Social media addiction impacts college students

Students and faculty of BW discuss social media addiction and its various effects on life both in and out of the classroom.

Social media addiction is a common issue amongst teens and adults all across the world, and the students at Baldwin Wallace University are far from exempt. 

Emi Hathcock, a senior psychology major, noted the commonality of social media addiction amongst college students, despite not so many people owning up to it. 

“Just looking at students as they exit class, almost the minute the teacher stops talking, everyone is checking their phones, their texts, Snapchat stories, their Twitter notifications, whatever it may be,” Hathcock said. “Personally, I’m on my phone way more than I should be, I’m always scrolling TikTok, so I would definitely say I count as addicted.” 

Not only are students using their phones too much outside of class, but it has become a big problem within the classroom as well. 

Art History Professor Darlene Michitsch said that there was a difference in how the classroom dynamic has changed from when she first started teaching to how things are now in the age of social media and phone addiction. 

“Back when I started teaching in ‘97, students would come up to me before or after class to talk or talk to each other about what’s going on in their lives, the course material and all sorts of happy nonsense. Now, most of the time people are just staring at their phones. It’s so quiet [that] you’d be able to hear a pin drop,” Michitsch said. 

Michitsch also said that social media usage and addiction hurts the relationships going on in the classroom as well as a teacher’s abilities to get through to their students. 

“You don’t have that kind of camaraderie building up in the classroom anymore because students are now so isolated from each other and their professors. … We lose that sense of familiarity,” Michitsch said. 

Social media addiction is significantly more present in college students and people of the late millennial to Generation Z demographic than that of older generations. 

“That’s why a lot of my own research focuses on people in our own generation. Middle aged to young millennials and almost all of Gen Z were the first ones who really grew up with these devices at our fingertips. From a very young age, around 10 or 11, we were all being given phones and devices so we can communicate with each other and connect to the rest of the world,” Hathcock said. 

“Social media has always been ubiquitous in our society since its introduction, and so things like social media addiction are not taken as seriously as they probably should be. It’s so normalized for people to stay up so late scrolling through social media [like] TikTok,” Hathcock said. 

Social media addiction can have its own slew of various negative effects or worsen bad habits already present in individuals.  

It can have effects such as body image issues, poor sleep schedules, shorter attention spans and impaired social interaction.  

Emily Lakatos, a senior organizational psychology major with an interest in the effects of social media on society, said: “Social media in general can cause body issues due to people comparing themselves to all sorts of models on Instagram or Twitter. … In general, there are lots of societal pressures on everybody interposed through social media.”  

An additional effect of social media addiction is called doom scrolling, which is the thoughtless practice of scrolling through social media. 

“Doom scrolling is this bad habit of mindlessly scrolling through all this negative news about what’s happening in your community, or state, or around the world. Since you’re seeing all sorts of horrible stuff constantly, it causes serious detriment to your mental health,” Hathcock said.  

With apps like Snapchat and Instagram, students will often trade their social media information with each other as an attempt to stay connected, communicate and check on their friends. 

It’s just something that’s normal, you know? When you meet somebody, they’ll usually ask for your Snapchat or Instagram, just to stay in touch. Its far more convenient than asking for a person’s phone number, or even writing someone a letter like we did going way back,” Lakatos said. 

With all of this in mind, students need to start thinking about how they can combat their social media addiction to the point where they are spending only a healthy amount of time on their phones and engaging in these platforms. 

You’ll hear many different answers, but generally you’ll hear most people say not to spend more than an hour to an hour and a half on social media. However, it’s more imperative to know what specific times of day you definitely shouldn’t be plugged in,” Hathcock said. 

Those looking to be conscientious of their time spent on social media should avoid hopping on their favorite apps, both as soon as they wake, as well as avoid scrolling through their various apps about thirty minutes to an hour before going to bed. 

“Your bed is for sleep, nothing else,” Hathcock said. 

“When it comes to limiting social media usage as a whole, less is more. You should try to be on it as little as possible. You can set alarms, timers, any sort of limitations you can to limit yourself,” Lakatos said.