Addiction included in the adverse effects of social media

Story by Raegan Turner | Staff Writer, Video by Jenna Welch and Julia Lawrenz | Broadcast Reporters

Millennials, along with Generation Z and the current growing generation, sometimes classified as Generation Alpha, have been criticized for being addicted to their phones, and more specifically, to social media.

According to the findings of a study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health cited in the Washington Post, for a particular part of the population, the impact of social media in their lives is similar to the effects of misuse of drugs or alcohol.

“We found that for a small minority of individuals, social media had a significant detrimental effect on many aspects of life including relationships, work and academic achievement,” the article said. We argued that such signs are indicative of addiction similar to what people experience with alcohol or drugs,”

Though the effects of social media are not as drastic as the effects of drugs in the lives of the majority of the population, they are serious and frequent enough to inspire the development of apps such as Pocket Points and features like Apple’s new Screen Time function. Both programs are dedicated to curbing screen time for the younger generation.

Pocket Points rewards college students with discounts, coupons and gifts for not using their phones during set times of day, while Apple’s Screen Time generates reports about how phones are used daily and can limit the amount of cellular activity parents allow their kids to participate in.

San Antonio junior Lina Sanchez has been without her smartphone for a period of time after hers broke on vacation. She described how having to use a simple flip phone was eye-opening.

“I never realized how often I would check my phone or get on Twitter or Instagram throughout the day. I was super distracted by social media — it was like a crutch for whenever I was the tiniest bit bored,” Sanchez said. “Now I can’t access that during the day, and I feel like I have so much more time and it’s kind of weird. I’m still getting my phone fixed, but I’m going to miss this [flip phone].”

On campus, professors are noticing the effects constant interaction with social media and phone usage has on their students. As a result, many professors have instituted strict policies regarding technology use during class time.

Dr. Thomas Ward, assistant professor in Baylor’s philosophy department, is one professors who now has a ‘no screen’ rule in his courses. He requests that students refrain from using all technology in class unless given permission to look up information. Ward explains his reasoning with an anecdote about a distracted student in one of his previous classes.

“Using screens in front of people often alienates them, even if they aren’t personally offended by your behavior,” Ward said. “My no screen policy is primarily designed to foster a sense of community, of participating together in the project of education. Years ago, before my no screen policy, I had a colleague visit one of my classes. She observed a student on his laptop checking Facebook and ESPN and not even pretending to take notes. I haven’t allowed screens in class since.”

What was meant to be a tool for communication and connection has had a significant impact on multiple generations in a proven detrimental way.