Is the rampant use of social media isolating the youth from society and giving rise to physchological problems?I am of the opinion that excessive use of social media alienates the youth from social...

Is the rampant use of social media isolating the youth from society and giving rise to physchological problems?

I am of the opinion that excessive use of social media alienates the youth from social lives instead of connecting them, which is ironic as the name suggects sociability. I feel it leads to many psychological problems as well.

I am writing an essay on this subject and it would be very helpful if I could get different insights/ideas/opinions on the matter. Anything can help. Hence, what are your responses?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the only realistic way to form valid opinion on this--note, opinion is not founded upon extensive and valid research but rather upon personal exposure and individual assessment, thus has the potential to be way off the mark--is to look at societal, family, and individual communication in by-gone eras for comparison to today. Let's look at a couple of examples and compare.

In past eras, all communication was pretty much a "zero-sum game." A person could communicate through direct contact verbally and non-verbally (i.e., talking or sign language with all the attendant cues), through distance correspondence like letters and smoke signals, and by reading news accounts and books (relevant en masse after literacy became wide-spread). In earlier times, before the telegraph, there were naturally limited options. Now there seems to be virtually (ha! accidental pun or inspired pun ...) endless options or modes of communication.

So what does this mean in terms of the question? It means yes, from this comparison, being absorbed in social media's multiple communication methods reduces and perhaps alienates youth from interacting in society as it was known before, in earlier times.

For example, instead of going to the blacksmith to speak about your horse and probably other news or chatty kinds of things--because, after all, you see each other every week at church or at the general store--you drop him a quick text with quick instructions about your horse. Comparison to this representative scenario indicates that there is a loss of interaction with society in today's world. On the other hand, there is also an increase in that you can easily pick up communication with friends that were last heard from 30 years ago. Still this doesn't negate the loss of immediate interpersonal interaction with your immediately surrounding society and thus the imposition of alienation.

In families, the traditions of singing together or playing instrument together or going out walking in the evening together are all but vanished. Extremely important moments for quiet conversation between family members, especially of the opposite sex, are all but gone along with their related routines like daily baking fresh baked bread, pies cooling in the window and winding a skein of yarn around someone's upraised hands. This example shows a loss of societal interaction and the potential for alienation at the family level.

The classic example of two individuals dinning or breakfasting together at a restaurant with each involved in a pleasant, laughing, or heartfelt conversation or texting session or Facebook interchange or Twitter updates with someone else provides the quintessential illustration of the alienation that does arise (we've all seen this scenario in action) from today's immersion in social media: when the private social media interactions are through, the two together may sit in a silence that is stony, isolated and alienated because their thoughts are with other people, whom they don't seem eager to share with each other about.

These examples certainly do illustrate a loss of interaction with society, though there are good outcomes as well, and certainly do illustrate real instances of alienation. So from personal observation and assessment coupled with comparison to previous eras, I think it quite reasonable, indeed, inevitable, to form the opinion that the answer to your question is, "Yes," there is loss of interaction with the immediately present society and a consequent alienation. Psychiarist Dr. Peter Kramer of Brown University, author of Against Depression, is certainly of the opinion that this sort of society forced alienation from society at large and from individuals, leads to psychological problems.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main problem with rampant use of social media is cyber-bullying, as far as I can tell.  As a teacher, I have always felt somewhat helpless to act against some types of bullying.  However, cyber-bullying is much worse.  Kids can literally torment each other constantly.  Bullied kids cannot just go home and escape their harassers.  They get texts and open up Facebook to see further abuse.

Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar. (see first link)

This means that a child bullied online is still at risk for depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.  Parents need to be very aware of what their kids are doing.  Visit their Facebook pages, and know what is happening to them.  Watch for mood swings and changes in behavior.  Parents can intervene before it’s too late.

However, although schools cannot be with children twenty-four hours a day, there are things we can do.  I firmly believe that “schools at all levels can do a lot to improve the moral climate in our society” (see second link).  If we teach our children to be better people, perhaps that will extend into their online presence as well.

Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do believe that rampant, and I would add "excessive", use of social media does cause some youth to be isolated from society. Some do become like hermits in their homes, dorms, or wherever, glued to their PC, laptop, or mobile device. In addition, even while in transit (mobile), they seem oblivious to the world around them. I've seen this, and continue to see this on Toronto's subway and streetcar system, many youths obsessive attention to their digital devices and not the human beings around them.

I do not know if this behavior, in general, leads to psychological problems. I suspect it does in some cases, but there are probably other underlying issues contributing to this, the excessive use of social media being one part of the puzzle. Social media has its place in contemporary society, if its balanced with face-to-face meetings, and extended and meaningful conversation with people without the distraction of digital devices hampering any human interaction.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, I think it would be exceedingly difficult to prove this as there is no way that you can isolate the effects of social media.  In other words, you can’t do something like experimenting to see if someone who grew up in the 1980s would have had psychological problems if only they had social media.  Even if there are more psychological problems today, it would be hard to prove that social media cause them.

Second, I suggest that you be sure that you propose a clear mechanism by which you think social media cause these psychological problems.  Why would being in contact with people more of the time (albeit in a somewhat impersonal way) cause psychological problems?  I would want to see a really good connection made for me to be in any way convinced.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with Post 2. Human interaction is not a zero-sum game, and the fact that people are interacting with people on social media does not mean that they are not interacting with other people in other contexts. Again, you would need, essentially, a "control group," in other words, a group of people who do not use social media to make a convincing study that correlates mental disorders with social media use. I do not deny that there are drawbacks to using social media, but it would be hard to put your finger on a causal relationship between social media and mental illness.