By JOSE REYES
Pick your head up, take a deep breath in, and have a look around. In the spring, the flowers bloom and fill the air with the scent of happiness. Just when you think you’re in the clear, you will also see snow fall from the sky and cover the ground like powdered sugar to have classes canceled.
When our heads are down, we may see the weather for the coming days, or maybe what are friends are up to, or maybe even how the stocks are doing. Maybe we can communicate to our family members or loved ones that aren’t close by, sometimes we order things that we may need to use later, but mostly we will just be seeing a blue light that serves no purpose but to distract us from the beautiful world and people around us.
Thanks to scientific studies, we have discovered the effects that social media and cell phones have on our lives, and more importantly, our brains. We know that engagement with social media and our cellphones releases a chemical known as dopamine, which is the same chemical that’s released when we smoke, drink and gamble. The one key difference is that while those activities have age restrictions, cell phones and social media do not.
Social media, whether we recognize it or not, is a drug. It feels really good, and there’s a reason why we go back on an app or social media site ten times within an hour to check our interactions. We go back to see if people liked our photo, if we’ve gained any more followers, and if people are leaving comments.
It is simply because of the dopamine released when we see those notifications popping up. It’s a temporary solution just like alcohol, smoking, and gambling. People who spend more time on social media suffer higher rates of depression, and we are starting to see that the benefits of cell phones and social media do not outweigh the negatives.
Younger and younger kids are getting unlimited access to these devices that they are not prepared for. Their brains simply cannot handle the addictive effects. If it’s hard for adults to quit these these habits, then how can we expect a teenager to be able to deal with it? From a young age, the only approval we seek is that of our parents. As we reach adolescence,we begin to seek the approval of our friends.
This is the way we alculturate to the surrounding tribe outside of our immediate family. During this period we are supposed to learn to rely on our friends for help, but as we have begun to see, we are relying more and more on on social media and cell phones. Due to this, we are no longer acquiring the necessary coping mechanisms to deal with stress. We know the main reasons why alcoholics drink are social stress, financial stress, and career stress.
Like them we too will turn to the bottle, except our bottles are our cell phones. We do not know how to form deep meaningful relationships with one another and studies show that when asked, we will admit that. We confess that most of our relationships are artificial, and although we have fun with our friends, we know they will cancel if something better comes up.
Cell phones also send out subconscious signals to other people around us. Whether we are walking into a meeting, grabbing food with friends, or just walking around in public, having your cell phone out sends a very strong message that whatever your doing, or whoever you’re with, is just not that important.
Think about sitting down to eat with someone, and they suddenly pull out their phone and set it on the table. How does that make you feel? Exactly. The same thing happens when we eat with our friends, everyone is on their phones and the interaction is simply not important to anyone, we are constantly connected, and forever addicted.
Even when something is important to us, we may only pay attention until it is done, then we go back to our phones. We don’t talk with the people around us, and as studies are coming out on depression, suicide, school shootings, as well as an increase in mental illness, we are starting to see technology as a potential contributor to the issue.
The responsibility to fix this addiction that is slowly consuming the future of humanity falls in our hands. It would be great if we could rely on parenting, on individual willpower and on social media companies to put a stop to this. The sad reality is that it will take more than that. We must be the ones to take a stand and to pick up the slack that has been left behind.
As institutions, we must shape our environments to encourage these social skills, because that is when great things happen. Innovation and progress don’t come from cell phones, they come when our minds wander and work together to solve problems. This is not to suggest that we do away with cell phones or social media altogether, only that we strike a balance.