As a young adult, I can safely say that the emergence of virtual reality simulations sets a disturbing precedent for society. Facebook’s Metaverse is one example in which participants purchase digital items and property. By definition, the noun meta means conventionally aware and self-referential. However, the Metaverse is anything but that.
Technological advancements have inspired radical changes in the growth and development of young adults like myself in the United States. To be fair, there is still much beyond the horizon. It’s no secret that we have entered an era dominated by an unavoidable social media presence that has shown no sign of slowing down soon. But, how has this speedy innovation impacted today’s youth as they mature into adulthood?
As with anything, there are positives and negatives. As pointed out by Newport Academy, a prominent rehabilitation and mental health treatment center for young adults: “Platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat can be lifesavers for teens who feel isolated or marginalized, particularly LGBTQ teens.”
Moreover, social media has helped teens “feel more connected and not as lonely during the pandemic.” Though this ostentatious perspective offers a favorable outlook on social media, there is an underside to that coin that is not nearly as promising.
Beyond providing a safe space for those who feel like outcasts, social media has shifted from a place of refuge where many seek connection to one where they find insecurity, self-hatred and unrealistic glimpses of other lives to emulate instead.
To quote British writer C. S. Lewis, “comparison is the thief of joy.” These words go seriously undervalued by social media addicts, especially when considering the prevalent trend of wealthy celebrity influencers. Younger demographics are predisposed to these pervasive means of entertainment, causing them to be susceptible to misinformation.
The early years of social media’s development in American culture served as the antecedent to what is happening today. Instant gratification has become a deeply entrenched part of everyday life for most people, which is the culprit of many people’s technology addiction.
Studies by the Mayo Clinic indicate that constant social media usage heavily affects sleep by disrupting the body’s Circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. An earlier study by the Mayo Clinic found that the “impact of social media on undergraduate college students showed that the longer they used Facebook, the stronger was their belief that others were happier than they were.”
However, the research also determined the opposite: “The more time the students spent going out with their friends, the less they felt this way.”
These relevant findings point out the very real physiological sway social media holds on the minds of millions, even billions. While Facebook, or Meta, may not be the go-to place to spend continuous hours of free time as a college student, the platform can be interchangeable with any other app.
It’s a hard sell to say that there are ways to temper the impulses people intuitively think and feel when interacting with social media. The Metaverse and whatever comes next will undoubtedly open the door to inclusivity for some as well as alienation and self-loathing for others.