Social media is now a part of each American’s daily life. According to MIT Technology Review, Americans spend over 24 hours a week on their phones, tablets, or laptops. That is a whole day that people are sucked into a virtual reality, where they are completely oblivious to their own environment. This is seen everywhere people are constantly online. At the office, home, school, sporting events, restaurants, the world is filled with a people starring at the glowing screens in their hands instead of each other. This time that is spent online is taking over society’s relationships, mental health, and morals.
The “always on” culture developed with the popularity of mobile phones and has played a major factor in time online. It’s the idea that no matter where a person may be, they are always able to be communicated with. This may sound comforting, that with a mobile device a user is never alone. Although time spent with families and friends, time spent alone in thought, and independence from social media are very important things that form a person. Without these important aspects of human life, major problems take form in how society functions.
Relationships with family members and friends are one of the most important things that helps a person mature. What a person experiences with these relationships helps them develop life skills, like public interaction, empathy, and respect. These are fundamental aspects of a person that allows them to be a functioning member in society. However, this new culture has changed how time is spent with others. The change in family dynamics are very obvious, parents and children who once valued conversation at the dinner table, are now starring at their tablet and phone screens. Playing games and catching up on emails, instead of interacting with each other. Not only are children who grew up in homes like this more likely miss out on developing life skills, they also tend to misbehave, because they are longing for attention from their phone obsessed parents.
Relationships with friends are also very different due to the advancement in technology. It is very common to see a group of friends sitting together at a coffee shop, but no one will be speaking, laughing, not even making eye contact, because they are scrolling through their Timelines. These friends would rather be in a virtual reality, instead of making lasting memories and life-changing experiences with the people around them. Romantic relationships are now very impersonal and dull, because of the popular online dating community. Being asked on a date in person is a thing of the past, and time together is underappreciated. A picture on Snapchat is now equivalent to eye contact, and meeting someone new in a shop is the same as a right swipe on Tinder. The electricity and excitement in friendships and relationships are gone, leaving the world dull and impersonal. The absence of human connection is becoming more and more common in today’s world and the consequences of how they are affecting the users are becoming very obvious.
The “always on” cultures not only affects the time spent with others but also the time spent alone. This new culture allows a user to never be alone, because of instant constant communication. Time alone, in thought, is not always a bad thing. It allows a person to develop their own independence and gives them time for thought. Without this time, users become reliant on social media and virtual friendships. This constant need for connection commonly leads to loneliness and in worse causes mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. The user’s needs cannot always be fulfilled with social media, real personal connections are necessary for a sustainable positive mental health. According to, “Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults,” the rising rates in depression and anxiety are directly correlated with the rising rates of phone usage of adolescents and young adults. The article even states that clinics should use phone limitations as a treatment for depression and anxiety for people ages 13 to 32.
The “always on” culture demonstrations impressionable young adults looking at social media daily, which exposes them to celebrities and other users who seem to have the “picture perfect” life. This image of a perfect body, lifestyle, and salary is constantly shoved in front of the public’s view. They are eventually programmed into thinking they need to meet up to these expectations, however, most of these expectations are very unrealistic in any normal person’s life and are impossible to obtain. Trying to meet these standards can lead to low self-esteem, bad habits, and ultimately goes back to mental illness.
The absence of human connection has changed how people view others and themselves. Online relationships, Facebook “friends,” and followers on Instagram have replaced human interaction, the time spent online correlates with mental illness because of the lack in real connects, and the pressure of meeting to social media’s standard for a perfect life creates self-worth problems for the younger generation. The excessive amount of social media usage is problematic to society’s mental health, morals, and relationships, and the consequences of these issues will continue to expand as technology evolves.
Hailey New is a student at Edison State Community College.