As technological advances continue to take place, more and more individuals are chained to a smartphone, smartwatch, iPad or Computer. Smartphones with endless applications allow for easy access to all of one’s connective data and promote the use of social media platforms where people can share photos and update friends and family with statuses and pictures. Ultimately, there are endless ways to be connected, however, there is an overt comfortability with using smartphones for the purpose of ‘linking up’ with others. In further investigation of the effects technology and social media have on one’s interpersonal and personal abilities and awareness, there is data that suggests quite the opposite of what technology and social media platforms are intended to do. The millennials of 2018 are accustomed to communicating behind screens and devices rather than in face-to-face situations. These vulnerable instances provoke feelings of self-consciousness and unconfidence in his or her abilities to stand alone without the aid of a profile picture or spell check extension. As technology advances over time, our abilities to maintain interpersonal and personal connections deplete as social media and screen-to-screen interaction are more prominent in 2018. While technology ignites communication and connection, conversely, it isolates and demoralizes the population and thereby prevents interpersonal and individual connections and relations.
As social media is growing in popularity across countries and generations, there is an overt obsession with social leverage and competition that comes with several social media platforms. Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook share great value to the 2018 digital lifestyle, as more and more minds are consumed with the significance of ‘likes,’ profile pictures, and status updates, rather than face-to-face interpersonal connection. According to the Pew Research Center, in their report “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy,” they found that teenagers view social media platforms as an extension to interpersonal relationships: “Facebook was seen as an extension of offline interactions and the social negotiation and maneuvering inherent to teenage life. ‘Likes’ specifically seem to be a strong proxy for social status, such that teen Facebook users will manipulate their profile and timeline content in order to garner the maximum number of “likes,” and remove photos with too few ‘likes.’” Ultimately, the social constructs that come with media platforms are being prioritized and valued to a stronger degree. In addition, one’s social stability and personal satisfaction are correlated and rooted in the number of comments or likes received on posts. Therefore, those of the technological era of 2018 have found comfort and joy in maintaining and cultivating friendships through social media on one’s smartphone. In the article “Royce on Self and Relationships: Speaking to the Digital and Texting Self Today,” Sherry Turkle, a researcher in the social sciences, found that a life overflowing with technological advances causes the millennials of today to avoid face-to-face interactions:
“[W]e turn immediately to our phones; we see them as an escape from boredom. We escape from the real demanding face-to-face conversation not only with others but also with ourselves. We easily become immersed in online games. Virtual worlds provide exciting adventures, but these are both predictable and friction-free. In these worlds, we need not follow the law of gravity or be concerned about the reality of death since characters can spring to life again and again.”
Escaping from boredom and the avoidance of learning about oneself causes a loss of connection to humanity. Society has grown to love the impermanence of the online digital world whether it be a video game or social media, as it is less threatening than the challenges that come with everyday life. It is evident that people have more connections to others via mutual friends or followers, but fewer genuine connections that can surpass the test of face-to-face interaction. As this world is connected on the surface, it is disconnected within, therefore creating an almost anxious aspect of non-digital interactions.
With the aid and help of technological devices, one can rely on a social media platform to converse and cultivate friendships. However, this dependency is what impedes one’s ability to feel comfortable without a smartphone or device in hand. This overall fear of detachment from our devices is what is ultimately crippling the mental health of the future generations. In Partap Singh Rohilla and Krishan Kumar’s article, “Impact of Social Media on Mental Health,” the dangerous health aspect to technology is acknowledged, as society’s obsession with technology increases. This article brings to light the linkage between social media, anxiety, and compulsive behavior: “A recent research study found that 45% of British adults indicated they feel worried or uncomfortable when they cannot access their email or social network sites (Anxiety UK, 2012). Rosen et al. (2013) found that younger generations are checking in very often with their messages and social networks” It can be inferred that constant connectivity is what is preventing comfortability and the ability to be present with oneself. With the aid of social media platforms, profiles, pictures, and statuses, one can formulate the digital identity that he or she would like to project, rather than sitting with the persona one caries in the real world. However, there is a compulsive aspect of this practice. This concept is further investigated in Adriana M. Manago’s article, “Media and the Development of Identity,” as people feel the need to keep modifying or adjusting their perceived selves on social media:
“Qualitative and mixed-methods studies also show that social networking sites promote self-conscious crafting of manicured, hoped-for, or intended selves (Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008). […] [C]ommunicating and presenting the self in a one-to-many style, as if on stage to an audience of others, and strategically selecting flattering photos or cleverly worded public comments could also encourage self-involvement and a heightened concern with social approval.”
21st-century teens feel the constant need to please others, thereby perpetuating the cycle of posting for validation, receiving validation with likes, and then gaining social approval. Life is being lived through a virtual reality setting, as technology advances. The more technological improvement, the more ways one can escape from the real world and one’s real non-photoshopped photos. Additionally, the instinctual response to check one’s smartphone or digital device to edit, post, filter, one’s photo or status is a compulsive act that can ignite the constant need for social approval online, thereby creating instability and insecurity with one’s true self.
As society strives for ways to communicate and connect, the population becomes consumed with creating a more idealized-self. In hopes to cultivate friendships as well as connectivity, the thirst to become the most social or connected ignites personal insecurity and an obsession with social approval. Interestingly, as the millennials of today believe they must be constantly modifying and improving their digital selves, they are not only deceiving their true identity, but they are emotionally deceiving their online friends and followers. According to Clarissa Silva, her article, “Social Media’s Impact on Self Esteem,” focuses on this phenomenon further in terms of dating and announces the practice of this interpersonal and personal deception as “Vanity Validation:” “
The paradox effect in dating is creating the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity, but masking one’s true persona. Since some are interfacing digitally more than physically it is much easier to emotionally manipulate others […] The one you portray on your networks and the true you, for some creates a double consciousness. Your lauded self on social media is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes, not life.”
As one’s social media profile is strategically curated and filtered, one’s digital identity becomes more ideal and legitimized, while one’s true identity becomes disappointing and degraded. The expectations of oneself pile on as he or she compares ones digital image to the profiles of his or her friends and followers that so loyally comment and ‘like.’ This process, therefore, aids in the perpetuation of the cycle of validation. Additionally, with the constant need to filter and edit photos online, the more toxic the technological connectivity becomes. The friendships that stem from the communicative benefits of social media and technology morph into competitions of ‘likes,’ beauty, and popularity, thereby causing self-esteem issues and self-critical thoughts. This concept is further analyzed in Rae Jacobson’s article “Social Media and Self Doubt” in light of the mental health of teens and social media: “Donna Wick, EdD, founder of Mind-to-Mind Parenting, says that for teenagers the combined weight of vulnerability, the need for validation, and a desire to compare themselves with peers forms what she describes as a “perfect storm of self-doubt.” She’s so thin. Her grades are perfect. What a happy couple. I’ll never be that cool, that skinny, that lucky, that successful.” Ultimately, the obsessive need to stay connected with others is promoting the disconnect one has with one’s true identity. Through excessive use of social media, one can experience self-deprecating thoughts thereby deteriorating one’s self-esteem. As he or she values the image displayed on his or her profile, the more hatred the person has toward his or her true identity. The instinct to compare one’s identity to other followers or social-media users promotes body image and confidence issues. The social media platforms intended to connect and unite the community have morphed into a self-destructive mechanism spiraling toward insecurity and lack of comfortability with one’s persona.
As society strives for a more connected and digitalized world, the technological advances of 2018 enlarge the gap between one’s digital and non-digital identity. The social media profiles, pictures, and posts on media platforms are uploaded to project an idealized digital identity which can be destructive to the cultivation of healthy friendships on the internet and social media platforms. While one’s mental health is compromised as a result of society’s technological obsession, one’s self-esteem and confidence become diminished in the face of comparisons and self-critical thoughts. As social media’s and technology’s intended purpose is to unite the community, the contrary is occurring due to the obsessive use and high priority digital devices have in 2018.