Last Updated: August 8, 2020

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Many of us happily vilify traditional addictions associated with cigarette smoking and alcoholism and yet remain unruffled about the negative effects of social media addiction. The truth is, we talk, walk, eat, and sleep the ‘social media’ bug to the extent of missing out on the many useful dynamics of life. The need to feel updated, shared, liked, and even loved online turns us into an unusually interesting generation.

The most affected are the Z generation children born at the end of the 1990s through to the first decade of the 21st Century. The generation Alpha kids who are born after 2010 are cast right in the middle of the fracas as they enter the tween years. They will become consumed just as well.

Other equally interesting lots are Baby Boomer and Xer generations, who have not escaped the bug. The most vulnerable in these age groups joined the internet bandwagon a little late in life, and others seem to have all the time to themselves.


The Numbers…

kids love tech and exposed to the effects of social media addiction
Could it be true that we talk, walk, eat, and sleep the ‘social media’ craze to the extent of missing out on the true dynamics of life? A Pexels image

The addiction to social media (and its negative effects) is attributed to the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices and the low cost of internet data plans globally.

According to we are social the number of internet users worldwide surpassed the 4 billion mark in early 2018. The global population at the time was close to 8 billion. Of this figure, over 3 billion users (40%) installed one social media platform or another.

Social network sites and apps:

  • Facebook
  • Snapchat
  • WhatsApp
  • Instagram
  • Twitter

Social Video sites:

  • YouTube
  • DailyMotion
  • Vimeo
  • Facebook Video

Popular Social Media Apps for the youths:

  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp

The 7 Negative Effects of Social Media Addiction on Youth Today


1.  The Image Syndrome!

Statistics show that users who post cute and sexy selfies on Instagram, Snapchat or WhatsApp attract many shares and likes compared to those that use ordinary photos. Those that receive less feedback negatively compare themselves and wrongly imagine they are inadequate. It gets worse when online bullies brand their images ugly. This leads to low self-esteem and leading them to doubt their self-worth.

This can trigger a stream of other negative social patterns:

The victims spice up things by applying excessive make-up before photo shootouts or edit their photos excessively to create falsified facial and body appearance. Others charge up their profiles by supplanting images in cozy and foreign backgrounds to falsify their location. They use enhanced photographic impressions to appear exotic and rich and those blessed with dark skins, edit them to look lighter!

Worse still, others withdraw completely and become depressed.


2.  Social Displacement – Distorted Communication

Our interaction with family, friends, and the ‘unknown’ on social media means we spend lots of time liking, sharing, and chatting than we do, liking, sharing, and chatting in real life. Referred to as social displacement, the behavior explains the distorted sense of communication that grips most addicted users.

Social displacement theory basically states that the more time you spend in the world of social media, the less time you’re likely to spend socializing with people in the real world.

Medical News Today

We even choose to chat online with real friends sitting next to us.

The meaning of emojis, bubbles, and face swap tools become so meaningful than the ‘invisible’ yet present faces sited next to us.  In the end, we miss out on critical social skills that are attained through face-to-face interactions.

Ultimately, we barely recognize real friends and are excited about those we chat with online.


3.  Exposure to Adult Content

Gone are the days when parents exercised control over what children watched on TV and read in sleazy Playboy magazines. Much as parents spotted these in the boys’ bedrooms, a few times, they were immediately confiscated. Children only relished them extensively at later years when they were mature.

It is all different today.

The arrival of the internet and social media has ensured that explicit content is available for all to see. The internet is awash with free adult and other content and social media is the platform through which they are shared. The content range from inappropriate images, porn, sexting, and the use of bad language.

Growing children feel more comfortable weaving their way through this data alongside their peers. They are more willing to walk the interesting, yet risky path than their cautious parents, resulting in a sense of digital and cultural disconnect between the older and younger generations.


4.  Exposure to Violent Content

We all agree that social media and the internet is awash with really bad content. These include violent media forms in movies, games and live-streamed broadcasts.

For those that are religious, bad content is a direct contravention of the pillars of religious teachings. For example, Christianity stands by the 10 Commandments as practical guidelines to what is right or wrong. Without measured supervision (which is next to impossible today), bad content is now everywhere.

Children and teens who watch these become conflicted about what is right or wrong, and in the event of not being guided appropriately, are tempted to embrace violence and inappropriate behavior, right up to adulthood.


5.  Exposure to Digital Malpractices

While those who attended school in the 20th century know too well about face-to-face bullying, children attending school in the 21st Century have to contend with both offline and online bullying. Online bullying is known widely as cyberbullying or cyber harassment.  Bullies choose to harass select victims via electronic messages, pictures, videos, audio, email, and posts.

The perpetrators usually send the offending media directly to the victim or via public platforms. The communication is intended to embarrass or even threaten the victims.

Another common malpractice known as sexting takes place when offenders send sexually explicit images, audio-visual content, and texts to suspecting and unsuspecting victims.

Other malpractices users have to deal with are stalkers, imposters and radical extremists.


6.  Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is akin to digital peer pressure where a user feels incomplete when offline and is driven by an impulsion to always stay online. Because the pulses are running wild it feels relevant to communicate with friends 24/7, just to be normal.

This drives users into sharing more content than is usually necessary.

Uncontrolled posting of images and videos may also lead to unwanted embarrassing exposure, especially when users accidentally share private content in the heat of the moment.

Besides wanting to be online, there is also the urge to be part of offline social activities that are shared online. Participants in select groups or friend networks feel incomplete when missing out on promoted parties and other social interactions.

Whether they get to attend the parties or not, the images and video clips they watch are influential in their lives. Images and clips of online friends taking alcohol and smoking excite them. It is no accident that a good number take up these habits simply because they are well packaged on social media.


7.  Negative effects of Social Media Addiction on Health

Excessive use of smartphones is known to cause various health problems both directly and indirectly. For example, sitting becomes an issue if done for extended hours, in what is known as tech neck. Addicted users spend hours slumped in one position, and bending their necks over.

The habit also interferes with other aspects of life like eating. Users opt for quick fixes for food and become victims of obesity or other body malfunctions. Addicted users are also victims of sleepless nights which leaves them with sleep debt, and deprives them of sharpness at school, and at work.

Extensive use of social media also exposes users to cellphone radiation. This happens when smartphones are placed next to the body, in the lap, and next to the head for extended hours.

Other health complications:

  • thumb syndrome
  • privacy infringement
  • stress/depression
  • battered attention span