Abby Dallet: Social Technology Increases Anxiety and Addiction

Social technology addiction and the anxiety that goes with it are making young people crazy. We are becoming more obsessed with what people think of us online and it’s harming us in the long run. Social media is very entertaining, however, it is ruining the lives of many young adults and is making us obsessive. Our anxiety is higher than ever before and smartphones is just making it worse. Friendships can be ruined over one person interpreting a text message differently than the person who sent it. We are in a vicious cycle that can’t be stopped.

Social technology can be addicting. Maeve Duggan, a research associate, and Joanna Brenner, web coordinator at Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, found that “nearly 60% of Americans own a smartphone.” As the number of smartphones increases,, the number of social media apps that people use has also increased. Today, approximately 400 million people use instagram, 320 million use Twitter, and 200 million people use Snapchat. More of us are using these apps as we speak, increasing our obsession over our smartphones.

It’s very hard for people to avoid checking their phones subconsciously; I, as an 18 year old, experience this on a daily basis. I constantly check my phone even when I don’t have a text message or any reason to check it. Antti Oulasvirta, Tye Rattenbury, Lingyi Ma, and Eeva Raita, conducted a longitudinal study published in the Journal of Computers and Human Behavior that would track the cellphone uses of 136 people and “found that their subjects check their phones 34 times a day not necessarily because they really need to check that many times, but because it has simply became a habit.” This occurs more in teenagers, ages 18-29, than in older adults because we grew up with technology in our lives. Our parents didn’t have smartphones or any type of social media growing up so they are considered less addicted to smartphones. However, today young children at the age of two are getting iPads and Ipods for their birthdays. They are being exposed to social media at a young age, which can lead to years of addiction. Nowadays, we see families at restaurants and there is barely any interaction: kids playing on their iPads and parents checking the latest news on Facebook. For example, I have two cousins ages seven and ten and they are severely addicted to their iPads. My seven year old cousin, Piper, received an iPod at the age of two and has been getting the newest technology ever since she was four. My ten year old male cousin, Quinn, is extremely addicted to his iPad and can’t go a minute without playing Angry Birds or Minecraft. He barely interacts with people and is essentially glued to his device. If kids are addicted now, they are going to be addicted for the rest of their lives.

As we are constantly on our phones, our anxiety increases. One way that smartphones can cause anxiety is through text messaging. When people send a text message, they wait for a response, counting the minutes until that person responds. If the response is not immediate, they overanalyze the situation and start to think that their friend hates them or is mad at them. Many people start to get anxious when their friends don’t respond right away and jump to conclusions. Kelly Wallace, digital correspondent and editor-at-large for CNN, interviewed young girls, such as an 11th grader named Reese, on the topic of anxiety and social media and found that not getting an automatic reply increases anxiety and forces people to think the worst of their friends.

Additionally, the “likes” system can increase anxiety. For example, when all of your friends get 100 or more likes and you don’t, you start to feel anxious and think that people must like your friends better than you. When doing her research, Wallace also found that “the more likes, the greater the social standing you appear to have.” Those people with the most likes are seen as more popular and everyone wants to be like them. However, those who don’t get 100 likes feel as though they are left out and aren’t as popular. This can lead to a type of anxiety called FOMO. FOMO as defined by Nancy A Cheever, Larry D Rosen, L Mark Carrier, and Amber Chavez, is the fear of missing out. An example of this would be you are sitting at home watching tv, scrolling through social media accounts and you see your friends are hanging out without you. You then feel this sense of sadness since you weren’t invited to hangout with your friends. This can lead to constantly checking social media, obsessing over the situation.

What can we do to reduce our anxiety and addiction? One way is by setting our phones down when meeting with friends or family or even leaving our phones at home or in another room so that we don’t have the tendency to keep checking them. Another way is that we can delete social media apps that could make us feel bad about ourselves such as Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter. Deleting apps will decrease our anxiety, especially since we are obsessed with getting the most likes. Instead of sitting our phones when we are bored, we should find another activity to keep ourselves occupied such as reading or even watching a tv show. There are ways to decrease this anxiety, people just need to take action.