Social networking sites are online platforms used to create public profiles to interact with individuals on the website. Social networking sites (SNS) can be used for different purposes such as business and personal pleasure. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all examples of popular social media platforms that are used daily by billions of people. For small business in particular it is an inexpensive platform for marketing to promote their company and its use. Just as well as being economical it is also global exposure due to social networking sites being more accessible around the world allowing a global response than a TV advertisement that is only available in local areas. Six Degrees was the first recognised social networking site in 1996 which was closely followed by blogs in 1999 which created social media sensation. Social networking sites is a new form of research for psychologists meaning they have knowledge and be open to this social networking culture. Research analysis has been carried out to investigate the relationships of activities present on SNS (Waheed H, Anjum M, Rehman M, Khawaja A, 2017). It was shown that activities carried out had close links to user behaviour or reflect personality characteristics.
As shown through annual statistics, although 33.3% of the Earth’s population used social networking sites, it is shown that as of 2017 women dominate the usage of social networking sites with an average age of 16-34 peaking at 18-24. Social networking sites have shown an evident impact within our society it has also have an impact on our biology focusing on the brain. Breaking down the statistics a majority of the major social networking sites such as Instagram are heavily used by the younger generation averaging of 16-25 it has shown effect on the brain development. A recent study was carried out at UCLA showing that social networking sites increase the chances of the individuals to being more influenced by others engaging in more risk taking behaviour (Dapretto,M 2014). 32 teenagers between the ages of 13-18 brains were scanned using an fMRI scan whilst they engaged in Instagram for around 12 minutes. The photos that were shown were neutral, risky and their own. When they participants saw their own pictures gain interest activity across wide variety regions of the brain was seen in the part of the Striatum called nucleus accumbens (the brain’s reward circuitry). Teenagers felt more influenced to like a picture when it had more likes and more interest was shown.
Addiction is a broad term used in our society. Addiction to drugs, addiction to gambling and now addiction to social networking sites. Psychologists define addiction as a condition where an individual consumes a substance or takes part in an activity that is pleasurable causing them to repeat their addiction which begins to interfere with daily living. Brain scans have shown that 5-10% of people are unable to sign out of their social networking and control their time spent on these websites. Due to social networking sites supplying immediate rewards with little effort the brain expresses neurological excitement and it begins to rewire itself making you desire the stimulations. A recent study used brains scans to investigate if there is correlation between social networking sites and addiction (Fuchun,L. 2011). The brain scans displayed white matter in areas that control emotion, attention, decision making etc. The images showed similarities to drug dependents linking social networking sites to addictions. MRI scans have showed reward centres in their brain are more active when talking about their own views in comparison to listening or reading others. Higher levels of Dopamine; a feel good chemical are found in individuals who use SNS more as well as lacking the skill to be a good multitasker because the brain reduces the filter out interference. Since technology and the high use of social networking use, a syndrome has been published first in the New Pittsburgh courier since 2013 known as ‘Phantom Vibration Syndrome’ which is where one believes there phone has vibrated when it didn’t. PVS still does not have a known cause but is thought to be caused by nerve damage or a mental health issue (Robert D Jones, 2003).
Social networking site users have been linked to certain mental health disorders throughout in countries such as Canada, US and the UK; these disorders are known as anxiety, depression and stress. However, it is argued that it can also have benefits as well as harm on mental health. Mental health has effects on social relationships. Social networking sites has 4 stress factors according to Bailey Parnell (2017). “Highlight reel” is the first factor where profiles on the networking sites only show the good parts of their business or lives causing others to feel envy and compare themselves to the profiles showing the highlights. Social currency “Economy of attention” can change a sense of identity as more and more people need approval from others as well as attention. The most common factor of the stressors was “FOMO” fear of missing out. This can cause social anxiety making it harder for these individuals to log off increasing the percentage of people who are addicted. Suffering from social anxiety changes the brain circuitry and wiring. Finally a negative part of social networking sites is the experience of online harassment. 40% of adults experience online harassment where as 73% of adults witness it. Online harassment has been targeted more towards female, a part of the LGBTQ community. It is directed towards peoples ethnicity, gender and physical appearance and is increasing on social networking sites due to the anonymity available. Online harassment can make the micro moments become macro moments linking to causes of depression which often leads to suicidal thoughts.
Relationships are a big part in a person’s life whether it is a friendship, family or partner. Studies show that partners tend to like each other more if they meet for the first time online rather than in person. Meeting online is more anonymous. Study shows that liking someone’s photo, status update or initiating a conversation in messages expressed romantic interest online (Van Ouytsel, J. 2016). 80% of communication online is self-involved in comparison to the 30-40% that is carried out in face to face conversation; this implies that being online makes a majority of individuals more comfortable making it easier to communicate with people. Since technology, social networking sites have also made it quicker and easier to be able to contact people such as family and friends, this could also have an increase on the levels of dopamine in our brains as well as protecting mental health as there is someone is available to talk to. This shows psychologists methods of communicating and the impact of being able to communicate with people.
Although social media is a new platform for investigation and experimentation, it allows psychologists to review people’s behaviour in different environments where they may be more comfortable and open allowing more data to be used. As psychologists focus on the human behaviour on people, social networking sites are used to be able to predict personality types by how the use the platforms. Social networking sites has proven to have positive and negative factors towards it; showing psychologists the impact it is having on our society evidence supporting that at least 5-10% of us get addicted to our profiles losing our ability to multi-task as well as those without the addiction. Overall, just on the research that has been collected, social networking sites have had a negative impact to humans increasing their chances of mental health disorders as well as gaining an addiction so they can feel good but a positive impact for psychology research because it is a source that shows us valuable information about the natures of users.