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The addictive power of social media

Social media platforms were created to give the average person a voice that can reach across the globe. Between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr, anyone with internet access can share a part of themselves online. However, even with such ease of access, many adolescents and young adults still go through hours of mental turmoil over whether they should or should not make a post online.

The stress that stems from maintaining a social media presence is very taxing on the mental health of young people. Platforms originally meant to allow open expression between people all over the world make people afraid to show anything other than their very best angle. On top of that, there is still the fear that their best side will not be good enough.

Kyle Knight, junior business technology and administration major, said, “I feel a little nervous every time I post anything because it’s like I’m revealing a part of myself to everyone.” This is a common mindset since people often forget that everyone else is working hard to show themselves in a good light too. No one ever posts a picture of the pathetic soggy chicken tenders they heated up in the microwave or of the day of their worst haircut ever. With everyone posting their best days it is easy to forget that bad days are just as common.  

Social media has also become a vehicle for procrastination and the unnecessary stress that comes with it. It is a distraction from homework and studying, which causes students to easily lose track of time. For example, a study of 1,839 college students by Reynol Junco at Lock Haven University in the US found that time spent on Facebook was strongly and significantly negatively related to overall grade point average.

Part of the way social media sites make users lose time is through pressure to constantly use it. Checking a few different accounts many times a day adds up. “I use social media several times every hour,” said Kiara Bell, sophomore English major. “I use it right when I wake up and again right before bed.”

This comment provides an insight into the way social media apps are designed and how they interact with our brains. Many apps are overwhelmingly blue. Think of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Usually, the pineal gland, a pea-sized part of the brain that controls sleep, starts to release melatonin a few hours before your body’s usual bedtime.

Melatonin helps to regulate the body’s sleep and wake cycles. The hormone is nothing like a sleeping pill but it does help to invite sleep. However, continuous exposure to light post-bedtime, particularly blue light, can disrupt the brain’s release of melatonin, keeping sleep at an arm’s length.

Most things, including social media, are fine in moderation but too much can have more negative effects than anticipated. It is important to balance online time with offline time to reduce stress and get better sleep.