Social Media: A Threat to Mental Health or an Opportunity to Communicate?

Social Media: A Threat to Mental Health or an Opportunity to Communicate?

Elham Mohammadi (University of Zanjan, Iran) and Azam Masoumi (University of Zanjan, Iran)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4168-4.ch003

Abstract

This chapter examines the path of human interaction by using modern technologies. There are two sides: those in favor of using modern technologies and those who argue that modern technologies have unwanted, detrimental effects on people's lives and health. This chapter explores virtual communication's properties. It focuses on the impact that using social media instead of face-to-face interaction has on the users' health, specifically mental health. In this viewpoint, social media is not an alternative to face-to-face interaction but a complementary device that reminds us the vitality of interaction even with those who are physically unavailable to us.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Technology marches on. As it progresses, it changes all aspects of human life, from individual thoughts, beliefs, and even personalities, to relationships in society as a whole. Progress is inevitable since movement and change bestow meaning to life. Question is “Where does technology lead us?”

Religion and science present different outlooks on using new technologies. John William Draper (1875) traces the age-old conflict between religion and science back to more than two thousand years by suggesting that “an antagonism between religion and science had existed from the earliest days of Christianity.” On one hand, some religious beliefs regard new technologies as the sign of apocalypse, as Satan’s favored devices, which are used for evil purposes to corrupt human soul. On the other hand, scientific perspective considers them efflorescence of humanity for experiencing more comfortable life, providing equality and fairness by making new technologies available to all social classes, spreading and improving social and cultural knowledge which can lead to the higher level of human right and democracy status, and serving creative and spiritual growth.

The other concern over the consequences of widespread technologies is ethical. Habermas (2003) presents serious debates about genetic engineering in his book “The Future of Human Nature.” He discusses the controversial essence of human engineering and says:

Eugenic programing of desirable traits and dispositions, however, gives rise to moral misgivings as soon as it commits the person concerned to a specific life-project or, in any case, puts specific restrictions on his freedom to choose a life of his own.

Some countries are home to conservative cultures, which desperately try to prevent people from using social media, mainly because closed communities are not in favor of adapting new thoughts and attitudes from other cultures. Instead of global social networks, some countries, particularly communist ones, have developed exclusive and internal social media services with closely monitored systems. Still, many government and public services are supplied though social media. Given this, governments are not able to completely restrict the use of social media; they themselves try to use it in order to monitor their effects on their people.

Nowadays, social media make the world truly a global village. Most people who have access to the Internet find it compelling to use social media in order to satisfy a wide range of needs, from contacting their families to submitting their work and reading or watching the daily news. According to www.internetworldstats.com, on 31 Dec 2016 the number of people who have access to the Internet is 3,696,238,430. In other words, almost half of the world’s population uses the Internet, which is an indication of the widespread use of social media. Using social media and exploring its relationship with different aspects of people's lives has been the target of many studies. In this chapter, the authors will try to focus on the relationship between using social media instead of face-to-face interaction and mental health.

Top

Background

Virtual communication has its advocates and opponents just like any other hi-tech endeavor. Some people are against the use of social media and believe that they overload users with unimportant information and waste their time. Qualman (2009) claims that such people have not understood what social media is about, and social media users do not concern themselves with these trivial objections. Users, in fact, customize the settings of their devices to be notified of new messages. They can also turn off notifications and avoid the addictive behavior of responding to all messages instantly. Qualman maintains that it is a fundamental misunderstanding if somebody thinks that staying connected with others in social media via casual observation is a waste of time. He says, “Wasting time on Facebook and social media actually makes you more productive.” He uses the example of checking on updates from social media while standing in a checkout lane in a supermarket instead of being impatient and anxious. Obviously, Qualman is a sincere advocate of social media, and many scholars, such as Dan Heath (New York Times Best Selling Author of Made), Dr. Stuart Levy (Professor, George Washington University), Jane Wooldridge (Award-winning journalist, The Miami Herald), and many others have praised his attitudes about social media.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset