News, Technology

The Dark Side Of Social Media On Nigerian Students

Ogunbiyi Kayode


February 18, 2024

Dear Beamers,

Greetings! That feeling of joy when you realize you still have some data on your phone despite being tight on cash for food is truly mutual. However, just like overindulging in sugar, when something feels so good, it’s important to slow down and examine if there are potential repercussions.

In our ongoing dedication to informative updates, we’re delighted to include this section in our weekly newsletter, delving into how social media can impact the mental well-being of university students. We’ll be exploring both the positive and negative aspects of online engagement to gain insightful perspectives.

Social media has seamlessly integrated into our lives, revolutionizing how we connect, communicate, and share information. Individuals of all ages actively engage with diverse social media platforms, whether for matters of significance or leisure.

In university campuses, social media serves as a powerful communication mode, offering opportunities for some while leaving scars on more naive students. It is essential to dissect the intricacies of social media to understand its dual role in both connecting and impacting individuals within educational settings.

Human beings, as social creatures, require companionship to thrive in life, and the quality of our connections significantly influences our mental health and happiness. Social connections can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, enhance self-worth, offer comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and contribute to longevity. Conversely, a lack of robust social connections poses a substantial risk to mental and emotional well-being.

According to Wuraola, a student and aspiring writer

“In today’s world, we’re all glued to social media – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram – you name it. But let’s keep it real; as much as these platforms help us find and connect with folks, they can never replace kicking it with people in person. There’s something about face-to-face interactions that triggers those feel-good hormones, making you happier and healthier. Funny enough, for all its “connecting” power, spending too much time on social media can mess with your head, making you feel more alone and ramping up anxiety and depression. Been there, done that.”

Social media platforms play a crucial role in fostering connectivity and support among students, facilitating connections with peers, friends, and like-minded individuals. These platforms enable the creation of online communities where students can share experiences, seek support, and cultivate a sense of belonging.

Indeed, social media serves as an extensive source of information, empowering students with knowledge and resources related to mental health. Universities and mental health organizations frequently share valuable content, including self-help tips, coping strategies, and awareness campaigns.

Access to such information not only enhances mental health literacy but also encourages students to seek professional help when needed, contributing to a more informed and supportive community.

Despite the many benefits of social media, it’s crucial to acknowledge its potential impact on mental health. Social media can contribute to negative experiences, fostering feelings of inadequacy about one’s life or appearance. Even with the awareness that images on social media are often manipulated, they can still evoke feelings of insecurity regarding personal appearance or life circumstances. It’s important to navigate social media mindfully and be aware of its potential influence on mental well-being.

True, the awareness that people typically share only the highlights of their lives on social media doesn’t always diminish the feelings of envy and dissatisfaction when exposed to curated images of friends’ tropical vacations or read about their exciting work promotions. The selective nature of social media sharing can still evoke such emotions despite rational understanding.

Over time, it’s common to develop a strong addiction and experience the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) syndrome, which, although existing before social media, is notably exacerbated by platforms like Facebook and Instagram. These sites can intensify the perception that others are enjoying more fun or fulfilling lives, contributing to heightened feelings of inadequacy or missing out on rewarding experiences.

The notion of missing out can have significant impacts on self-esteem, triggering anxiety and intensifying social media use akin to an addiction. FOMO may drive frequent phone checks for updates, compulsive responses to alerts—even at the expense of safety while driving, sacrificing sleep, or prioritizing online interaction over real-world relationships. The compulsive nature of FOMO can have broader implications on well-being and daily life.

Bioluwatife Jacobs, a student at a Nigerian university, contends that social media can evoke feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem when students compare themselves to meticulously curated and filtered depictions of others’ lives. According to Bioluwatife

“Dealing with social media as a student is a whole separate experience. You’re scrolling through everyone’s highlight reels, seeing these perfect versions of their lives, and suddenly you’re thinking, “Am I doing enough?” But you have to remind yourself, what you see on social media isn’t the full story – it’s like a movie trailer, not the whole film. And then there’s that FOMO kicking in – you know, the fear of missing out. You see your buddies having a blast, hitting up events, and it messes with your head, making you feel left out. But truth is, social media doesn’t catch all the real social stuff, and we’ve all had those moments of feeling like we’re missing out. It’s all part of the game, it’s life.”

Social media platforms can serve as breeding grounds for cyberbullying and online harassment, inflicting considerable emotional distress. University students may encounter negative comments, trolling, or targeted attacks, adversely affecting their self-esteem, mental well-being, and academic performance. It is imperative for students to prioritize their mental health and seek support if they experience such harmful online behaviors.

Excessive time on social media can result in procrastination and a decline in academic productivity. Endless scrolling and mindless browsing can disrupt study schedules, elevate stress levels, and diminish overall efficiency. Establishing boundaries, employing effective time management techniques, and restricting social media usage are essential steps in maintaining a healthy balance.

According to Bolanle Hafsat, a digital marketing intern with a media brand in Ogun State,

“These days, we’re all plugged into social media through our smartphones or tablets, making it super convenient to stay connected. But let’s be real – it’s a 24/7 thing, and that constant access can affect with your self-control. Those never-ending notifications affect your concentration, disturb your sleep, and before you know it, you’re a slave to your phone.” She said.

She added, ” Social media platforms are built to grab your attention, keep you hooked, and make you check your screen obsessively – that’s how these companies make their money. But it’s like a craving, similar to gambling or addiction to substances. Every like or share triggers a hit of dopamine in your brain, that feel-good chemical, making you want more, even if it starts controlling other parts of your life. It’s a real struggle out here.”

Being mindful of social media use can positively impact mood and focus. While allocating a specific daily duration may not be feasible for many, and a full “social media detox” might be challenging, reducing the overall time spent on social media can still yield benefits.

Endeavor to be intentional when accessing social media platforms. If you’re seeking specific information, checking on an unwell friend, or sharing new family photos, for instance, your experience will likely differ from logging on out of boredom, curiosity about post likes, or fear of missing out on something.

Nigerian students should approach social media mindfully, acknowledging its potential impact on mental health, and proactively strive to maintain a healthy online-offline balance. By cultivating self-awareness, seeking support, and using social media responsibly, students can harness its benefits while safeguarding their mental well-being throughout their university journey.

Social media, while beneficial for productivity, can also become a constraining factor. To avoid this, engage in a positive conversation with your subconscious, embrace life, relish moments and connections with others. Find contentment in your journey, accept what you can’t change, and continuously work on self-improvement. Remember, everyone has their own moment, so don’t let unfulfilled expectations overshadow your appreciation for what you have and the progress you’ve made.

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