INSTALIFE In ‘Vogue: My Anxious Life’, model Vogue Williams, who has over 186,000 followers on Instagram alone, looked at the role that social media plays in causing anxiety in her generation. She is pictured here with a group of Irish social-media ‘influencers’. From left: Vogue Williams, Grace Mongey, Rosie Connolly, James Kavanagh and Paddy Smyth.
“You’re always on your phone.”
“Put down the phone when I’m talking to you.”
“Who could you possibly be messaging at all hours of the night?”
“I’m worried about you … you seem to never come off that phone.”
Up and down the country, teenagers are hearing these types of comments and questions from their parents. Parents worry that their children spend too much time looking at their smartphone screens. They worry that they are becoming addicted to social-media apps.
Teenagers think that their parents just don’t get it.
In each generation, new technologies and fads emerge that are approached with a certain level of caution and worry, especially from the older generations who didn’t grow up with them. Nowadays, people are quick to judge smartphones and their ‘excessive’ use as bad. Parents are worried that phones, and social media in particular, are having a negative impact on their children and on their mental health.
Are they right to be worried? Is the hype true? Can social media be problematic, and even addictive?
In her 2017 programme for RTÉ, ‘Vogue: My Anxious Life’, Vogue Williams was shocked to discover that she spent on average four hours a day on her phone, picked it up every 30 to 40 minutes and checked its screen about 80 times a day. On one day she spent up to seven hours on her phone. She also checks her phone during the night and admitted that she mainly uses her phone for social media.
These numbers may seem shocking to some, but the reality is that if we were to count every time we pick up our phone to check Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or another social-media platform in a day, it might add up to more time than we’d care to admit.
There is a growing body of research that is examining whether excessive use of social media could be pathological and whether it needs to be classified as a mental-health disorder. Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University is doing a lot of research in this area and has found that technological addictions like social-media addiction come with behavioural patterns that are usually associated with addiction to smoking or alcoholism. These include mood changes, social withdrawal, conflict and relapse.
One of the main factors of any addiction is that use interferes so much with daily life that the person can’t function normally. Social media has the power to enhance lives for the better, aiding relationships and building up a positive sense of well-being. However, if you notice it taking away from things you would have normally enjoyed, affecting your sleep and/or impacting on your self-esteem negatively, it may be becoming a problem.
It is time to take action: either reduce the time spent online yourself or get help if you are struggling to do it alone. Complete separation from social media is very difficult in this day and age, but like everything it is important to find balance and not have social-media consume your life.
Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she
can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at firstname.lastname@example.org or 085 1372528.