Social Media and its Role in Our Need for Immediacy

Human beings on a typical basis have the ability to send and receive text messages, instantly receive and respond to emails, check their Facebook pages for interesting—hold on a minute, I just received a text message. That’s absolutely hilarious! I’m sorry, what was I saying? Oh, I remember— information regarding their friends’ lives through pictures and status updates. Without being completely cognizant of our dependency on these social “resources”, we begin to crave that instant gratification of novelty, but to our own detriment. With that incessant need comes a decline in our ability to pay attention and an inability to be present in face-to-face interactions.

It seems that even if you wanted to give your mind a mental vacation from its captivity in an online social environment, you cannot escape it (or worse, even if you did escape it, you would be out of the loop!).

And while sure, communication is a progressive and versatile tool in the modern world both for staying in touch with each other and remaining updated on a regular basis, how much communication can our brains withstand until faced with an overload?

Reflect on how excited you may feel when your phone buzzes with a new text message, or when you receive a Facebook notification. Remember that while this excitement is temporarily stimulating to your brain, it is actually damaging the way the brain functions in the long run.

Research suggests, in fact, that social media is rewiring the brain. According to an article on PRdaily.com written by Michael Sebastian, there are five prime examples of how social media is influencing the way our brains function:

  1. First, “we’re becoming dumber”
  2. Second, we “get bored more easily”
  3. Third, “we cannot focus or handle stress”
  4. Fourth, we are becoming less easily satisfied
  5. Lastly, we are “becoming more partisan”

These aforementioned negative effects on our brains are a direct result of constant exposure to social media, and are severely contributing to an almost urgent need for immediacy in modern culture.

Additionally, research suggests that the pleasure center in the brain is stimulated when one engages in self-disclosure, or, in simpler terms, the act of talking about oneself.

In an article entitled, “The Dopamine High: From Social Networking to Survival” by Victoria Saadat of the University of Southern California, she explains that a study conducted by researchers at Harvard University tested the theory that “people more highly value their own experiences over those of others, and that self-disclosure, or the act of talking about oneself, positively triggers dopamine reward pathways”. The findings depict that “the human tendency to share information about personal experiences with others is intimately connected with the positive reward triggers in the dopamine reward pathway”.

It seems as though the existence of social media for personal (as opposed to professional) use exemplifies this need to broadcast one’s everyday experiences.

While we are working towards understanding the negative effects of constant exposure to social media outlets, it may conflict with our desire to become involved with a career in the field of public relations. In the PR world, Twitter—that is, tweeting from a professional standpoint—is virtually necessary to remain updated on what’s happening in the field of public relations, what major companies are searching for in their employees, advice from professionals, and chances to network.

In this case, it is not necessary to completely distance oneself from social media outlets such as Twitter, nor is it necessary to be connected twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. Instead, it is important to find a balance between the two by checking updates periodically (especially if recommended or required by your employer).

Luckily, there are tips regarding how to lessen the extent to which we are addicted to social media, as suggested by Tony Dokoupil.

Ultimately, the inability to detach mentally, physically, and emotionally from our technological devices and social networks is a phenomenon, I’d venture to say, that we are all guilty of participating in. This is to suggest that we do not pay attention to or appreciate our surroundings, face-to-face conversations, and our relationships. It is because we are so engrossed in our virtual worlds that we have trouble being present in reality.

It is especially important, then, to consciously focus on our surroundings (our breathtaking college campus, for instance), our relationships with friends and family, and an effort to detach ourselves from the oppressive link to the virtual world of social media to which we are so firmly attached. If it means going for a walk or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend sans cell phone, then so be it. While you’re at it, try to slowly but surely wean yourself off Facebook by replacing that urge to check the most current status updates with a desire to engage in another hobby.

While social media will undoubtedly be an integral part of the way we communicate, interact with one another, and get our jobs done efficiently in the workplace, we cannot forget what lies at the core of our human roots: being present in our surroundings and maximizing on our personal (face-to-face, of course) relationships with others.

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Sara is a sophomore, double majoring in communications and English (concentrating in professional writing). She writes for the UD Review, is a social media ambassador for UD’s Facebook and Twitter pages, is a member of BHLP, works on the Exec Board for the Christiana Residency Advisory Board for the Towers, is a sister of Alpha Delta Pi, and is the operations director for PRSSA-UD this year. In addition, Sara established a branch of an online magazine for college women here at the university, “hercampus.com/udel“. She loves the University of Delaware and has found her home here! 

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