In recent months, I’ve done my best to adopt healthier social media habits: I limit use to an hour a day, I’ve unfollowed pages that make me feel insecure about myself, and I stay off of my phone just before going to bed or right upon waking up. Why? Because I want to combat the negative effects that come with social media use. Multiple studies have shown that excessive social media use can cause increased feelings of loneliness, diminish self-esteem, and lead to antisocial behavior. So, determined to take control of my life again, I’ve stopped scrolling endlessly through Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat feeds.
I’m certainly a happier and healthier me, since making these changes, that is without question—however, one of the so-called negative effects of social media use is in question. New research from McGill University objects the claim that social media use leads to antisocial behavior and says it might have the very adverse effect. This study “Hypernatural monitoring: a social rehearsal account of smartphone addiction” suggests that social media makes us hypersocial as opposed to antisocial.
As it turns out, we may have been looking at social media use the wrong way: those who appear addicted (or are actually addicted) to their iPhones and social media apps may not be antisocial after all. Instead, their obsession is rooted in the desire to watch others and be monitored in return, as explained by Professor Samuel Veissiere: a cognitive anthropologist who studies the evolution of today’s culture. According to Veissiere, we’ve evolved into a social species that demands and requires constant input from others.
Veissiere and his colleague Moriah Stendel—both researchers in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry—reached this conclusion after reviewing current research on the harmful use of modern day technology (e.g. iPhones) through an “evolutionary lens.” Doing so allowed them to discover a common theme: these users display and attempt to fulfill the human desire to connect with others.
The authors explain their findings in the paper’s abstract: “We present a deflationary account of smartphone addiction by situating this purportedly antisocial phenomenon within the fundamentally social dispositions of our species. While we agree with contemporary critics that the hyper-connectedness and unpredictable rewards of mobile technology can modulate negative affect, we propose to place the locus of addiction on an evolutionarily older mechanism: the human need to monitor and be monitored by others.”
While it may appear as if we’re trading one negative in for another, Veissiere explains that this is meant to serve as some good news: “There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic. We’re trying to offer some good news and show that it is our desire for human interaction that is addictive and there are fairly simple solutions to deal with this.”
Veissiere said in a recent interview that “we need to start having a conversation about the appropriate way to use smartphones.” He recommends adopting healthier social media habits, such as turning off push notifications and scheduling time to check your phone. Again, I can tell you from personal experience that adopting like habits will positively affect your wellbeing and mental health.
McGill University (2018, February 7). We’re Not Addicted to Smartphones, We’re Addicted to Social Interaction. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved February 7, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/social-interaction-addiction-8445/
Veissiere, S. P., & Stendel, M. (2018, January 29). Hypernatural monitoring: a social rehearsal account of smartphone addiction. Frontiers in Psychology. Retrieved February 8, 2018 from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00141/abstract