A new study presents some interesting theories on how the world's most popular social network is affecting our youth - both for the better and for the worse. But do the beneficial and detrimental findings actually contradict each other?
The new information comes from research presented at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Larry Rosen, PhD, discussed how he feels Facebook and other social media are influencing teens' behavior and affecting their psychological makeup.
The presentation, entitled "Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids provided these troublesome effects of Facebook use -
- Teens who use Facebook more often show more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies.
- Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems.
- Facebook can be distracting and can negatively impact learning. Studies found that middle school, high school and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades.
That paints a pretty bleak picture of social media in this age of technology, indeed. Of course, I could argue that simply living in modern society makes our children more susceptible to psychological disorder - or that the culture of over-diagnosis has something to do with all of that. But that's another article altogether.
Dr. Rosen did outline some positive affects of social media use -
- Young adults who spend more time on Facebook are better at showing "virtual empathy" to their online friends.
- Online social networking can help introverted adolescents learn how to socialize behind the safety of various screens, ranging from a two-inch smartphone to a 17-inch laptop.
- Social networking can provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.
If you read through both the scary social media effects and the positive social media effects, it might become evident that there is some contradiction. Facebook use causes teens to develop narcissistic tendencies and possibly anti-social behaviors, but it also teaches them "virtual empathy" and allows "introverted" teens the ability to connect to other people? Social networking is a great teaching tool but kids who check Facebook when they are trying to study get crappy grades?
Do these inherent contradictions tell us something about Facebook? Or kids in general? Can the same tool affect people in incredibly different ways? It looks like some kids are using Facebook to better connect to the global community while others are becoming depressed or anxious from it.
Is Facebook really causing this? Is it the reason the teens are psychologically unstable? Possibly. But evidence like this might suggest that social media is simply a mirror that reflects our already-present tendencies. Sure, Facebook can facilitate and even exacerbate narcissistic tendencies, but is it truly to blame?
Another day, another study about how Facebook is changing everyone. The fact that Facebook can both "help and harm" children puts it in the same category as a lot of things that they interact with everyday. It just seems like the negatives of Facebook and other social media get a lot more attention than the positives these days.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.