Social Media Addiction is an Indicator of Technology Dependence and a Changing Society

Maria Louiza Dimtsoudi

Social Media has quickly been integrated into our lives. In about 15 years, social media use has surged in most countries as tools for our social lives and interpersonal relations.

“Black Mirror’s” episode “Nosedive” depicts a near futuristic society dependent on technology, eerily reminiscent of our world today. So great is the importance we place on these platforms, a significant number of people are addicted to social media.

In “Nosedive,” a rating out of 5 stars determines a person’s standing in society and opportunities in life. That rating is dependent on how likable and sociable an individual appears to those they interact with. Lacie, the main character, rates people around her, and they instantly rate her back. The number of rating stars seem to influence her mood and behavior.

Like Lacie, many people today consider social media a validation platform. The number of likes and comments from a post can directly impact feelings of self-worth. Users report feelings of accomplishment stemming from their interactions with followers.

Those feelings of reaching a goal are tightly tied to social media addiction. The more positive interactions with followers they have, the longer they tend to use the platforms. In turn, the longer they use the platforms, the further away they drift from actual human interactions.

In a study published by Turel, Ofir, and Daniel R. Cavagnaro titled Effect Of Abstinence From Social Media On Time Perception: Differences Between Low- And At-Risk For Social Media “Addiction” Groups in Psychiatric Quarterly, regarding the effects of social media abstinence, they found the perception of time was distorted for social media users. However, the severity of that distortion was dependent upon how high the danger of addictions to these platforms was for each individual.

The relationship between the level of addiction and distortion was analogous. Low-risk users had a significant downward distortion trend while high-risk users had an upward distortion trend. After one week of abstinence, both groups showed an upward distortion trend. However, that of the high-risk users was much greater.

Studies like this can be used to help treat social media addiction by informing experts about how biased self-reports of social media usage can be depending on the level of risk a person is in.

Social media users with a great number of followers, better known as “influencers,” can also impact social media addiction. Just as Lacie wanted to attract the attention of those with ratings of more than 4.5, many people admire individuals with a large virtual following.

This can happen in a positive way, as a form of providing inspiration for the user. For example, if a user is interested in practicing a certain type of exercise, an “influencer” could become a guide for them and help them pursue the new activity by inspiring them and offering tips.

The problem arises when inspiration becomes an obsession and social media influencers are idolized. That is because sometimes in the pursuit of following influencers, they project unrealistic standards and ways of living.

As a reaction to that, many people prioritize keeping up with influencers and spend time researching how to mimic their lifestyle. That happens, of course, without them realizing how that same lifestyle is sometimes unattainable and how much of their time they are giving away.

In the episode, we notice Lacie scrolling through the rating platform viewing posts endlessly. Another factor that makes social media so hard to resist is new information. It is easy to lose track of time when scrolling through platforms like Instagram and Facebook and quickly processing each post, one after the other.

According to a Washington Post article titled A Lawmaker Wants To End ‘Social Media Addiction’ By Killing Features That Enable Mindless Scrolling, Katie Mettler writes that to combat social media addiction, a young senator named Josh Hawley has proposed outlawing social media techniques that lead users to become “mindlessly sucked into the void” of social media, such as infinite scrolling. This could be a step towards proper usage of these platforms and the reduction of time spent unproductively.

On a greater scale, although the situation presented in “Nosedive” is far from ours, the similarities they both share are frightening. Social media is a great indicator of our dependence on technology and changing societal structures. Nevertheless, these platforms are not going away anytime soon, and, therefore, it is vital to refrain from misusing them in order to avoid situations, such as the one presented in Nosedive.

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