THE BEST SELLERS’ LIST- Socially Awkward: Breaking down the horrible side effects of social media

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U.S. Olympic legend Simone Biles takes a selfie with her boyfriend Jonathan Owens.

Socially AwkwardBreaking down the horrible side effects of social media
By Thomas Sellers Jr.

In the annals of time, social media will go down for cultural impact with the automobile, television, computer and the internet.

Since the grandfather of social media sites like Myspace to legends like Facebook, it seems a new app designed to help us connect under a unique theme pops up every year.

Now adults are taking over TikTok from teenagers making it uncool every second a clock goes tick and tock. While social media applications like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat can be useful and fun, I think at this current moment they’re doing more harm to our world than good.

Cell phones are raising children. At most youth’s fingertips are dangers to their innocence, mental well-being and self-esteem. Too many children are worried about things my generation and previous ones didn’t have to focus on.

Speaking of focus, teenagers today have poor communication skills. It is not uncommon to see a group of children at their school bus stop individually on his or her phone. All the children are in the same pose of head bent over in prayer formation locked into the app of his or her choice. Just feet away is another human being they refuse to interact with.

I just want to shine a spotlight on 10 issues I see deriving from social media. These problems are not specific to just our youth. Adults are falling prey to these dangers and in most cases setting a horrible example for those impressionable.

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Tennis star Naomi Osaka smashes a return during an event.

Human beings are social creatures. We need the companionship of others to thrive in life, and the strength of our connections has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. Being socially connected to others can ease stress, anxiety, and depression, boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years to your life. On the flip side, lacking strong social connections can pose a serious risk to your mental and emotional health.

In today’s world, many of us rely on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram to find and connect with each other. While each has its benefits, it’s important to remember that social media can never be a replacement for real-world human connection. It requires in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive. Ironically for a technology that’s designed to bring people closer together, spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make you feel more lonely and isolated—and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

10. False confirmation

Whether you are dressing up just to take a selfie or organizing a photo-op, we are chasing approval from people miles away, total strangers or those who are kissing our behind because they want something from us.

Many times people throw a ton of pictures online just to get a self-esteem boost. Others have lied about their job status, social standing or self-worth just to get a few nice comments.

Also under this category, we head online just to get approval for our opinions. I’m sure there is at least one person that will agree with your thoughts on the president, government, sports, food and marriage.

We’ve always felt our thoughts and opinions were correct and worth sharing. Now we all have a platform to share our 2 cents 24/7.

9. Need for attention

Self-absorption is at an all-time high. What used to be reserved for the most beautiful and young is not easy to spot in middle-aged hacks. Now 40- and 50-something women are sharing endless selfies.

Wanna-be sports journalists and political pundits are giving their innermost thoughts via social media.

Those men and women now have an unhealthy self-centeredness. And the more and more pictures are posted and tweets are shared, these people are losing their grip on reality.

In the chase for attention, grown-ups are creating elaborate pranks, productions and posts just to go viral. No money is involved, just a few likes, re-shares and going viral for all the wrong reasons.

8. Anxiety

Now a lot of people feel inadequate about their life. From there to where they live, anxiety is raging among all generations. Some grandparents are trying to out do their “rivals” on gifts and spending time with their grandchildren.

A person will manipulate their social media page to create a false life just to impress their audience. Some dedicate time to broadcast live because they believe their life is that important. Or some are chasing importance.

When that validation does come in droves or in a timely fashion, some people feel like they are a failure in life. Even suicidal thoughts might start to creep into the minds of a person let down by the lack of love from social media.

7. Misinformation

As a professional, degreed journalist, I hate misinformation. In my 20-year career I have shared false news and put out misinformation. But the major difference between and Joseph Citizen out there, I have to be accountable and admit my error.

Then I have to share the real information and validate it with facts. I can’t go out there sharing every rumor I hear or paint a narrative to serve my own interest.

But with the pool of journalism so muddy with citizen journalism, columnist journalism and a need to be first, misinformation is all too common. Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s phrase of “Fake News” has a lot of truth to it today. But even now some holler “Fake News” when the truth is out there just to create a smoke screen. I don’t know what to believe sometimes.

6. Loneliness

Instead of dinner at the dining room table with your family, we grab a quick bite with one hand and keep our phone going strong to stay in tune with our latest app.

Oh don’t let the battery be running low, then we need to stay near an electrical outlet so keep our phone alive so we can try to stay connected with the world.

But ironically, we are more lonely than ever. We don’t talk to our classmates at the bus stop. We don’t chat on a date. We don’t share moments with those right next to us. We’re too busy chasing acclaim from social media. But when the phone doesn’t respond back, we’re looking for something and someone to hold on to.

5. Groupthink

We’re all sharing one brain it seems. What does the majority say? OK, that’s what I believe too. Groupthink can cause us to be ignorant and afraid to challenge things that are clearly wrong.

A loud voice determined to get its way can create a tsunami of support. Then we all are at risk. To solve this particular issue, all we need to do is watch the classic film, “12 Angry Men.” Sometimes you need that singular voice to have the courage to step out and give an opposing viewpoint. It might just save a life and our social well-being.

4. Missing out

My research has helped me discover the new acronym of FOMO (Fear of missing out. FOMO has been around since the beginning of socializing. But with social media, sites such as Facebook and Instagram seem to exacerbate these feelings.

FOMO ironically has people rushing to social media to be linked in with the latest trend or event. But as that person is so busy posting and trying to record everything, they are missing the actual moment.

I understand grabbing your phone to record your child’s first steps. I don’t understand when you are at your child’s football game and a ton of journalists are there recording every move, you are trying to invade the sideline with your camera or phone too.

Go to the stands and just enjoy the moments of your child shining.

3. Depression

Depression and anxiety go hand and hand. But depression has a wider range of issues under the umbrella. Depression shines a spotlight on cyberbullying.

In the past you went to school and faced your bullies. Then you had an escape of going home and had a weekend to rebuild your self-worth.

Today, thanks to social media bullying is a non-stop web of pain for many people. One negative comment could send a person down a road of no return.

2. Self-harm

Depression, anxiety, loneliness and negative responses could lead to self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Sadly my favorite social media site Youtube had been the home of recorded suicides. The scariest part was a bunch of comments encouraging the person to take their life. Those watching it were treated to tragic occasions like Must-See TV or a game.

It was shocking to see the disconnect of the youth today watching a person in the prime of their life moments away from death. Those committing suicide felt worthless because of a disappointment in the world of social media. Life could not go on because of one failure for the world to see.

1. Narcissism

Excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance defines narcissism. Recently when world-class athletes Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka  walked away from their respective sports of gymnastics and tennis for mental health, my first thoughts were they are quitting. I grew up watching athletes endure the toughest of times on the field of play and away from it. No matter what they went out there and competed.

Criticism came their way and they weathered those storms.

Just as I was about to give Biles and Osaka the benefit of the doubt, I was submerged with magazine covers, dozens of social media posts from them. I thought all the attention was making their minds go crazy.

Maybe it was just criticism. Because they seem to like attention and praise. Social media has made this generation weak. Most people don’t think they can do anything wrong.

Even if they decide to go online and share something, you can’t say anything negative or disagree. That type of mindset is narcissist. Iron sharpens iron. But if we keep this up, the few pieces of iron we have will rust up and become dull. Because sugary praise and moist kisses of approval will ruin our mettle. 

 THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas@magicvalleypublishing.com.