous thoughts from coalescing into anything solid at all. Everyone online says “vibes” now —college students and corporate bureaucrats and The New York Times (and The Atlantic !) alike.

This mass outbreak of exformation-free slang is a problem because it deprives people of a previously reliable way to know whom they’re talking with and how to treat them. If I hear someone make a remark about the first Velvet Underground album with which I strongly disagree, I am more likely to respond kindly if I know they come from a background different from my own. If a stranger on Twitter says that Nico had pitch problems, I am much more likely to tear into them if they speak the way I do, because I assume they have the cultural experiences, education, and resources that brought me to my own extremely correct opinions. When everyone talks like me, I make the mistake of believing that everyone is like me—and therefore falls into the category of people whom I cut the least slack.

The slangs that I grew up with—the skater expressions I adopted even though I never ollied , the Spanish lingo we learned from Blood In, Blood Out and were just worldly enough to realize we shouldn’t use, the East Coast and SoCal expressions that kept new kids at our school from successfully buying drugs—all these clues I spent years learning to interpret have burned up in the wildfire spread of Phone. The crisis in American slang is that we grasp what everyone is saying so well that we think we know one another, when in fact we understand less and less.

The Social Dilemma: How Social Media is Making Us Unsocial

speech on social media is making us unsocial

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Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with others, but it’s also changing the way we interact in real life. With the rise of curated feeds and endless scrolling, social media is making us more unsocial than ever before.

Learn about the impact of social media on our social lives and what we can do to stay connected in meaningful ways.

The Addictive Nature of Social Media

Social media is designed to be addictive, with features like notifications, likes, and comments triggering dopamine releases in our brains.

This can lead to compulsive behavior, such as constantly checking our phones for updates or feeling anxious when we’re away from social media for too long.

It’s important to be aware of these addictive tendencies and take steps to limit our social media use if necessary.

The Impact of Curated Feeds on Our Perception of Reality

Curated feeds on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can create a distorted perception of reality. These feeds are designed to show us content that we’re most likely to engage with, based on our past behavior.

Which means that we’re often only seeing a small portion of the content that’s available, and it may not be representative of the world as a whole.

This can lead to a skewed view of reality, where we only see the highlights of other people’s lives and compare ourselves unfavourably.

It’s important to remember that social media is not a reflection of real life, and to take breaks from it if necessary to maintain a healthy perspective.

The Rise of Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

Unfortunately, social media has also given rise to cyberbullying and online harassment. With the ability to hide behind anonymous usernames, people feel emboldened to say things they wouldn’t normally say in person.

This can have devastating effects on the mental health and well-being of those targeted. It’s important for social media platforms to take a strong stance against cyberbullying and harassment, and for individuals to speak out against it and support those who are affected.

The Effect of Social Media on Mental Health

Social media has been linked to negative effects on mental health, including increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

The constant comparison to others and the pressure to present a perfect image can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Additionally, the addictive nature of social media can lead to decreased productivity and disrupted sleep patterns. It’s important to be mindful of our social media use and take breaks when necessary to prioritize our mental health.

The Importance of Setting Boundaries and Taking Breaks

With the constant stream of notifications and updates, it can be easy to get lost in the world of social media.

However, it’s important to set boundaries and take breaks to prioritize our mental health. This can include turning off notifications during certain times of the day, limiting social media use to a certain amount of time per day, or taking a complete break from social media for a period of time.

By setting these boundaries and taking breaks, we can reduce the negative effects of social media on our mental health and improve our overall well-being.

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Social Media

The dark side of social media, a new study finds spending less time on social media leads to greater well-being..

Posted June 21, 2024 | Reviewed by Ray Parker

  • A new study finds social media use is linked to increased anxiety and depression in teens.
  • Social media can make teens feel worse about themselves.
  • Researchers find teens who cut their social media use in half experienced less anxiety, depression, and FOMO.

In a previous post , my team and I explored how social media use can negatively impact body image in youth. As young people are on their phones more and more, constant exposure to unrealistic beauty standards can leave them particularly vulnerable to low self-esteem and unfavorable social comparisons. However, evidence suggests that poor body image is not the only impact of social media on youth.

As rates of anxiety and depression in teens have been growing alongside an increase in social media usage, we have to wonder how closely the two are connected. In 2021, Statistics Canada reported that 36% of youth experience clinically concerning symptoms of depression, and 23% experience elevated levels of anxiety. At the same time, 81.3% of Canadian youth reported spending more than two hours on social media daily, and 96% reported regular use of at least one social media platform, rates that are similar or higher among teens in the US. Multiple studies have found a correlation between social media use and poor mental health, and it makes sense why.

We all know that people tend to share just the highlights of their lives on social media, rarely sharing the challenges or low points they may be experiencing. Scrolling through social media, it seems like everyone is going on a beach holiday, showing off their perfectly airbrushed bodies, or sharing the great news of their newest accomplishments. We can't help but compare ourselves to these seemingly “perfect” lives, even when we know they are fabricated. This constant comparison can make a young person feel inadequate or worthless, leading to feelings of depression and anxiety. On top of this, the more we scroll, the more we see all the things we are missing out on. Imagine going on Instagram and noticing pictures of all your friends at a party you weren’t invited to. It hurts, right? And yet, we keep wanting to check for updates. Who is at the party? Are they having fun without me? This unhealthy cycle of fear of missing out (FoMO) can impact your self-esteem, trigger your anxiety, and make you feel incredibly alone.

In addition to negative social comparisons, displacement theory provides another answer as to why screen time and social media have a negative impact on health and mental health. The theory posits that spending large amounts of time on social media allows an individual less time to spend on other mental-health-promoting activities like sleep, physical activity, recreational and social activities with friends, and pursuing pleasurable hobbies.

Although a correlational relationship has already been established, our study is the first to examine a causal relationship between social media use and mental health in youth experiencing emotional distress. Among 220 youth experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, we found that reducing social media by half, to a maximum of one hour per day, led to greater reductions in anxiety, depression, the experience of FoMO, and increases in sleep compared to a placebo group that had unrestricted access. Our findings support the “displacement theory” of screen time, suggesting that spending less time on things that make people truly happy makes people more likely to experience poor mental health. Although our findings did not demonstrate that reduced social media improved mental health due to reduced negative social comparisons, it is too early to throw “the baby out with the bathwater,” as correlational studies have found this link.

While it makes sense to think that reducing social media usage would make people feel even more isolated or left out, our study indicated that the opposite was true. Although initial reduction time in social media may increase FoMO, this typically only lasts a few days, and our findings support that FoMO will go down with continued reduced use. In fact, reduced social media use may lead to increased social connection and positive mental health behaviors as people are forced to adapt and meet their social needs in healthier ways.

The study also indicated that reduced social media use led to earlier bedtimes and longer sleep. As the displacement theory suggests, less time on social media means more time to get some well-needed rest. On top of this, reduced feelings of anxiety and depression likely helped people fall asleep easier, or perhaps the increased sleep resulting from less social media use reduced anxiety and depression symptoms. Further research is needed to make the direction of these findings more clear.

The results of the study beg the question: why do we torture ourselves? Sure, social media has many benefits. It helps us connect with long-lost friends, plan our social lives, and share our successes with people we care about. But when our life becomes a constant competition , and we feel like we just don't measure up, and when we know social media takes time away from sleep and in-person social and recreational activities that make us feel good, why do we continue to use it so much?

Important takeaways from our study suggest reducing your usage of social media will help you get more sleep and boost your mood. Instead of scrolling on Instagram, try taking your dog for a walk, reading a book, or catching up with a friend. As parents, we suggest implementing rules to reduce screen time during meals or social activities to promote better attachment and connection with friends and family. We also recommend implementing a “no-phone” rule 30 minutes before bedtime and no-phones in children's and youth’s bedrooms overnight. Lastly, parents are the most important role models for their children, and there is a relationship between parent screen and social media use and their children’s mental health. This means parents should also try to reduce their own social media use and engage in non-screen health-promoting alternative activities, as well as support their children in doing the same. This will help your child promote better sleep, lead to more efficient learning at school, and improve their mental health.

Davis, C. G., & Goldfield, G. S. (2024). Limiting social media use decreases depression, anxiety, and fear of missing out in youth with emotional distress: A randomized controlled trial. Psychology of Popular Media . https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000536


Gary Goldfield, PhD., C. Psych., is a Senior Scientist with the Healthy Active Living & Obesity (HALO) Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada.

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Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

speech on social media is making us unsocial

Written by Steve Rose

Identity, purpose, and belonging, 15 comments(s).

On the go? Listen to the audio version of the article here:

In an age where we are becoming more connected through social media every day, it sometimes feels like we are also becoming less social.

Why go through all of the inconvenience of meeting up in person when you can simply catch up online?

Within the last decade, technology has profoundly shifted the nature of human communication.

Some say we are “hyper-social,” always connected and communicating with multiple people at the same time.  Others would say we have become “anti-social,” glued to our devices, and lacking interpersonal skills.  So which is it?

Is social media making us less social?

Social Media is making us less social when used to compare oneself to others, contributing to higher levels of loneliness and lower levels of well-being among frequent users. It can be social when used to connect with others.

Let’s take a look at the research.

Also, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, you can check out my  resource page  for suggestions on how to find help.

Social Media Contributes to Social Isolation

The first study looking at this phenomenon was published in 1998, around the time when many people were starting to use the internet.

The researchers followed 169 people during the first two years of their internet use to determine if this new technology made them more social or less social, finding:

“…greater use of the Internet was associated with declines in participants’ communication with family members in the household, declines in the size of their social circle, and increases in their depression and loneliness.”

This was seen as quite the paradox, given that the individuals were using the internet extensively as a communication technology.

A 2004 study comparing internet use to face-to-face interaction found a similar conclusion, stating:

…the Internet can decrease social well-being, even though it is often used as a communication tool.

Has anything changed since then?

Ten years later, a 2014 study  on college students suffering from internet addiction found:

Results show that excessive and unhealthy Internet use would increase feelings of loneliness over time…[.] This study also found that online social contacts with friends and family were not an effective alternative for offline social interactions in reducing feelings of loneliness.

In her recent book,  iGen , Jean Twenge writes about the generation born after 1994, finding high rates of mental health issues and isolation:

“A stunning 31% more 8th and 10th graders felt lonely in 2015 than in 2011, along with 22% more 12th graders”…[.] All in all, iGen’ers are increasingly disconnected from human relationships.

She argues the increasing level of screen-time and decreasing degree of in-person interaction leaves igen lacking social skills:

“In the next decade we may see more young people who know just the right emoji for a situation—but not the right facial expression.”

A 2016 study comments on this generational phenomenon, stating:

It is surprising then that, in spite of this enhanced interconnectivity, young adults may be lonelier than other age groups, and that the current generation may be the loneliest ever.

The correlation between internet use and isolation is fairly established in the literature. But let’s not paint the whole internet with the same brush.

A 2014 study  highlights the psychological costs and benefits derived from social media use, stating:

…online tools create a paradox for social connectedness. On one hand, they elevate the ease in which individuals may form and create online groups and communities, but on the other, they can create a source of alienation and ostracism.

It turns out the answer may be a bit more complicated.

Let’s take a look at the specific factors that make the difference.

Social Media Can Be Social (If used to connect)

A 2016 study with the apt subtitle, “Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words,” finds that image-based social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat may be able to decrease loneliness because of the higher levels of intimacy they provide.

Another 2016 study , specifically looking at Instagram use, found that it isn’t the platform that matters. It is the way the platform is used that matters.

The researchers studied Instagram use among 208 undergraduate students, finding there was one thing that made all the difference: “the social comparison orientation.”

What is social comparison orientation?

It’s when you compare yourself to others on social media. For example, you may find yourself passively scanning through an endless feed of finely curated photos, wishing you had a different body, a different job, a different  life !

It’s the sense that everyone has it better than you, and that you’re missing out on all of the best events, vacations, and products.

Students who rated high on social comparison orientation were more likely to widely broadcast their posts in an attempt to gain status. Students who rated low were more likely to use the platform to connect with others meaningfully.

A 2008 study on internet use among older adults supports this distinction, finding:

…greater use of the Internet as a communication tool was associated with a lower level of social loneliness. In contrast, greater use of the Internet to find new people was associated with a higher level of emotional loneliness.

Using the internet as a communication tool can decrease loneliness.

Experimental evidence in a 2004 study , highlights this by measuring a person’s level of loneliness throughout multiple intervals as they engage in an online chat. They concluded:

Internet use was found to decrease loneliness and depression significantly, while perceived social support and self-esteem increased significantly.

Although chatting online can decrease loneliness, what about using social media platforms to post status updates?

A 2012 study  conducted an experiment to determine if posting a Facebook status increases or decreases loneliness. Yes, this is an actual experiment.

The researchers told one group of participants to increase their number of status updates for one week. They didn’t give any instructions to a second control group. Results revealed:

(1) that the experimentally induced increase in status updating activity reduced loneliness, (2) that the decrease in loneliness was due to participants feeling more connected to their friends on a daily basis, and (3) that the effect of posting on loneliness was independent of direct social feedback (i.e., responses) by friends.  

These results may seem to contradict the previous finding that social media broadcasting is correlated with increased loneliness, but there is a crucial difference: the social comparison orientation.

In this experiment, the researchers did not differentiate between users who had high or low levels of social comparison. The users in the group being told to update their status more frequently were not told to scan their news feeds more often, nor was their social media use manipulated to alter their level of social comparison.

So what is the key lesson here?

Using social media in a way that connects us with others can make us less lonely and more social.

Unfortunately, as social media use increases, we are becoming lonelier.

This trend suggests we may not be using social media in the most social ways, comparing ourselves to others. In addition, we may be sacrificing in-person interaction for the convenience of social media interaction. Both of these factors increase the likelihood of experiencing social isolation.

If you are interested in reading more on the psychology of social media, you can check out my comprehensive post on the topic here: Why We Are Addicted To Social Media: The Psychology of Likes .

In that article, I go deep into the research on what keeps our brains hooked on social media likes and how you can use social media in a healthier way.

Fascinated by ideas? Check out my podcast:

Struggling with an addiction.

If you’re struggling with an addiction, it can be difficult to stop. Gaining short-term relief, at a long-term cost, you may start to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore. If you’re looking to make some changes, feel free to reach out. I offer individual addiction counselling to clients in the US and Canada. If you’re interested in learning more, you can send me a message here .

Other Mental Health Resources

If you are struggling with other mental health issues or are  looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory  here to find a practitioner who specializes in your area of concern.

If you require a lower-cost option, you can check out BetterHelp.com . It is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling.  Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.

*As an affiliate partner with Better Help, I receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here .

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that’s just it, people often mistake being connected on a more personal level with the total number of “Friends” they have on FB or MySpace or whatever OTHER forms of social networking, and they often neglect to realize, that face-to-face interaction is what makes these connections between people more intimate…

Steve Rose

Exactly. Social media can supplement your social life if used to connect, but can’t be a substitute for it. Thanks for the comment! Great to connect with you again. It has been a while since I’ve posted.

Yeah but now, modern day people tend to use social media as their only FORM of connection, it’s like if you don’t exist on FB or other forms of social netowrking sites, you practctically, don’t exist at all!

With the trend toward increasing loneliness, it would for sure suggest social media is replacing in-person interaction.


one of the damning statistics on the recent programme Pllanet Children was 97% of primary school children were taken to school by an adult. They spend less time outside than those in prison. Our kids are getting fatter. They live in a bubble and social media swells that bubble and the vision of themselves becomes increasingly distorted. My grandkid loves phones because mum and dad always have their noses in their phones. The grandkid isn’t content with a kid-on phone. She wants the real one, and she’s just over a year old. We create our own hell, but our kids jump in with both feet. Why shouldn’t they? Mum and dad do it and it’s vastly entertaining. Social media swallows time. Why am I adding to it here? God knows.

Thanks for sharing this fact and your personal experience! I think you might be interested in this book on the subject of bubble wrapped children: Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)

Rosaliene Bacchus

Thanks for raising this issue, Steve. I’ve tried, without success, to arrange a lunch-meet with a dear friend–just half-hour away by bus–who has fallen victim to FB’s false promise of connection. Since I’ve long escaped from FB-addiction, I no longer know how she’s doing.

Glad to see you’ve been able to gain a sense of control! I hope your friend is well and wish her all the best.

Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

In a restaurant, I went to a couple both staring deeply and silently at their phones and said, “That’s true love.” They laughed.

lol! Nice one!


Not up on the research, but it is fascinating. Might we be getting the correlation confused? Could it be that people who are more lonely are more likely to spend time on social media in search of connection? Is this controlled in the research?

From the research I’ve seen so far, it seems that social anxiety is the confounding variable between loneliness and increased social media use. Also, Jean Twange looks at this question in her book igen and finds that the research supports the hypothesis that social media use leads to increased loneliness. A couple of experiments I cited here use a control and don’t support that hypothesis, but they are fairly limited because they only look at narrow forms of social media use like status updates or chatting with an anonymous person.


Correctly said.


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A new approach to regulating speech on social media: Treating users as workers

by Nate Luce, Vanderbilt University

facebook user

Social media has proven difficult to regulate for the last 20+ years, in large part because First Amendment considerations present a significant obstacle to regulating platforms. Arguments for and against regulating speech on social media tend to view platforms as offering content and connectivity and users as consumers of a service, exacerbating First Amendment concerns.

But what if the "user-as-consumer" characterization misconstrues the business model of social media, and platform users actually behave more like workers?

" Social Network as Work ," a paper by Francesca Procaccini, Assistant Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School, establishes a novel paradigm for regulating speech on social media—by equating the use of social media with labor.

"Reorienting how we think about social media by framing users as workers suggests that legal frameworks from labor and employment are especially productive for governing social media," she writes.

Social media as a form of labor

User engagement—in the form of posts, scrolls, clicks, likes, etc.—generates content and data that social platforms repackage and sell to advertisers. As compensation, platforms provide social, informational, and entertainment benefits to users. While this arrangement differs from traditional workplace models, Procaccini argues that the essential characteristics of work factor directly into the platform-user relationship: "(The) defining economic and power dynamics between employers and workers are analogous to those between platforms and users."

Platforms supervise user activity and enjoy an informational advantage, all while operating in "an otherwise socially collegial environment," similar to most workplaces. Users and workers alike are potentially subject to safety hazards, discrimination, harassment, and misinformation.

"Social media users share analogous structural conditions, risks, and harms as traditional workers, and are in need of analogous statutory protections as employees," she writes.

Protections for speech in the workplace

The First Amendment permits ample regulation of speech in the workplace.

"The same words in different contexts carry different levels of First Amendment protection, largely in accordance with the varying power and information asymmetries that define the setting," Procaccini explains. In the workplace setting, speech rights of employers and workers have long been diminished, "to protect the efficacy of the employment relationship and the rights and dignity of those in it."

Many of the features that justify regulating speech in the workplace are present in social media as well. Both are confined settings that present considerable alternatives for speech. The "inherently coercive nature" of each environment creates a greater risk of harm. Importantly, speech in the workplace and social media is "inextricably bound up with commercial conduct."

"Circumscribing constitutional protection in the private workplace to account for these dynamics is quite sound under the First Amendment," Procaccini writes, "because doing so actually maximizes the freedom of speech by augmenting private citizens' capacity to speak and contribute to the marketplace of ideas."

The paper details federal and state regulations on employer and employee speech, including bans on discriminatory, abusive, false, and coercive speech, proselytizing, and undue influence on political and labor choices. Employers are in many cases required to disclosure factual information like legal rights and health and safety warnings. Workers are regularly protected from employer reprisal for whistleblowing and other forms of speech. These work laws address the competing interests and rights of employers, workers, and co-workers to eliminate unjust social stratification and subjugation.

"This is exactly the type of law social media needs," Procaccini writes.

Regulating speech on social media

Procaccini uses these speech-related work laws to develop a framework for social media regulation. The paper advocates for measures such as stricter prohibitions on discriminatory, harassing, false, and coercive speech between users, stronger mechanisms to combat abuse on platforms, broader disclosure and disclaimer requirements, and prohibitions on child social networking.

While work law motivates her proposal, Procaccini notes that it should not apply in full to social media. Social media is not work under current labor and employment law," she writes. "But it is enough like work—and produces harms that map onto those in the workplace so tightly—that work law offers a surprisingly generative framework for regulating social media consistent with the First Amendment."

"Social Network as Work" is forthcoming in the Cornell Law Review.

Provided by Vanderbilt University

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Supreme Court allows White House to request removal of misinformation on social media

Nina Totenberg at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2019. (photo by Allison Shelley)

Nina Totenberg

Jordan Thomas

Supreme Court backs Biden administration in social media case

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The Supreme Court Andrew Harnik/Getty Images hide caption

The U.S. Supreme Court handed a major victory for the Biden administration Wednesday, throwing out a lower court ruling that had placed major restrictions on the ability of government officials to communicate with social media companies about their content moderation policies.

While the court’s ruling was procedural, it was nonetheless a stark repudiation of two lower courts in the South, and their eagerness to embrace conspiracy theories about alleged government coercion of social media companies.

A right-wing legal and political campaign has disrupted the work of government agencies meant to safeguard voting and subjected researchers studying online harms to harassment and death threats.

Untangling Disinformation

What it means for the election that the government can talk to tech companies.

Writing for a liberal-conservative coalition of six justices, Justice Amy Coney Barrett said that neither the five individuals nor the two states who sued the government had legal standing to be in court at all. She said they presented no proof to back up their claims that the government had pressured social media companies like Twitter and Facebook into restricting their speech. “Unfortunately,” she said, the Fifth Circuit court of appeals “relied on factual findings that are “clearly erroneous.”

For instance, she said, the plaintiffs who brought the case maintained that the White House had bombarded Twitter with requests to set up a streamlined process for censorship requests. But in fact, she said, the record showed no such requests. Rather, on one occasion a White House official asked Twitter to remove a fake account pretending to be the account of Biden’s granddaughter. Twitter took down the fake account and told the official about a portal that could be used in the future to flag similar issues.

“Justice Barrett went out of her way to stress that facts matter and that lower courts in this case embraced a fact-free version of what transpired between officials in the Biden administration and Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies,” said law professor Paul Barrett, no relation to the justice, who is deputy director of the Stern Center for Business and Human Rights at NYU.

In her opinion for the court majority, Justice Barrett said that at every turn, the alleged facts turned to dust, and that the plaintiffs had failed to trace past or potential future harm to anything done by officials at the White House, the CDC, the FBI, or a key cyber security agency. Indeed, the court said, many of the actions taken by the social media platforms to modify content about COVID vaccines or other matters, were taken before any contacts with government officials took place.

The court’s decision will make it considerably more difficult for people to bring challenges like this in the future because the justices said that it’s not enough to rail against the government for criticizing an individual’s message online. Rather, there has to be a causal link between the government’s commentary and what happens on a social media platform. In short, there has to be a traceable link, a link that the court said was entirely missing in this case, as the social media companies had their own incentives for moderating content, and often exercised their own judgment.

Justice Samuel Alito dissented, along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

“For months, high-ranking Government officials placed unrelenting pressure on Facebook to suppress Americans’ free speech,” wrote Altio. “Because the court unjustifiably refuses to address this serious threat to the First Amendment, I respectfully dissent.”

Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight Center First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, agreed with the court majority that in this particular case, the plaintiffs had alleged a very generalized theory of coercion, but he added that the court needs to set out specific factors for evaluating when government officials go too far.

“It’s important for Democrats and liberals who are perhaps sympathetic to the Biden administration’s efforts” to prevent COVID misinformation or Russian election interference, to consider whether they would be comfortable with these same rules if the Trump administration “were to pressure social media companies to take down speech related to MeToo or Black Lives Matter or pro-Palestinian speech.”

“We need a set of rules that make sense in all of these contexts,” Jaffer said, adding, “And so far, the court hasn’t given us a lot to work with.”

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How Social Media is Making Us Less Social

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Updated: 4 December, 2023

Words: 728 | Pages: 2 | 4 min read

  • Bartlett, J., Reffin, J., Rumball, N., & Williamson, S. (2014). Anti-social media. Demos, 2014, 1-51. (https://apo.org.au/node/37598)
  • Power, D. J., & Phillips-Wren, G. (2011). Impact of social media and Web 2.0 on decision-making. Journal of decision systems, 20(3), 249-261. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3166/jds.20.249-261)
  • Nair, M. (2011). Understanding and measuring the value of social media. Journal of Corporate Accounting & Finance, 22(3), 45-51. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jcaf.20674)
  • De Choudhury, M., Gamon, M., Counts, S., & Horvitz, E. (2013). Predicting depression via social media. In Proceedings of the international AAAI conference on web and social media (Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 128-137). (https://ojs.aaai.org/index.php/ICWSM/article/view/14432)
  • Wright, D. K., & Hinson, M. D. (2008). How blogs and social media are changing public relations and the way it is practiced. Public relations journal, 2(2), 1-21. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228845581_How_Blogs_and_Social_Media_are_Changing_Public_Relations_and_the_Way_it_is_Practiced)

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speech on social media is making us unsocial

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Does Social Media Make Us More or Less Connected?

Is social media strengthening our communities, or is it actually harming our ability to connect in person? Students  discuss two readings about the pros and cons of social media engagement, including some research on this question. 

  • social media

To the Teacher

At its core, social media holds out the promise of connection. A key idea behind Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms is that we can create rich networks of friends, receive frequent updates from people in our lives, and build a sense of community.

On sites such as Facebook, it is common for someone to have hundreds of “friends.” Yet, in reality, the experience does not always live up to the hype. Despite this ever-present promise of community, many people feel isolated and alone. Although people may have hundreds or even thousands of online “friends,” they may have few actual people in real life that they can rely on. All of this raises the question, is social media strengthening our communities, or is spending time on our phones and computers actually harming our ability to connect in person?

This lesson consists of two readings. The first reading explores the experience of connection online, asking whether or not social media helps make us feel more connected to one another. The second reading examines the data regarding how social media affects our mental health, looking at studies of the possible positive and negative effects of social media usage, especially for young people. Questions for discussion follow each reading.  

Note:  This lesson is Part 1 of a series of lessons on social media.

  • Part 1:  Does Social Media Make Us More or Less Connected ?
  • Part 2: Social Media and the Future of Democracy
  • Part 3: Can We Protect Our Privacy on Social Media?

Social media

Ask students to share one word or reaction they have when they hear the phrase “social media.”

Alternatively, make a visual web of their reactions by writing the term “social media” in the center of the board, circling it, then asking students for their associations with the phrase. Write down students’ associations without comment in the space surrounding the circled phrase, and connect their words with a line to the center. Once responses have slowed, step back and look at the web. 

Ask students: What patterns do you see here? What does this web say about our reactions to social media?

Tell students that today we’ll read and discuss two short pieces about social media and its impact, both positive and negative.  

Reading One: Experiencing Connection, On and Off-Line  

At its core, social media holds out the promise of connection. A key idea behind Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms is that we can create rich networks of friends, receive frequent updates from people in our lives, and build a sense of community. On sites such as Facebook, it is not uncommon for someone to have hundreds of “friends.” Yet, in reality, the experience does not always live up to the hype. Despite this ever-present promise of community, many people feel isolated and alone. Although people may have hundreds or even thousands of online “friends,” they may have few actual people in real life that they can rely on.

All of this raises the question, is social media strengthening our communities, or is spending time on our phones and computers actually harming our ability to connect in person?

One commonly held view holds that spending too much time on social media is detrimental. Many influential people—ranging from Pope Francis, to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to actress and singer Selena Gomez—have warned that overuse of social media can be harmful and isolating. In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert, Michelle Obama stated , “We have to get off the phone and knock on doors and talk to each other face to face…. We can’t rely on the internet to tell us about the world.”

For reasons like these, people of all ages have begun limiting their time on social media and focusing instead on building relationships in real life. In a 2017 article, Teen Vogue’s Beauty and Health Director Jessica Matlin documented the increase in young people logging off. She writes about a student named Faith, 17, who moved from a Philadelphia suburb to a new school in New York City. Faith said that it was hard to make friends. She felt insecure about this, so she used her phone to share stories to make it seem to her friends back home that she was making lots of friends and having a great time. “In reality, I was struggling,” she said. The story goes on to tell Faith’s story since then:

 Now that [Faith has] found her own crew, she’s grown more skeptical about social media. She also doesn’t feel compelled to get it all on film. At a Coldplay show, she sang instead of Snapped (“I’d rather enjoy the music”), and sitting down to a recent dinner, she and her friends piled their phones in the middle of the table (“It made the night so much better”).... “Young adults are beginning to take a more mindful approach to social media,” says Jacqueline Nesi, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who studies teens and social media. “This may explain the rise in apps like SelfControl and Anti-Social.” (Both prevent you from falling into a Facebook hole.) And that no-phones-at-dinner policy? Nesi says we are likely to see it popping up on more tables…. Ananda, 17, had the kind of Insta-following that any start-up would kill for. Before long, it became a total chore. What started as a place to share vegan recipes and cute outfits quickly became her “brand,” something that demanded daily upkeep. Her fans constantly direct-messaged her with praise and invites to meet up. “It was really sweet,” she says. “At the same time, it was so time- and energy-consuming—it wasn’t how I want to build friendships.” As she started posting less, her following dropped. (“That gave me anxiety,” she says.) Finally, she just closed her account. “I do miss it, but I have time to spend with my real friends.” “Social media relationships aren’t real relationships,” says Faith. “It’s always weird when you see someone who follows you and you follow back, but you don’t say ‘hi’ to each other when you see them in real life.” [ https://www.teenvogue.com/story/why-young-adults-are-taking-a-more-mindful-approach-to-social-media ]  

Despite such testimonies to the benefits of taking breaks from social media, not everyone agrees that online community is inherently unhealthy—or that offline friendships should count as being a valuable part on one’s “real life,” while online connections are disregarded. For years, young people have maintained that social media can provide real connection. In a 2018 article for The Washington Post, Common Sense Media parenting editor Caroline Knorr offered five benefits of social media. She wrote:

For a few years, many teens have been saying that social media — despite its flaws — is mostly positive . And new research is shedding light on the good things that can happen when kids connect, share and learn online. As kids begin to use tools such as Instagram , Snapchat , Twitter and even YouTube in earnest, they’re learning the responsibility that comes with the power to broadcast to the world…. It lets them do good. Twitter, Facebook and other large social networks expose kids to important issues and people from all over the world. Kids realize they have a voice they didn’t have before and are doing everything from crowdfunding social justice projects to anonymously tweeting positive thoughts …. It strengthens friendships. Studies, including Common Sense Media’s “ Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives ” and the Pew Research Center’s “Teens, Technology and Friendships” show that social media helps teenagers make friends and keep them. It can offer a sense of belonging. While heavy social media use can isolate kids, a study conducted by Griffith University and the University of Queensland in Australia found that although American teens have fewer friends than their historical counterparts, they are less lonely than teens in past decades . They report feeling less isolated and have become more socially adept, partly because of an increase in technology use.... Online acceptance — whether a kid is interested in an unusual subject that isn’t considered cool or is grappling with sexual identity — can validate a marginalized child…. One example occurred on a Minecraft forum on Reddit when an entire online community used voice-conferencing software to talk a teenager out of committing suicide . [ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/03/19/5-ways-social-media-can-be-good-for-teens/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.74d64c1a442a ]  

Such arguments suggest that social media use can have both positive and negative aspects. Whether we experience it as helpful or harmful has a lot to do with how we engage, who we relate with, and what boundaries we decide to set for ourselves in our daily lives. Instead of passively accepting the platforms as they are, we can be critical in how we engage, recognizing that if social media offers the promise of community, it is a community that we must create for ourselves.

For Discussion

  • How much of the material in this reading was new to you, and how much was already familiar? Do you have any questions about what you read?  
  • What are your reactions to Faith’s story about cutting back on social media and feeling closer to friends? Does her story resonate with you – or not?  
  • Have you ever agreed to stow your phones when you’re having a get-together with friends? If so, what effect did it have?  
  • If you use social media, do you take breaks from it? Why or why not?  
  • What are your thoughts about the five benefits of social media cited in the Washington Post? Do they resonate with you? Why or why not?  
  • What are some arguments that social media decreases meaningful connection? Have you experienced any of these trends in your community?  
  • What are some arguments that social increases connection and has positive benefits? Do these ring true in your experience?  
  • Do you see generational differences in how different people look at the appropriate use of social media platforms? How would you characterize how your views might differ from those of your parents or teachers?

Reading Two: The Research on Social Media and Mental Health  

Reports about people’s experiences on social media are often anecdotal. They rely on individual stories about how a given user might feel. But can we get a bigger picture take on social media’s overall effect? What does the research say about social media’s impact on our mental well-being?

In an article in the September 2017 issue of The Atlantic entitled “Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation?,” San Diego State psychology professor Jean Twenge examined some this research. Focusing most of her attention on the more negative impacts of social media on mental health, Twenge generated a media firestorm with her portrait of how social media increases our isolation. She wrote:

The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone…. Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones…. The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991. The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including nonscreen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy. There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time…. Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. (That’s much more than the risk related to, say, watching TV.) [ https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/ ]  

Twenge’s article, shared by many concerned parents, prompted a wave of responses from other psychologists. Many noted that the research is more nuanced than the uproar around the inflammatory article made it seem. In a 2017 article for Psychology Today entitled “No, Smartphones are Not Destroying a Generation,” Assumption College psychology professor Sara Rose Cavanaugh questioned whether smartphones and social media were purely negative in their effects.

Emerging evidence indicates that like every other question psychologists can think to ask about human behavior, screen use and its association with psychological well-being varies based on a multitude of contextual and personal variables—for instance, how you use media, when you use it, and what else is going on in your life… [One study] by Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein uses a careful design that takes into account these sorts of factors and concludes that "moderate use of digital technology is not intrinsically harmful and may be advantageous in a connected world." Nowhere is Twenge's bias more obvious to me than in some research that she actually does review but then casts aside as seemingly irrelevant to her thesis... In the introduction to the piece she notes that this generation has sharply lower rates of alcohol use, teen pregnancies, unprotected sex , smoking , and car accidents than previous generations. This is what a destroyed generation looks like?  Moreover, there is good reason to think that smartphones and social media may have positive effects as well as negative effects. Routinely feeling connected to your social peers could have beneficial effects.... For instance, teens can find other teens interested in the same social movements, connect with teens across the globe on interests like music and fashion, and feel embedded in a social network filled with meaning. [ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/once-more-feeling/201708/no-smartphones-are-not-destroying-generation ]  

Twenge herself acknowledges that social media may have contributed a decrease in some behaviors that have traditionally made parents and guardians anxious, writing that “Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.”

A final point to consider in the debate over social media and mental health is that the platforms themselves have agendas--since companies like Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook make more money when people use them more, regardless of the impact on happiness or mental health. In a 2018 article for the BBC, investigative reporter Hilary Andersson argued that social media companies are deliberately addicting users to their products for financial gain.

"Behind every screen on your phone, there are generally like literally a thousand engineers that have worked on this thing to try to make it maximally addicting" [said former Mozilla and Jawbone employee Aza Raskin.] In 2006 Mr Raskin, a leading technology engineer himself, designed infinite scroll , one of the features of many apps that is now seen as highly habit forming. At the time, he was working for Humanized - a computer user-interface consultancy. Infinite scroll allows users to endlessly swipe down through content without clicking. "If you don't give your brain time to catch up with your impulses," Mr Raskin said, "you just keep scrolling." He said the innovation kept users looking at their phones far longer than necessary.  Mr Raskin said he had not set out to addict people and now felt guilty about it. But, he said, many designers were driven to create addictive app features by the business models of the big companies that employed them. "In order to get the next round of funding, in order to get your stock price up, the amount of time that people spend on your app has to go up," he said…."So, when you put that much pressure on that one number, you're going to start trying to invent new ways of getting people to stay hooked." "You have a business model designed to engage you and get you to basically suck as much time out of your life as possible and then selling that attention to advertisers." Facebook told the BBC that its products were designed "to bring people closer to their friends, family, and the things they care about.” It said that "at no stage does wanting something to be addictive factor into that process".... [Yet] last year Facebook's founding president, Sean Parker, said publicly that the company set out to consume as much user time as possible. He claimed it was "exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology." [ https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-44640959 ]  

Ultimately, promises of connection offered by social media platforms are sales pitches. But real community is not a product that people can buy. Whether or not we use technology in creating our own communities, we can be aware that the platforms we might choose to use are by no means neutral.

  • According to the article, what does research indicate about the impacts of social media on young people?  
  • Does the article reflect your own sense of social media’s impact?    
  • Some critics argued that the article entitled, “Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation?” was unduly sensationalist. What did you think?  
  • Do you think social media is partly to blame for rising rates of depression and anxiety among young people? Why or why not?  
  • What possible changes could be made in apps to make them less addicting?  
  • Are there any changes you would make in how social media platforms are structured?

Ask for volunteers to share one thing they like about social media, and one thing they think should change about social media.

Research assistance provided by John Bergen.

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speech on social media is making us unsocial

Social Media Ruling Is a Free-Speech Landmark: Noah Feldman

By Noah Feldman

In a blockbuster decision, the US Supreme Court has held for the first time that social media platforms, just like newspapers, have First Amendment rights that bar the government from forcing them to leave up or take down content. The decision, Moody v. NetChoice , can be understood as the Brown v. Board of Education of the emerging field of social media law: It establishes basic principles and rights that the courts will use to shape the evolution of the social media industry in the US and beyond.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan and joined by the ...

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  • Communities
  • Nation / World

More efforts are underway to limit social media. How do you separate good from bad?

Alarm bells have been going off for some time about the harmful effects of social media on young people, everything from cyber bullying to body shaming to online predators and more.

This year, at both the national and state levels, educators and lawmakers have been trying to convert their concerns into action.

In California, a bill passed the Senate to bar online platforms from sending addictive social media feeds to a minor without the consent of the youth's parent or guardian. The bill would also prohibit sending notifications to minors overnight or during the school day without permission.

In Los Angeles, the nation's second largest school district is developing a policy to prohibit using cellphones and social media platforms during the school day beginning this fall. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he supports such efforts.

In Minnesota, members of both parties supported a bill mandating that schools adopt rules regarding students’ possession and use of cellphones. School leaders must have policies in place by next March.

In addition there have been smaller scale efforts to curb some of the worst impacts of cell phone use in Wisconsin, but these vary from school to school .

And then on June 17, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called for a health warning label on social media sites, like the ones found on tobacco products. In an op-ed for the New York Times , he expressed hope that a warning label would remind parents and kids about the mental health risks of social media.

Is any of this going to work? Could it have unintended consequences? And is it overkill at a time when cellphones are often used in the classroom?

Some experts are skeptical about the effectiveness of such broad approaches.

Heather Kirkorian is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies how kids and parents interact with digital media. Warning labels are good for raising awareness, she said, but “my sense is that most teens and parents have heard about the potential risks and are aware that that might be a concern." Treating social media “as analogous to cigarettes is unhelpful, because there are potential benefits of using social media as well, and I don't think we can make that same argument for smoking cigarettes."

According to Kirkorian, a more useful approach is using research to inform best practices around social media use. That means understanding “what kinds of activities on social media might be the riskiest, and which kids might be most at risk for those harms versus those that would benefit,” Kirkorian said.

There are some clearly harmful communities, ones that promote anorexia and body shaming content, which can have a harmful impact on youth.

Many offline social dynamics also play out in the online world, Kirkorian explained, so kids "who get bullied offline are most at risk of getting bullied online."

A survey anonymously filled out by Wisconsin high school students shows that certain identity groups are particularly at risk. In the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Department of Public Instruction in 2021, high school students who identified as female were twice as likely to say they experienced online bullying as males, and LGBTQ+ students were twice as likely as all other students.

Indigenous youth have the highest rates of suicide attempts and contemplation among their peers. Earlier this year , the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and the Spirit Lake Tribe of North Dakota filed a lawsuit against social media companies seeking damages for harm caused by social media companies on youth mental health. Tim Purdon, of the law firm Robins Kaplan, who filed the suit has worked on litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors, and says he sees many parallels. He sees the surgeon general’s call as “yet another step in the recognition of the seriousness of this problem”

Bad experiences on social media can leave kids felling isolated, depressed, and anxious, Kirkorian explained. They could develop unhealthy eating and sleep habits, and begin to feel shame about their bodies.

But Kirkorian thinks this may be a “chicken-and-egg problem,” because while excessive screen time leads to worse mental health outcomes, some of the research suggests that kids who “feel lonely and sad turn to social media as a coping mechanism.” The Wisconsin risk behavior survey found that students who were “depressed, anxious, or suicidal were more likely to use screens after midnight.”

It can be a place for youths to find their voices

In an ideal world, kids would be able to find a supportive caregiver either at school or at home to help navigate difficult situations.

“We know just how important it is for LGBTQ+ youth to have a supportive adult so that they can reduce their chances of thinking about suicide,” said Molly Herrmann, an education consultant at the Department of Public Instruction. Herrmann responds to a lot of the support questions at the DPI, many from LGBTQ+ students. She said there are pros and cons to social media, because some young people might not have that kind of support in their real life and might need to find that online.

Besides, Kirkorian pointed out, social media has become an important avenue for young people to find their voices.

Kirkorian, who has experience raising a teenager, said it may be hard for parents and caregivers who did not grow up with social media to appreciate just how real online interactions can feel to young people. Nonetheless, she thinks it is important to have judgement-free conversations about who they’re talking to online, what they’re talking about and how it makes them feel.

She also recommends common sense strategies like limiting screen time, especially overnight.

Purdon admits that social media has had positive impacts, but thinks the problem is beyond the individual level. According to him, the business practices of social media companies are designed to keep teenagers glued to their screens.

“As a result, the positive aspect of the product is becomes dwarfed by the negative impact of the product,” he said.

If the tribes win, he hopes any money would be used on health and support services to “abate the damage that has been done.”

How much do Americans use social media?

For context, YouTube is the most widely used online platform, according to the Pew Research Center. More than four out of five U.S. adults report ever using the video-based platform. Facebook also remains a dominant player, with about two-thirds of Americans using it, according to the Pew data. About half say they use Instagram .

About one-quarter to one-third use Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn, WhatsApp or Snapchat. About one-fifth use Twitter (now X) or Reddit.

As a measure of sheer impact, about three-quarters of adults under age 30 reported using at least five of the platforms, Pew found. That massive usage comes even though earlier studies by Pew showed that a majority of Americans acknowledged they thought social media had a negative effect on the country.

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What’s a ‘Black Job’? Trump’s Anti-Immigration Remarks Are Met With Derision

Donald J. Trump accused immigrants of stealing “Black jobs” and “Hispanic jobs” during Thursday’s debate, prompting criticism from Democrats and other social media users.

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Donald Trump in the foreground, facing away from the camera and looking at a crowd of his supporters.

By Maya King

  • June 28, 2024

Former President Donald J. Trump claimed during the presidential debate on Thursday that immigrants entering the United States illegally were taking “Black jobs” and “Hispanic jobs,” a claim with little basis that Democrats immediately seized on as evidence that Mr. Trump and Republicans were not serious about cultivating support from voters of color.

It also touched off a host of internet jokes and memes over what, exactly, a “Black job” is.

“They’re taking Black jobs and they’re taking Hispanic jobs and you haven’t seen it yet but you’re going to see something that’s going to be the worst in our history,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday, speaking of migrants crossing the southern U.S. border. He then repeated the reference during a campaign rally in Virginia on Friday, adding that Black Americans who have had jobs “for a long time” are losing employment to immigrants.

Black political strategists, elected officials and heads of organizations quickly joined hundreds of social media users to post photos of themselves at their workplaces and to crack jokes about the reductive and racist nature of the former president’s comments.

Among them was, Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic House delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, who posted a photo on X alongside two women in her congressional office on Friday that was captioned, “Another day in Congress doing our ‘Black jobs.’”

Malcolm Kenyatta, a Black Pennsylvania Democrat and surrogate for Mr. Biden’s campaign, quipped : “Did we ever figure out what a ‘Black job’ is? Asking for me.”

And Derrick Johnson, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., also criticized Mr. Trump’s remarks, writing on X that Black Americans “are not confined to any one #BlackJob.”

Republicans, who have sought to take advantage of President Biden’s softening support among Black voters, have made the issue of immigration a cornerstone of their appeals to the bloc, whose turnout in November could decide the election. Mr. Trump has said migrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country, and has repeatedly claimed that the migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are escapees from prisons and mental institutions, something the evidence does not support.

Immigrants have made up an increasingly large portion of the American labor force in recent years, but economic experts say their presence has been healthy for the nation’s economy . And while Mr. Trump claims that migrant workers are taking jobs from American citizens, the population of foreign-born workers in the country is not large enough to offset the job creation of the last three years .

Democrats have increasingly gone on the offensive. In a statement, Mr. Biden’s communications director Michael Tyler pointed to the online fray of responses to Mr. Trump’s comments, saying Black voters “dragged Trump throughout the night for his racist rant.”

“They know Trump has done nothing for Black communities, so he tries to pit communities of color against one another as a distraction,” he said. “We aren’t distracted. We see Trump’s racism clearly, and it’s why Black voters will reject him this November.”

Maya King is a politics reporter covering the Southeast, based in Atlanta. She covers campaigns, elections and movements in the American South, as well as national trends relating to Black voters and young people. More about Maya King


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  17. Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

    Social Media is making us less social when used to compare oneself to others, contributing to higher levels of loneliness and lower levels of well-being among frequent users. It can be social when used to connect with others. Let's take a look at the research. Also, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, you can ...

  18. After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at

    And that figure doesn't even include millions more who likely followed along on digital sites and social media. The summertime audience was down 30 percent from the first presidential debate in ...

  19. Social Media Moderation Is Speech, Says Supreme Court

    Social Media. Social Media Moderation Is Speech, Says Supreme Court The Court is remanding these two cases for more analysis—but it made its views on some key issues clear.

  20. A new approach to regulating speech on social media: Treating users as

    Social media has proven difficult to regulate for the last 20+ years, in large part because First Amendment considerations present a significant obstacle to regulating platforms. Arguments for and ...

  21. Supreme Court sides with Biden administration in social media case : NPR

    Supreme Court sides with Biden administration in social media case The court by a vote of 6-3 ruled that those challenging the government's interaction with social media companies lacked legal ...

  22. How Social Media is Making Us Less Social

    Social media can benefit young teens by helping them increase their self-confidence. This is only a sample. Get a custom paper now from our expert writers. In conclusion, social media impacts people by making them less social and more connected to their devices. The media can affect one's mental state badly.

  23. Does Social Media Make Us More or Less Connected?

    The first reading explores the experience of connection online, asking whether or not social media helps make us feel more connected to one another. The second reading examines the data regarding how social media affects our mental health, looking at studies of the possible positive and negative effects of social media usage, especially for ...

  24. Social Media Ruling Is a Free-Speech Landmark: Noah Feldman

    In a blockbuster decision, the US Supreme Court has held for the first time that social media platforms, just like newspapers, have First Amendment rights that bar the government from forcing them to leave up or take down content. The decision, Moody v. NetChoice, can be understood as the Brown v. Board of Education of the emerging field of social media law.

  25. There's a groundswell of action to limit social media. Can it work?

    And then on the 17th of June, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called for a health warning label on social media sites, like the ones found on tobacco products.

  26. Supreme Court Declines to Rule on Social Media Laws in Florida and

    The Biden administration had supported the social media companies in both cases, Moody v.NetChoice, No. 22-277, and NetChoice v. Paxton, No. 22-555.. In the majority opinion, Justice Kagan ...

  27. (PDF) Is social media making us un-social?

    unsocial is actually 'hiding oneself'. widely spread. Y et, the consequence of it in our daily 'physical' life needs to be examined. little more in-depth. Probably, even a simple face-to ...

  28. Supreme Court Social Media Ruling Is a Free-Speech Landmark

    In a blockbuster decision, the US Supreme Court has held for the first time that social media platforms, just like newspapers, have First Amendment rights that bar the government from forcing them ...

  29. Analysis and commentary on CNN's presidential debate

    Read CNN's analysis and commentary of the first 2024 presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in Atlanta.

  30. What's a 'Black Job'? Trump's Anti-Immigration Remarks Are Met With

    Donald J. Trump accused immigrants of stealing "Black jobs" and "Hispanic jobs" during Thursday's debate, prompting criticism from Democrats and other social media users. By Maya King ...