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The use of social media has spiked recently. This is apparently true not just throughout the decade but also over the years that the COVID-19 pandemic passed. Along with this spike in usage rates, problems came in the form of information overload. Scientists coined the term “social media overload” to refer to the effects of this information into a general sense of stimulus overload. As more and more individuals turn to social media, researchers have focused on correlating factors that arise from it. Several studies have tried to link social media use with stress, anxiety, and loneliness. In this article, we will explore these relationships and their possible impact on parenting and the children’s behavior.
Social Media Overload
Social media has been a part of our lives that has given us ease of access to communication. It connected us further to a lot of people. However, it may come with some consequences. The existence of social media overload implies that there is a struggle to cope with the overload of communication and information brought about by social media. Researchers believe that there are three stressors of social media overload. These stressors are:
- Information Overload: the consumption or exposition of an individual to excessive information that one cannot process within their capacity.
- Communication Overload: an inability of an individual to keep up with the communication demands usually caused by the advancement of technology.
- Social Overload: the circumstance in which the demands of one’s online social support circle overwhelm the individual.
There are several studies accounting for the effects of social media overload. A study from the Computers in Human Behavior journal examined the different mobile applications that can affect information overload. The research also notes that information overload can be connected to depressive symptoms.
This effect from information overload can even be more detrimental to students. In a research conducted by the Asian Journal of Communication, information overload significantly affected university students’ exhaustion and stress. Aside from social media, the use of technology has also affected students.
Social Media And Coping With Psychological Stress
The specific results previously mentioned can give us an argument on whether social media also has a relationship with psychological stress in general. With the growing concern for mental well-being and our awareness of the condition, this correlation between social media and stress becomes significant. In fact, this is an international concern given these recent events.
During the Thirteenth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, researchers presented a paper that uses a language-based model to predict stress. They studied some of the most popular social media websites, which include Facebook and Twitter. They found that people who have high perceived stress post more about exhaustion and loss of self-control, whereas those with low perceived stress post about breakfast, travel, and family. In a way, social media becomes an outlet for people who are stressed. Because of this, the researchers recommend using social media platforms as a tool for monitoring those who show signs of high stress levels.
From all the studies discussed above, we can say that individuals who experience social media overload are likely to experience stress and exhaustion because of the stressors that come along with it. This is especially true with information overload. This overload can lead to some people completely discontinuing the use of social media. This brings us to a question. Can abstinence from social media provide us with a breathing space?
How Does Social Media Abstinence Fare?
Evident from this discussion, we can perceive social media as something that brings deleterious consequences to those who use it. Does this mean that moving away from it and neglecting to use social media would give us beneficial outcomes?
Studies have shown that there are several factors why people choose to abstain from the use of social media. These reasons can be as follows:
- Concerns regarding their online privacy
- A potential for misuse of the personal information they put out
- A potential for addiction and the possibility that they are not aware of it
- Adverse impact on their productivity
- Ideological reservations against social media platforms
- Preference for face-to-face communication over online communication
While all the concerns mentioned are valid, abstinence from social media does not necessarily absolve these worries. In a randomized study published by the Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, a doctor assessed 68 participants on their social media use and well-being. Results showed that while excessive use of social media is detrimental, abstinence from it does not cause positive outcomes. Specifically, those who abstained from social media showed a decline in life satisfaction and an increase in loneliness.
The Role of Parents In This Social Media Overload
So far, it appears that studies show a chain of reaction from social media use leading to information overload, and then ultimately affecting a person’s psychological well-being. However, stopping the use of social media does not disrupt this chain. Abstinence may even lead to negative effects. If we meet in the middle, moderation will be our next option.
Speaking of moderation, a cohort study from eClinicalMedicine observed and interviewed 10,904 children aged 14 years old. The study showed that boys who use social media from 0-3 hours have virtually the same depressive symptoms. However, those boys who use social media for 3-5 hours and those who use it for more than 5 hours are 21% and 35% more likely to have the symptoms, respectively. For girls, those who use social media lower than an hour have a lesser tendency for depressive symptoms. Nevertheless, these girls still have an increase in the likelihood of the symptoms for more hours of usage.
From the results of this study, we can say that our role as parents is to present an idea of moderation to our children. Here are some parenting tips we can use based on our whole discussion:
- Monitor and limit the duration of the child’s use of gadgets or social media.
- Keep your child active and busy. Children often use gadgets and social media out of boredom.
- Online conversations are fine, but make time for your children to converse with their peers face-to-face.
- Teach your children about personal information and online privacy.
Parents should be especially active in monitoring their children’s psychological state and social media use. We should introduce moderation in social media to our children as early as possible. It can help disrupt the chain of social media, information overload, and psychological stress.