It is no surprise that the social media has a huge impact on us, given the ever-increasing rate of its rampant use in the contemporary world of digitalization. With toddlers being adept in the know-how of mobile phones and tablets, to school and college students relying on social media platforms for their socialization, to adults (and even older adults) utilising social media to expand their personal as well as professional growth… the list is indeed never-ending. Given such a surge of technological invasion within each of our daily lives, the influence of social media platforms can hardly be neglected.
The potentially adverse consequences of the social media are widely talked about (not to ignore its tremendous scope if utilized optimally towards increasing accessibility and growth in a variety of avenues of development). However, social networking sites and social media platforms have a significant impact on the emotional health of an individual. Let us examine some of the following points to explore the impact of such social media on social and emotional development:
1. A Tool for Building Emotional Vocabulary. With each new update of the popular social networking platforms, we are provided with uncountable options of emoticons to choose from to communicate to others. In fact, such a wide range of emoticons helps us express ourselves in more vivid and diverse situations. However, we need to be cautious of an excessive reliance on such tools to the neglect of real life expressions.
2. “Emoticons” cannot be a Substitute for Face-to-face Interactions. While such emoticons can play a significant role in developing and enhancing our emotional vocabulary, it is also important to note that such emoticons are also subject to our own perceptions. Therefore, an excessive use of such tools of emotional expressions can actually hinder an individual’s ability to recognise the emotional reactions of others as compared to face-to-face interactions. Further, they should not incapacitate our ability to recognize non-verbal cues of communication we encounter in our daily living.
3. Developing Social Identities. The social media is clearly meant to be used as a tool to connect with others across the globe, transcending not just geographical boundaries, but also reaching out to strangers sharing similar areas of interest. At the same time, they also serve as a platform to broadcast your own feelings and experiences online. More importantly, it is crucial to note that such an identity is almost on an off-and-on basis, which adds an unreal and superficiality to the social identity formed.
4. An Outlet for Negative Emotions. With the increasing accessibility of the internet, the social media platforms are increasingly being used as outlets for an expression of their negative emotions. More so when such platforms are perceived as a safe outlet, wherein individuals are given a freedom to express themselves. Further, trolling has become a popular phenomenon, wherein individuals express themselves under the safety net of anonymity.
5. A Source of Emotional Dependence. Especially for children and adolescents, the social media platforms often become the deciding factor for their social status, or popularity. Be it the number of friends or followers, or the number of likes attracted by their posts or updates. Their social as well as emotional identity almost seems to be dictated by such platforms. For instance, it is almost more important for a status update to reflect the way one is feeling at the present moment, than for me to allow myself to focus on my own emotional experiences.
6. Reduced Threshold for Frustration Tolerance. Finally, expressions via social networking sites can to a large extent reduce our ability to be able to tolerate distress. For instance, the growing accessibility has raised the bars of our expectations to the extent that seeing that our message has been read but not responded to can itself serve as a major source of frustration, not allowing for the possibility of any other realistic reasons.