Monthly Archives: February 2013

Constant connection: the psychological impact of social media

Stephanie Sokol for OU News Bureau

More people are using social media and they’re spending hours longer on those sites when they get there.

Mashable reports the time spent on social media has hit 6.9 hours per month — more than double the time since 2006. And more than half of Americans have a social media profile, which also is more than doubled in the past seven years.

“(I like to use social media because) it’s a way of communication with classmates, relatives and friends who live far away,” Oakland University sophomore Ria Perez said. “I usually log on a few times a week.”

A change in relationships, social interaction

While social media and constant connection can be good, excessive use can lead

Meyers,Courtesy Photo

Meyers,
Courtesy Photo

to issues, according to Erin Meyers, assistant professor of communication and journalism at OU.

“On one hand, social media has really opened up our communication channels,” Meyers said. “In instances it’s a good way to get in touch with friends and family, providing social benefit. But at the same time, it can also become so overwhelming, where you feel like you’re always having to be connected and can’t take a moment to yourself.”

David Schwartz, OU Counseling Center director, meets with students who are experiencing issues with school, stress and anxiety. In his work, he said he has seen an impact on students’ lives and social interactions.

“There are situations where people have had unintentional consequences from stuff they’ve posted online, in terms of causing stress in relationships,” Schwartz said.

“The difficult thing is that it’s hard to express yourself the same way you would in person. Often times, things can get misrepresented or misconstrued by the person who is reading it when it’s been posted, which can cause relationship problems, too.”

He’s seen many situations where social media has magnified problems, including stress from defriending and blocking, or students catching their significant other cheating online. Bullying also occurs.

“(You see online) a lot of the same problems you see outside of social media, but they tend to get magnified more or exacerbated because of it, and can be a breeding ground for some unhealthy communication styles,” Schwartz said.

Impact on self-image and self esteem

Another issue caused by social media is the impact it has on young people’s self-esteem.

Pinterest provides users with “pin boards” where they can post their future plans. While the social media site supplies an outlet for aspirations, Meyers said frequent usage can cause people to hold themselves up to an unreal standard.

She also brought up how people view others’ lives based on Facebook posts that show things such as marriages, travel and babies. They compare it to their own and feel they come up short.

“Realize there’s ways that people are presenting themselves online that might not actually be true or possible,” Meyers said.

Louis Mark Carrier is a psychologist based out of California with a focus in social media.

His team studies and surveys large groups of people about social media’s impact. Their conclusions have yielded both positive and negative effects.

“I think there’s always a bunch of different things going on with social media,” Carrier said. “People compare themselves to others, and that can have negative effects. For example, if you don’t feel as attractive as someone else, that can be bad. But there are also positive effects, as well.”

In research, they have discovered that social media attracts and fuels certain personalities.

Narcissists use websites such as Facebook to create the ideal image for themselves, Carrier said. The option to control what is posted on one’s wall, untag certain things and take multiple profile photos makes positive image manipulation more convenient, especially with the convenience of mobile phones.

A study by the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business found that “when people are using or thinking about their phones they are less likely to engage in prosocial behavior (an action intended to benefit another person or society as a whole).”

Affect on anxiety and sleep habits

The addition of smartphones has also contributed to trouble sleeping.

Carrier said there’s a link between social media usage and trouble getting to bed at night. It’s often tied to mobile usage.

“It’s pretty clear in other studies,” Carrier said, “that people who are addicted to their devices are going to be waking up a lot in the middle of the night, especially if they don’t turn off their ringer, or if they keep the phone close to them — some people even have the phone in bed with them, keeping notifications on.

“All those interruptions are problematic,” he continued. “It’s not just about losing sleep. The more you get interrupted during the night, the more problems you have the next day and psychologically, can’t wire in.”

A study from Biomedical Central found that “frequent mobile phone use was associated with current stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression among the young adult men and women in cross-sectional analysis.”

The study suggested that high usage of mobile phones for communication were parallel with stress, sleep disturbances and depression symptoms in young men and women.

Schwartz,Courtesy Photo

Schwartz,
Courtesy Photo

Schwartz said students who visit his office have many sources of stress, and while it is still early to tell, social media is becoming an essential part of students’ day-to-day lives and is making an impact.

“It’s probably very early on (to know for sure) but from the perspective of someone working in the field, I can definitely tell you we’ve met with students who have been significantly affected in a variety of different ways by the use of social media,” Schwartz said. “Like anything, there’s potential for harm or abuse, if it’s not used appropriately in a healthy or proper way.”

Breaking the habit

While many people turn to social media excessively, addiction isn’t common.

Carrier said the sign of a problem is leaving social media and going back, then having a relapse. When people develop problems focusing at work because of the distraction, or ignore their family to spend time online, they may be addicted.

Eight percent to 10 percent of users are considered to have an addiction, according to Carrier. The first step is recognizing the problem.

“One of the things you can do is substitute healthy behavior for addictive behaviors,” Carrier said. “So instead of going on Facebook, take a nature break by going outside, going for a walk, taking your camera out and taking photos. Research shows that doing that is really good for your brain. It allows you to refocus and gets rid of some of those addictive tendencies.”

Social media may be playing a big role in people’s lives, but it has positives, Myers, Carrier and Schwartz agreed. Beyond social connection, it brings people together and provides an outlet for writing and self expression, according to Meyers.

“The technology itself is not good or bad — it depends how you use it,” Meyers said.

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The real reason I look at adorable animals.

When I open up my laptop, I have every intention of getting things done. I have everything I need to do written down, in my poor handwriting, on a random sheet of paper. I turn the computer on, and wait for it to load. The second I open  my browser, something happens. Productivity goes down the drain, and I find myself typing urls for Facebook, Youtube, Reddit, KittyFlix and Twitter, all for the sake of finding adorable animal images and videos. When I look at the clock

photo courtesy of / manicmeche.deviantart.com

photo courtesy of / manicmeche.deviantart.com

after what seems like a few minutes later, I am astonished to see that a couple of hours have passed.

I do not know what it is about cute kittens and puppies that keep me coming back for more. I’m sure many people have removed me from various social networks from the obnoxious amount of photos I’ve shared.  And I am all right with that.

Fortunately, studies released a while ago have shown that my addiction is a good thing. Looking at pictures of adorable animals actually leads to an increase in speed and productivity at work. This explains a lot about my life.

Global Brigades expands volunteer efforts, creates new chapter

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Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

The Oakland University Global Brigades chapter, formed in 2010, gives students the opportunity to volunteer and travel out of the country to help the people of Honduras and Panama.

Laura Collier, adviser and founder of Global Brigades at OU, sees the group growing from four to all nine of the Global Brigades.

Medical Brigades
The Medical Brigades chapter, led by President Nadiya Sorych and Vice President Charlotte Massol, works in both Honduras and Panama.

Their first trip was in 2011, and during each visit, students provided health treatment and medication to citizens.

Physicians, dentists and gynecologists go on the trip with the students.

“When this opportunity came for me, I enjoyed it so much. I got more and more involved with it,” Sorych said. “I fell in love with the idea of a nonprofit and doing work with it, because you really feel like you are changing the world and making a difference, and that’s an amazing feeling.”

Public Health Brigades
The Public Health Brigades aim to improve living conditions and prevent medical problems, according to President Alana Hartley.

On their last trip in December, the group traveled to work with families, looking at their homes and finding improvements to make.

They installed concrete floors to prevent respiratory problems and foot fungus, since the houses all had dirt flooring, according to Hartley.

“I have benefited a lot from (Global Brigades) both in personal growth, as well as, leadership, teaching,” Hartley said.

Architecture Brigades
The Architecture Brigades focuses on restructuring communities.

During their last trip in December, they went for seven days, building a public health building and school, according to Monica Dallo, the group’s president.

“I think anyone can do the Architecture Brigades,” Dallo said.

Their time consists of manual labor, pouring concrete and pickaxing and educating children about the process of architecture, so they can keep up the buildings and rebuild themselves if necessary, Dallo said.

Business Brigades
While other chapters of OU Global Brigades have more of a medical and health focus, the new Business Brigades provides students with the opportunity to help people of Panama with financial planning and other aspects of running a company, according to Collier.

The goal of Business Brigades is to create sustainable economic development solutions to improve the overall socioeconomic level of under — resourced communities, according the Global Brigades website

The first meeting for the new group is Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m.

In order for the Global Brigades to take the trip, a minimum of 15 members is required.

Nice ride

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

The parking lot of Oakland University is full… of personality. The parking areas hold a variety of vehicles, from mid-size sedans and pick-ups to station wagons, SUVs and cars. Some people, however, want their car to stand out.

A 1999 Chevy Tracker can be found dolled up and parked in P1. Junior Dawn

IMG_4713

Doliber added some glitz to her automobile with the addition of Car Lashes.

With a half-hour commute to school, Doliber wanted to glam up her vehicle.

“I saw them (the Car Lashes) online on a different car and decided to order them,” she said. “When I’m driving, I see people taking photos of my car. One time a cop pulled me over to tell me she liked my Car Lashes.”

A Batmobile can also be seen driving around campus. Sophomore Jack Duquette of Rochester Hills turned his yellow vehicle into something more with some simple detailing to add a superhero edge.

IMG_4717“Who doesn’t want to drive a Batmobile?”  Duquette said. “I bought a yellow car, and what goes better with yellow than black? I wanted a car that I could have fun with.”

A dragon action figure sits on the hood of junior Caleb Balk’s 2004 Saab 9-3. The action figure was part of a collection he and his brothers had as children. This is the third vehicle he has placed it on.

At first, Balk didn’t know if he wanted to put it on his latest car, but he still liked IMG_4728it and decided to continue the tradition. To keep it in place, Balk installed rubber gaskets and drilled it into the hood.

“When my brother said I should put the dragon on my car, I thought it was a good idea,” Balk said. “It reminds me not to take life too seriously, no matter what’s going on.”