The high cost of cheap entertainment
The invention of the Internet has revolutionised the way we see the world in the last three decades, allowing its users to connect and access information no matter the distance. That has helped make the world seem like a smaller place. The benefits that came with the invention of the Internet are countless, with every facet of our lives being affected by its introduction into society, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t clear and present disadvantages and dangers that come with exploiting the internet as a source of cheap and quick entertainment.
There is no doubt that smartphones provide immense benefit to society, but their cost is becoming more and more apparent. Recent studies are beginning to show links between smartphone usage and increased levels of social anxiety, depression, and poor sleep quality.
Getting sucked into social media right before bed will have a significant adverse effect on your sleep schedule, with the white light emitted from your phones game massively affecting your brains circadian rhythm, which in turn prevents your body from creating the necessary melatonin it needs to fall into a deep sleep. A study has found that the sleep deprivation caused by a disrupted circadian rhythm can lead to higher rates of depression, suicide, and obesity in adults, especially for those who are getting six or fewer hours of sleep a night.
For the first time in our species’ history, we are never allowed to be alone and certainly never allowed to be bored. Always having access to easily consumable entertainment has harmed our minds ability to focus, be patient and not need to be continuously stimulated all the time. Having constant access to apps like Instagram, Tik-Tok and YouTube, which offer to relieve any boredom or stress you might be experiencing at the time, can be a curse as well as a blessing.
There’s a sense of irony that comes with the creation and subsequent mass use of digital social services resulting in us feeling less socially connected than ever before; social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have allowed us to become better associated with people on the fringes of our lives, with it now becoming rather difficult to lose former friends and acquaintances. Still, as a result, social media use can hurt our ability to form new face-to-face relationships.
Another issue that arises from consuming so much social media throughout the day is your attention span becomes massively affected. With people’s ability to focus on one singular task being undermined by your brain’s dependence on the constant bursts of information provided by social media. Part of the power of social media sites like Instagram and Facebook is that they can quickly make you feel like you can’t live without the flow of unlimited data that you easily lived without before you discovered these sites, becoming a cure for an ailment you never had nor needed.
It’s perfectly understandable why some people become addicted to social media and their phones when you have constant access to a service that promises to entertain them 24/7, which can be challenging to turn down. It is simple to understand that excessive Internet use is a key symptom of internet addiction. Yet, no one seems able to quantify exactly how much screen time counts as extreme. While parenting guidelines now suggest no more than an hour of screen time per day for children under the age of 6, but there are no official recommendations for adults.
Furthermore, It seems impossible to give adults a solid time frame for screen time when we now require our laptops and smartphones for work and study. Even if you attempt to limit screen time from “non-essential use,” all social media use can feel essential for someone with Internet addiction. Worldwide, the prevalence of internet addiction has been estimated at 6%. That’s alarming, considering that only about 39% of the world population has internet access.
What occurs away from the screen isn’t the only place where the consequences of being addicted to social media can be seen; when we use free services like Tik-Tok and Instagram, we aren’t the consumers of the product; we’re the producers of something far more lucrative, our data. On the internet, everyone leaves a data trail behind. Personal information can include their name, birth date, geographic location, and personal preferences any time anyone creates a new social media account.
Companies will gather information on user habits, such as when, where, and how people communicate with their platform. Companies store and use all of this knowledge to tailor content to their customers yet will also regularly sell this information to third-party organisations without their users’ knowledge or consent.
I’m thankful that I can use these free social media sites to connect with my old friends and experience newer, virtual communities. But recently, I’ve become worried about the price of that always-on connection, and I’m beginning to wonder if the consequences are beginning to outweigh the benefits; what do you think?