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Pulled from Our Biological Roots - Social Media

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Pulled from our Biological Roots

Myles Duncan

AP Seminar

David Kerr

November 3, 2015

Social Media has become more deeply embedded in our culture by technological advances in the past ten years. It has made talking to, connecting with or even seeing another person easier and more accessible than ever. Although social media can be used to stay connected, many people are oblivious to the harm it can cause. The advantages of using social media are greatly outweighed by the negative effects because of the degree to which it disconnects people from nature. This lack of time spent with our biological roots can cause mental illness including anxiety and depression or even physical harm such as obesity. The effects vary from adults to children but none the less, it is an unaddressed problem that continues to grow in the shadows.

Nature deficit disorder is an idea proposed in Last Child in the Woods[1]. In his book, he states that “without regular immersion in nature, we can suffer physical and emotional distress”[2]. Social media has become quite an addiction for both children as well as adults in society. A statistic from Emarketer.com[3] reveals that in 2013 over 1.73 billion people had access to some form of a social media outlet. Social media has essentially created an unnatural environment we live within. Social media gives us anxiety and stress in the unnatural conditions we immerse ourselves within, much like the stress animals experience when kept in a zoo. Best Health[4] website, proposes that when we surround ourselves by “the ocean, big trees, the cliffs-anywhere that makes us feel small…our stresses and our anxieties are also small”[5] This is an interesting philosophical view of what is greater than us and how we respond emotionally to that.  It also may suggest that if we reduce the time we spend without the physical and emotional contact within the grand things in nature, we risk cutting our biological ties and as a result, may be inflicting self harm. While not only provoking regular stress and anxiety, such as stress because of a job or a test, it is creating its own forms of stress and anxiety. Some people are so deeply connected to networks such as Facebook, that they have built up elaborate profiles emphasizing their best qualities (or even fake ones) in order to create the ideal personal image of themselves. If someone were to comment or do something that could damage our online persona this could cause just as much anxiety or stress as if someone had said something to us in person. This shows how deeply one can be influenced by a virtual fake persona that is not even a true image of their personal character.

Social media has created a new technological social environment that many people currently choose to spend more of their time in. While being in this environment can connect people and have positive effects, there is also a downside. We can lose parts of our unique human interactions by communicating through a screen instead of face to face. John Jay Sentinel[6] suggests that “through the use of social networks intimacy is essentially lost”. Key aspects of any conversation include body language, facial expressions and even physical contact shows empathy and provides the conversation with real meaning. As soon as you try to converse with someone else through a digital screen with simply words, much of the meaning can be lost or misunderstood. While there have been efforts to re-establish these connections, such as Emoji’s to display facial expressions or FaceTime to provide visuals of someone else, there is nothing as unique as having a natural conversation face-to-face.

Richard Louv outlines the importance of contact with nature from a young age, and how it can affect our future views. In his book he shares a moment when his son said “when I walk through the older neighborhoods, with the old brick and all that organic change, I sometimes get the feeling I had when I was a kid exploring the canyon behind our house”[7] Louv goes on to explain how special it is for him to see that his son is still able to “find forms of nature beneath the surfaces, where others may see none”[8]. While some are still able to see the beauty of nature hidden beneath the ‘concrete blanket’, many either have not or will never get the chance. Luckily this generation is able to look back on childhood memories and recall many special ones that occurred in nature whether it was splashing in puddles in the park, climbing trees or going fishing. Unfortunately, future generations might not be able to experience and remember similar memories created in nature. The concern is that special childhood memories will consist of creating a Facebook account or getting their first few followers on Instagram. The reason they will not be able to spend this time with nature is either because they have grown up in a lifestyle that does not seem to place value in it, or they will not be bothered to take the time. Soon it will become difficult to stay in touch with nature and many people, especially children, may not take the time to experience it and embrace it. Instead, their time will be spent hidden behind a screen engulfed in social media, unaware of the natural world outside.

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