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Report warns of dangers of social media bubbles, false relationships

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(The Center Square) – When someone can watch only the television they like, listen only to the music they like and talk about the political issues only they agree with, a new study says there is less of a reason for someone to do anything else.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is out with a new study that looks at the dangers of social media bubbles and what it calls “false relationships.”

“The rise of technology in the 20th century, especially television, greatly shifted the way that we spend time with and relate with others due to the individualization and privatization of entertainment,” the report’s authors wrote. “The average time spent watching television peaked at nine hours a day in 2009. In 2022, a person spent 7.5 hours a day on average using their phones and watching television.”

The report from Miranda Spindt and Will Flanders also said the rise of social media has led to a drop in real-life relationships and interaction.

“It does not take much thought to realize how parasocial and pseudo-relationships have been heightened through the internet and social media. It’s easy to think you know someone well when they post about their vacations, relationship and job statuses, and their personal interests,” the report adds.

WILL’s report said there are other relationship problems on social media as well.

“These false relationships with celebrities or online personalities do not replace the importance of real-life connections, but they make us feel as though pursuing real connections is not as necessary,” the authors wrote.

The report points to a sudden spike in the number of young people who are reporting depression or anxiety because of social media.

“Depressive symptoms in teenagers have risen from around 30% in 2010 to almost 50% in 2023 as the use of smartphones and social media has grown. The instant validation received through likes and other interactions creates an addiction that can be harmful if we do not continuously receive it,” the report notes.

The other danger the report outlines is the political divide in the United States that has only grown since social media exploded.

“Social media contributes to political polarization as it incentivizes more polarized online behavior. The most controversial opinions get the most interactions, and the algorithms will show the most interacting content to more people. The anonymity of the internet also emboldens users to say things they may never otherwise say in real life. This makes controversial content seem more pertinent than it is and damages the image we have of ideological others,” the report states.

The report ends with the general warning that people need to navigate the march of technology with an eye “to understand and address the consequences of these technological shifts.”

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