COLUMN: The ant-social side effects of social media

Has anyone else noticed that their phone is judging them?

As scientists work to develop artificial intelligence, and inanimate objects are taught to reason and learn like people, I suppose it makes sense that among the first human traits computers would pick up is to become judgmental know-it-alls.

A few weeks ago, my smartphone, for reasons I can’t explain, added a helpful new feature that pops up, unbidden, on my screen each Sunday and reports just how many hours I’ve spent each day staring at its tiny screen and how that number compares to the previous week.

It’s not overtly stated, but the implication is there – up is bad; down is good. And it’s not good.

My number has been climbing steadily, and the reason is no mystery. Lately, I’ve been getting sucked down the Facebook rabbit hole of animal rescue videos. I’ve been enraptured as an abandoned kitten is scooped up and taken on a bicycle tour of Europe; I’ve watched anxiously as ducklings are pulled, one by one, from a storm drain, their fretful mother pacing nearby; and the dogs – oh, man, don’t even get me started on the dogs.

The point is, Facebook has been programmed to figure out what types of content we like and then force feed us a steady diet of it, so we don’t have time to look up and realize three hours have passed.

So it was interesting timing that my phone’s unsolicited feedback began as researchers reported findings of a study that tracks a link between time spent on social media, or watching TV, and depression.

This particular study, which focused on young people between Grades 7 and 11, found that the online portrayal of “idealized” images of adolescence hurts teens’ self esteem. The more they watched, the worse they felt.

I would suggest that’s probably true no matter a person’s age.

Why, for example, am I not out rescuing animals if it’s so doggone important to me? I mean, adopting a shelter cat is fine, but it’s nowhere near as life-affirming as pulling a helpless sloth out of a river and returning him to his forest home.

Truthfully, most of us, regardless of age, only post about the best and most exciting parts of our lives – how #blessed we feel about whatever it is we’re trying to showcase to the world. And we know it.

But as a young person, perhaps it’s harder to differentiate the carefully curated image from harsh reality – to understand that it’s a rare teenager who will Instagram their latest zit.

I would go a step further, though, and suggest that another part of the problem is that while we’re staring at our screens, we’re not interacting directly with one another and that is something we are hard-wired to do. We’re social beings, so it’s a little ironic that social media actually pulls us away from one another.

A recent letter writer to PAN urged parents to look up from their phones and engage more in their children’s lives.

Their actions send kids a clear message, he noted. To expand on his point, it’s part of a parent’s job to set both an example and limits, to help their kids find life-screen balance and better mental health.

As for those of us in charge of monitoring our own screen time – I suppose that’s more of a judgment call.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Inclusive, affordable’ South Surrey project aims to meet ‘desperate’ housing need

Public consultation on 91-unit ‘Harmony’ to launch online next month

‘Not a joke’: Promoter wants to rocket-launch man the length of White Rock pier

Brooke Colby says he’s building an eight-foot rocket in his backyard

Missing North Delta senior found deceased

88-year-old Jarnail Sanghera had been missing since the morning of Friday, May 15

Dry-grad cancelled, Elgin Park students make donation to food bank

Students donate $1,800 to food bank after being forced to cancel graduation event

South Surrey girl asks friends to help make birthday rock – literally

Charley Pauliuk marked her 11th year with a display of cheer

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

Boy, 2, left with ‘soft tissue injuries’ after being hit by car in Squamish intersection

Boy was release from hospital, police continue to investigate

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Most Read

l -->