Thursday 23 November 2017

How social media is hitting mental health

People's attention is being absorbed by hand-held devices.
People's attention is being absorbed by hand-held devices.
Eoin Whelan

Picture this. A group of friends are out socialising together in a bar. The important issues of the day are being trashed out. What should happen to Luis Suarez? Where are the best clothes sales in town? But these discussions are not happening between the friends sitting inches away from each other. Instead, each person's attention is absorbed by whatever handheld device connects them to snapchat, Facebook, twitter and the like. The conversation is flowing, but just not in the real world.

You probably don't have to try too hard to picture this scene. It's a regular occurrence nowadays. Perhaps you have even participated in such a scenario. Sherry Turkle, a professor of social science at MIT, has coined the phrase 'alone-together' to perfectly describe this illusion of companionship permutated by advances in technology.

Just look around the next time you are on the LUAS or waiting in the doctor's surgery. What you will see is people engaging with a computer screen while ignoring the presence of those beside them. This is us being alone-together. But is there any harm in this behaviour? Well yes, there is. The consensus from emerging research is quite clear. Social media is having an adverse effect on our mental health.

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