Relying on visual reality

Teenagers dependence on social media is an addiction


Kierston Fisher

A student, after opening hours on their different devices everyday, finds themselves exhausted

Megan Percy, Discover editor

Every morning, an alarm trills from a small speaker, waking freshman Clara Kilen. She then opens it, checking the news, her social media, her games, even the weather- she doesn’t even have to get out of bed to get a jump start on the day. Her life is on a portable device she and millions of others carry around everyday. A life without that privilege, though barely conceivable 20 years ago, is unimaginable now.

“[I would be] not as connected. [It would be] much harder to make plans with people,” Kilen said. “I would have to be a lot more productive.”

The wellbeing of today’s youth is being threatened by overexposure to technology. In becoming so necessary in the lives of kids, it has grown to become the cause of many issues they face today, or are expected to experience tomorrow. One of which is the slow but sure loss of sight, according to Genetics teacher Mrs. Kellie Staback.

“[If] we’re staring at our phones for…a large amount of time, our photoreceptor cells in our eyes…start to become damaged and they can actually die off,” Staback said. “That blue light…your eye has no way to reflect it back so that’s what causes those cells to start to get destroyed in your eyes.”

In addition to eyesight, sleep is also detrimentally affected by the exposure to tech. The circadian rhythm is defined by as “…basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals”. It decides energy level, and can get thrown off by the light of devices used daily.

“When you’re looking at that white, especially before you go to bed in a dark room, it alters that pattern and sometimes you lose sleep because of that,” Staback said.

Just by being attached to the technology can affect people in more indirect ways. Posture and exercise may suffer, for instance. Increased time sitting and using devices can be detrimental to your back, and concentration on a screen can jar fitness from a progressive course.

“If you’re on your phone all the time or on other forms of technology, you’re probably not going to as physically active…which could lead to a plethora of different types of conditions,” Staback said. “Also, depending on how you’re sitting, if you’re using computers or things like that, you might be hunched over [which] can affect your spine.”

In addition to the unfortunate decline of physical health, excessive tech usage takes its toll on mental health as well. Loneliness, depression, and social anxiety are all things technology nurtures by sidelining face-to-face social interaction. Psychology teacher Mrs. Stacey Dennigmann sees the decline and sees the effect it has on students.

“The human to human interaction is suffering, it’s not there,” Dennigmann said. “A lot of times, people don’t know how to act in social situation, because they don’t have that face-to-face.”

The evidence shown does seem to dictate that it is quite negative for any user, and yet, overexposure to technology is still occurring. Today’s youth still indulges their addiction instead of attempting to recover from it. One thing that is aiding this habit, according to Dennigmann, is the constant need for it to be on one’s person.

“We rely on technology. Everything from sending messages, to communication, to homework,” Dennigmann said. “What makes it harder is your parents demanding that you have your phone.”

This is a very difficult habit to manage, and in some cases, can be defined as an addiction. The need is so great for adolescents that it could be called that more commonly than most think.

“Addiction is when you become dependent on something,” Dennigmann said. “Once you become dependent on something, when it’s not there, you go through withdrawal. So if I asked my students, ‘Can you go without your phone?’ [they ask], ‘Like when?’’For how long?’[Dennigmann] ‘The school day?’[students] ‘No.’ [Dennigmann] ‘For this class period?’ [students] ‘Yeah.’”

Part of this addiction is also the social media on which most high schoolers are active daily users of. The competition for likes or other forms of positive feedback for whatever piece of themselves people put onto Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. feeds the constant need for validation, and gives another level to the overall dependence on technology.

“You get more likes, and…people are constantly checking their phones, ‘Did I get a like?’”,Dennigmann said. “[Once you get] like 20 likes, it’s no longer good enough for your tolerance…you need to increase it.”

Over time, this generation has just grown to accept this as a part of their culture. It’s a key element of the changing times and a tool that has been utilised for good and evil for many years now. But not many stop to think about if it is doing more good or evil to those who have made it so ingrained in their lives. At this point in the grand amount people all over, especially teenagers, put into screens if it would ever be possible to reverse such dependency.

“You’ve been born with it. And it has made life so much easier for you,” Dennigmann said. “But at the same time, that ease becomes the burden…because we rely so much on technology that we [have] to deal with all the ramifications, all the hidden meanings of what it is to rely on technology.”