Unmasking of the Digital World: Analysis of Both Sides of the Coin

  • 07-Jul-2024 13:46

Unmasking of the Digital World:

Analysis of Both Sides of the Coin

Is social media truly a blessing or a curse? It is undeniable that social media has had a transformative impact on our lives. Its groundbreaking and endless possibilities have led us to a new realm, commonly called the digital world. We can keep in touch with our family, acquaintances, and online friends worldwide and shop all within those narrow frames of our gadgets. How fascinating. However, this situation resembles a double-edged sword to which people, as impressionable beings, are not immune.

People find it hard to resist the dopamine rush from simple activities such as browsing the internet. Let us dive deeper into the core of the issue that has been one of the most debatable topics in recent years.

Dopamine is a widely recognized neurotransmitter responsible for the positive feelings that occur as a reaction to pleasurable experiences, such as scrolling through Instagram. The brain's reward system is triggered, causing people to feel satisfaction, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment. As a result, individuals seek more of that sensation to fulfill their desires. While there is nothing inherently threatening about it, addiction is the ultimate "stage" of that path. Everything may go downhill when the brain craves excessive amounts of that neurotransmitter over time, causing dependency.

The area of the brain called the "mesolimbic dopamine pathway," also commonly known as the reward circuit of the brain, is the exact part that causes addiction. Addiction impacts humans in destructive ways. It harms cells, leading to memory issues, decision-making, and emotional control. It also might be the reason for one's anxiety or depression.

The relationship between social media and depression is widely recognized, extending beyond parental concerns. Several research studies demonstrate that young adults who spend the most time on social media have a 13% to 66% higher rate of depression. So, there is more to it than just a simple human interaction and a "digital bridge" among billions of people. However, what other potential reason for such a decrease in young adults and teenagers' quality of life would be?

Well, it is already no secret that this online "world" is not devoid of sacrifices of its "inhabitants." One might wonder about the sacrifices made by social media users. Yes, just like a fallen angel, social media has landed on the Earth with its flawed system, with cyberbullying being the primary cause of it.

Cyberbullying is a semi-world in the digital kingdom that consists of people releasing their aggression and pouring out their negativity on others by putting them down. It is a recipe for the distribution of mental problems and disruptions. It is, though, simply a projection of the oppressors’ insecurities and doubts, burdened upon the vulnerabilities of their targets. This circumstance is primarily due to the cyclical nature of emotional damage in human interactions-"hurt people hurt people."

What does 'hurt people hurt people' exactly mean? To elaborate on that quote, it is crucial to identify the underlying psychological factors contributing to the initiation of online offenses. There is a pattern where a sense of familiarity with certain behaviors lies. A person wounded emotionally is more likely to do the same to someone else later in their life. They would strive to be in control and gain the power to get out of the victim's stance. Therefore, the pain that the perpetrators of cyberbullying experience from the harm will be shared with others, whether in real life or the technological landscape, proving that cyberbullying is a form of transferring one's inner turmoil onto others.

According to recent studies and statistics, about 37% of the young aged between 12 and 17 have been cyberbullied. 30% of them have had it happen to them more than once. Approximately over 90% of teenagers in the U.S., for example, are online, and the vast majority get access to the internet on their mobile phones, making it the most common medium for cyberbullying. Around 23% of pupils said they had done something cruel to another person online. 27% stated that they have experienced the same from others. In general, girls are more likely than boys to be both offenders and victims of bullying online. More than 10% of teen girls have been the main target of at least four kinds of abusive online behaviors, compared with boys, who make up just 6%. Why is there such a difference?

Uusitalo-Malmivaara & Letho's (2016) study gives us an insight into this concept, stating that girls are more prone to sensitivity towards harsh comments because of their hidden and indirect nature, while boys might perceive such "insults'' thrown at them as banter and jokes (Lagerspetz et al., 1988 as in Uusitalo-Malmivaara & Lehto, 2016). Alternatively, it is the inaccessibility to physical bullying in an electronic context that is the reason for more girls being cyberbullied. (Tokunaga, 2010). In real life, girls might not be able to bully, but in an online environment, they find it easier to do so (Carvalho et al. de Matos, 2021). The subsequent explanation of the cause of that would be that girls find social networking sites, where cyberbullying often happens, more appealing and, therefore, are at a greater risk of being violently exposed to it (Smith et al., 2019). Thus, it is safe to assume that girls seek out online environments for social networking, while boys often play games online (Snell & Englander, 2010, as in Nixon, 2014). While there might be some differences between girls and boys in this regard, the outcome is usually the same.

In this case, what would be the solution to this adverse condition that teenagers have recently become victims of? First and foremost, the root of the complication lies in certain brain parts primarily concentrating on executing associated functions. The term "decision-making" is worth paying close attention to and elaborating on in this situation since the amount of time people choose to spend on social media, for example, is a sort of "option" and "commitment" that they either rational or irrationally make up their minds to do.

Decision-making is a cognitive process that results in selecting a method or a course of action from multiple alternative options to come up with the best conclusion. Although a handful of brain regions are involved in the procedure, the main focus in this piece is the predominant scope of the brain- the prefrontal cortex- that ought to shed some light upon. The prefrontal cortex is the brain area that plays a significant role in evaluating options. By examining and integrating information from the other brain regions, it has its fair share in implementing decisions.

Let us glimpse an adult's prefrontal cortex now: It is fully developed, making the judgment- even a complex one- easier and a free-of-impact task involving some long-term vision. Briefly, adults' maturity levels correlate exactly with that part due to their ability to regulate their emotions based on their values and goals.

In contrast, teenagers' PFC matures in their mid-20s. Due to this factor, they may struggle with impulse control and the capacity to prevent the intervention of their emotions with their judgment. Unlike adults, they are automatically prone to prioritize immediate awards over long-term consequences, which could lead to some unwanted outcomes. This is an apparent testament to why the young are at risk of getting on the wrong side of social platforms slightly more than a grown-up person: most of the time, they are slaves to their poor self-control and time management.

However, this is by no means to say that adolescents are utterly powerless in the face of difficulties. Despite the challenges of their PFC's ongoing growth, they can still develop strategies that would benefit them in the long run. For instance, behavioral and cognitive tools that include mindfulness, self-talk, and relaxation techniques are productive ways of boosting the state of one's mind and balancing daily life.

The first step, furthermore, is self-awareness and realization. When people are open to self-reflection, they are headed towards good results. Based on our earlier discussion, social media platforms provide positive and negative information. There is no absolute right or wrong, good or bad, and interactive internet-based platforms are no exception. They challenge people's mental strength and keep them on edge. Individuals always have multiple choices. They are free to use any item or source of information by following their best judgment.

In summary, it is safe to assume that there is no such thing as an invention with a "worst" purpose. There are only people with sinister intentions. If they choose to, they can commit any wrongdoing, even using the most innocent entity in the world. Therefore, social media is neither a blessing nor a curse. It is not on any spectrum; it is what you want it to be.

 

 

 


 

References

  1. "11 Facts About Cyberbullying." (n.d.). DoSomething.org. https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-cyber-bullying

  2. Inna A. (2022, March 8). "International Women’s Day – the Role of Gender in Cyberbullying Involvement". https://www.kidactions.eu/2022/03/08/international-womens-day/

  3. Selchan, K. (2023, March 23). Is Social Media a Leading Cause of Depression in Teenagers? [LinkedIn article]. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/social-media-leading-cause-depression-teenagers-kimberly-selchan/

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