Great Health Guide
THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA: YOUNG PEOPLE
Facebook & Instagram are teaching us how to misread & miscommunicate.
What is the impact that social media is having on the social skills of young people today? Facebook and social media (including online gaming), can have positive outcomes for many users in terms of increased interactions and bonding. Social media also provide vital social access for isolated, disabled or other individuals who find social activities difficult or overwhelming. But like anything that stimulates the brain, too much of a good thing creates problems and increases dependency. Research on the impact of social media on young people, conducted by the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, compared 200 individuals born into a world obsessed with social media (Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram), against those who grew up without social media. This has shed a disturbing light on the possible loss of some vital human skills in a generation. The results indicated that those who spend a large amount of time on social media were exhibiting traits similar to people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The loss of the capacity to accurately read facial expressions and emotions was pronounced. A large percentage of my clients seeking psychological support have focused on increasing anxiety (social) and depression (isolation). Most of the issues with anxiety are centred on a growing generational inability to accurately read social cues. Young people do not understand social language or interpret social body and facial language in real life. Poor skills in this area contribute to feeling isolated, inadequate and devalued. What is left is misunderstanding, miscuing and misinterpretation. In turn, this leads to social confusion, unrealistic and wrongly applied grudges, unresolved conflict due to inability to read situations effectively and increased arguments based on poor communication. The inability to understand what went wrong and have the skills for the successful repairing of interpersonal problems is a massive issue. In my book Life Works When the section called Belonging describes a major part of finding happiness. Any reduction in our ability to communicate effectively with each other impacts on our sense of belonging and desire to belong. Unresolved, this social fallout impacts our social, psychological and physical wellbeing. Our mental health suffers, depression creeps in and social isolation develops. We are ill prepared to understand the impact of social media on society. The ability to read facial expressions and emotions, is a human skill that we are
Facebook & Instagram can cause us to misread & miscommunicate.
forfeiting for screen dependency. The inability to read facial expressions and emotions is connected to our levels of social anxiety and depression. If we lose the ability to read each other in social settings with accuracy, we lose the art of compassion, communication, conflict resolution and creative thinking.
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO?
• Limit your screen time to balance with real interpersonal interactions.
• Make sure your social skills are updated and accurate.
• Re-train in your human skills.
• Meet with a friend instead of texting and practice your communication ability in real time.
• Check your obsession with social media.
• Don’t assume everyone understands facial, body and language cues, including yourself.
• Be strong enough to cope with the tantrums displayed by young people who make excessive use of social media.
• Seek help if you struggle to implement any of these points.
• Then finally turn off and tune into the real world for a little while. The benefits will be lifelong.
Sarah Godfrey has been a practising psychologist for two decades focusing on personal development. She works with her clients to build successful futures, speaks at conferences and writes books and blogs on discovering how to improve your life, find happiness and master human skills. Sarah may be contacted via website or email.