Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Social media makes young people more lonely than the elderly

This comes as no surprise to me as I first blogged about this eight years ago – and a couple of times since.

The evidence is out there: social media is not good for your mental health. The survey linked the increase in loneliness directly to social media.

A new survey of 55, 000 people was conducted by BBC4’s All in the mind programme led by Professor of Psychology Pamela Qualter at the University of Manchester said “the response to the BBC Loneliness Experiment has been significant. People have provided valuable insights into when and how loneliness is experienced, how it relates to age, being alone, carrying responsibilities, employability and discrimination”.

40% (4 in 10) people aged between 16 and 24 sat they are often lonely compared with 30% over-65s. These are people with more so-called friends on Facebook – who they don’t know face-to-face -than they have in real life. They say that being told to get out more and date is the least helpful advice they receive because they can still feel lonely in company.

A similar exercise carried out earlier this year by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) also found loneliness is much more common among the young rather than the older generations.

The government actually appointed a minister for loneliness, Tracery Crouch. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi story.

There have been behavioural changes in the younger “sensible generation” less drinking and drug-taking, fewer pregnancies and this is probably because they are spending more times connected through phones and tablets and less time socialising (down 30 minutes a day since 2,000).

Professor Qualter also said “.. the stigma of loneliness… suggest we need to be kinder to ourselves when we feel disconnected from others“.

Just stay off social media and get a real life

Previous posts

Loneliness and health

Friends

Young people not communicating

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Women more likely to be addicted to their smartphones

Do you never leave a room without your phone in your hand? Do you check Facebook or other social media in your bedroom at night? Tell fibs about how long you spend on it?

If so you could be a victim of smartphone or internet addiction.

Women are more likely to have this problem and are far more reliant on their devices than men according to research by UK Addiction Treatment, the largest company of its kind in the UK.

It has recorded a 160% rise in women needing help for internet-based addiction in the past two years. Last year it treated almost a third of the it’s private and NHS patients for the problem and most were women who find themselves unable to stop using social media or playing games on their phones or computers.

They feel anxious, irritable or depressed when they can’t use the internet and put it before basic needs. Last year the company helped 475 women and 375 men, up from 180 women and 220 men in 2015.

They are not sure why there is a gender difference but it could be because women are more likely to be at home with children or unemployed.

Most patients were in their 30s or 40s, younger people understand the internet better, said Eytan Alexander the company’s founder. “It’s about escapism and we see female patients using drugs to enable them to stay up into the night to play games on their phones or stay on social media”.

The World Health Organisation recently declared that “gaming disorder” was a new mental health condition.

The government is also concerned about the effect of this  on children who see their parents, and particularly their mothers, as role models.

They are advising parents to leave their phones in the kitchen at night to set a good example to their children. They also advise that all computers should be turned off two hours before bedtime and no internet in the bedroom! And that applies to smart phones too which should be a no-no in kids’ bedrooms.

They want parents to be stricter to combat mobile phone addiction and show them how to use the internet safely. By 2020 young children from age 4 will be taught in schools about the perils of social media.

I’ve posted may times before about the dangers of social media and the way it effects your health and the clever ways designers use to get you addicted e.g. likes and streaks, just like a slot machine randomly reinforcing you behaviours.


Are millennials turning into snowflakes?

Everyone is aware of the snowflake generation by now, scared of their own shadows seeking safe places and avoiding anyone with a different opinion from theirs. Well that’s their loss of course and they will discover when they enter the world of work that you just can’t “no platform” someone you don’t like.

Now it seems the millennials – those born after 1980 –  are having problems too. Following the story that they are scared of handling raw chickens two new reports suggest that they are also scared of answering machines and sex!

Yes answerphone anxiety is the new affectation among these avocado loving hipsters. Some of them think that because they can be reached by multiple social media apps people don’t need to leave a voicemail.

It’s true that companies are tending to use voicemail and answerphones less these days in a move to improve productivity but some of us might actually prefer an answerphone to waiting in a customer queue.

But on a personal level the critics say it’s awkward to think of a suitable message when you receive one and it’s less convenient than an e-mail or text. Others claim having a voicemail helps them avoid real-time conversations that would cause them anxiety.

Perhaps if they spent more time having real face-to-face conversations and less time tweeting,  texting or communicating via apps they might develop sufficient social skills to help them deal with a phone conversation.

But at least one person said “I disagree because 99% of the time I don’t answer my phone. I say if it’s important enough they’ll leave a voicemail” You’ve got to wonder why they don’t answer their phone. Maybe they think they are too important to bother and it’s ok to inconvenience others. Narcissism is alive and well!

But not when it comes to having sex it seems. Millennials are putting off having sex longer than their parents did with over 10% of people still virgins at age 26.

Apparently fears surrounding intimacy and the pressures of social media are to blame. They are scared of being filmed without their consent for one thing.

A psychotherapist suggested that young people suffer from high levels of exposure to pornography and other sexualized content. “Millennials have been brought up in a future of hypersexuality which has bred a fear of intimacy. Young men fear being humiliated plus the fear of exposure in your Facebook group”

Facebook, that well-known respecter of privacy! There is a simple answer isn’t there. Don’t share on Facebook, don’t take intimate photographs to share, don’t go all over social media.

Get a real life!


Young people addicted to smartphones

An experiment to separate young people from their smartphones discovered that they suffer from anxiety, unhealthy eating and loneliness when they are not online.

Not only are they becoming part of Generation Mute (people who are obsessed with their phones but hardly ever use them to actually speak to people) they are becoming addicted to their mobile devices and appear to be suffereing from FOBO (fear of being off-line).

In the experiment the young people had to live with a basic phone and no internet access for a week.

They missed out on the news and celebrity gossip and were less punctual because they couldn’t access timetables on line. But they did spend more time reading (surprised they knew how to).

Some of the participants slept better. One was appalled at having to use a paper map to find a venue.

The Chief Executive at Innovationbubble which provided the psychologists to run the experiment said “We are psychologically overloaded with so many jobs … which means that mindlessly using our mobile can contribute to our fatigue levels and overall mental health

Ask yourself why are we overloaded. How did we manage before social media took over the world? Young people can’t think for themselves relying on their mobile devices and spending hours every day on them.

As I’ve posted before this affects their brains .

And as for being lonelier without their phones, the evidence is that using social media like Facebook can actually make you lonelier and depressed.


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Facebook’s “like” button is harming users

Who says so? Well the guy who created it ten years ago.

Justin Rosenstein has removed the app from his phone over fears of the psychological effects of social media.

He says “It is very common for humans to develop things with the best intentions and for them to have unintended negative consequences“. The thumbs-up symbol only brings “bright dings of pseudo pleasure“.

The like button was designed to increase your engagement with Facebook while analysing your preferences. Basically companies want your attention and your preferences so they can harvest more data about you to sell to advertisers.

You are making them mega-rich.

Other former employees of high-tech companies have warned about the dangerous effects of the “attention economy”.  Being distracted by technology seriously affects people’s ability to focus and also damages relationships.

See my earlier post on this here.


Netiquette for the digital generation (and parents)

It seems schools are now teaching children “netiquette”. A company called Digital Awareness UK is working with schools to raise awareness of what is considered rude behaviour around digital platform use.

Schools have a role to play to model good behaviour and teach children what is not socially appropriate“.

Sorry but isn’t that the parents’ job?

Anyway here are some of the rules:

  • Don’t text at mealtimes
  • Don’t check your phone during a meal
  • Don’t announce deaths on Facebook (only jihadists or murderers are “allowed” to do that)
  • Don’t dump your partner via WhatsApp
  • Don’t interrupt a face-to-face conversation because you’ve just had a message (how many children understand what a face-to-face conversation actually is?)

And back to parents; a third of children surveyed recently (by Digital Awareness UK) said that their parents were terrible role models – always checking their devices. Even when the children asked them to stop it made no difference.

These were kids from top private schools whose parents obviously had terribly important jobs. But I think it’s the same everywhere among parents of young children. You see them out for a family meals with the kids given tablets to play on while the parents have grown up talk.

And the survey revealed that parents have no idea what the kids get up to on online putting themselves at risk of sexting, grooming, addiction and sleep deprivation. Given that almost 10% of kids spend 10-15 hours a day online when not at school is it any wonder. And 10% of 11-18 year olds admit to checking their mobile phones at least 10 times a night.

Many children have said they would like firmer rules and for their parents to be better role models and half said they wouldn’t mind if their devices were taken off them for a weekend. Really?

I’ve posted before about how addictive social media can be and its detrimental effect on children.