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Is social media messing with your mind?

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By Warren Sink – Collegiate Staff

A woman posts a photo of herself tanning in a bikini on the beach in the Bahamas. She probably is not innately happier than anyone else. Yet, that does not stop her from making everybody think she is.

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When one of her female followers sees the post, she may feel a twinge of jealousy. This is one of many reactions, but it could lead to an irrational fear that her life is lesser than the bikini-clad woman or anger at the woman, especially if she is a friend. The situation may snowball until she decides to look away from the computer or phone and continue with her newly boring life. Nevertheless, she will return again and again to the social outlet. Her dependency on the social medium increases with every emotion wrought from it.

Since the rise of social media, there have been reports of psychological detriments stemming from its use.

Frank Conner, Grand Rapids Community College Psychology Professor, labels the comparison of lives through social media as “Facebook envy.”

“(Social media) is a form of self presentation where we make public the best parts of ourselves to communicate this to others,” Conner said.

According to an internet survey done by PewResearch, 89 percent of people aged 18 through 29 use social media and 67 percent have a social media app on their phones.

Because the college years are an extremely important time in the development of identity, social media props the issue up higher than ever before. Each status update and tweet by friends and followers is a bloated description of their lives. The pressure of maintaining or gaining a desired spot in the social hierarchy motivates some to inaccurately describe their lives.

“Human beings, particularly adolescents and young adults are deep into identity development, exploring who they want to be and who they are,” Conner said.

He explained that since their is no physical contact with social media, the proper “feedback” to a person on his or her actions and personality are “artificial as is your identity.”

Social media is an instrument of communication designed to create and exchange information through virtual internet communities. At the dawn of the internet, computer specialists and scientists (there is not much difference nowadays) were excited about the social capabilities of the worldwide web.

They cited the lack of vocal interaction and anonymous forums to exchange ideas and opinions as places of refuge for those suffering from social anxiety disorders. However, social media sites rely upon honest profiles that are non-fictional. A person goes on Facebook intending to see people he or she knows, not strangers. Even in the cloud, people cling to community.

In its defense, social media is a viable source for finding people with like characteristics. There are pages that one can like on Facebook, which then groups people by their preferred movies, artists and views. Except, most of the individuals engaged in social media are those that are already socially secure.

Social media is not intrinsically bad, but neither is it good.

“Sometimes, it’s difficult to label changes in the human environment as good or bad, it simply is,” Conner said.