The internet allows people to never totally leave their friends behind, but experts and even some users are beginning to say that might not be a good thing.
Facebook has more than 900 million users; Twitter has more than 500 million users; and platforms are emerging such as Instagram and Pinterest. In addition to the big hitters such as Facebook, there are hundreds of social networks fighting to attract their slice of each user’s Internet time.
Sheryll Klinkel has accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. She said managing them all can feel like a juggling act.
“It’s a little overboard now,” she said. “There’s too many to choose from.”
Each of the platforms she works with reaches out to a different group, she said, so it’s impossible to narrow it down to one. Pinterest users are primarily women, she said, while Facebook has a wider but more generalized audience. She joins a platform only after being referred by people she trusts, but even the four she’s managed to narrow it down to can seem like four too many.
Tia Johnson, who recently graduated from Augusta State University with a degree in communications studies, said staying abreast of the ever-growing social media world is part of living in the modern world. She has accounts with Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Pinterest and WordPress. Sometimes it seems like a lot to manage, she said, but it’s expected nowadays, especially from employers.
“There’s so many different forms of social media, and in this job market, people want you to be able to do so much,” she said. “It can be overwhelming.”
Not only does Johnson keep her existing social media accounts current, she visits technology blogs such as Mashable.com to keep tabs on any up-and-coming social networks on the horizon. But the most frustrating part of social media isn’t the variety to choose from, she said, it’s the users that post too often about things that aren’t worthy of their followers’ attention.
“The way some people use it makes it difficult, just filling your feed with nonsense,” she said. “I’ve had to put some people on ‘important updates only’ status.”
Dr. Dale Peeples, an assistant professor and child/adolescent psychiatrist at Georgia Health Sciences University, said there has been relatively little research conducted on the impact so many forms of social media may have on the most active users, young adults.
The most notable physical impact is increased chances of obesity because of the amount of time spent in front of a screen. Individuals who spend more than two hours per day in front of any kind of screen for recreational purposes are more likely to be less active and have a higher body mass index and obesity rates. Peeples said obesity isn’t the only physical effect of high amounts of screentime.
“Some people choose not to ever unplug,” he said.
Some users keep their smartphones by their beds when they sleep, he said, and alerts can disrupt sleep patterns.
Peeples said he has observed a growing number of adolescents and young adults who choose to interact over social media even when in a group setting.
“For some people, social media pulls them away from what’s in front of them, engaging with people who aren’t there instead of the people in front of them.” he said.
Social media has many benefits, Peeples said, but learning balance and boundaries is a must for today’s adolescents and young adults.
“Whether it’s texting, television or social media, they all face the same risks: not turning it off,” he said. “That’s something new that parents have to deal with.”
Lydia Jolly, an Augusta resident, has chosen to be on Facebook only because she believes the hassle of managing several platforms doesn’t pay off.
“I don’t have time to handle all of it,” she said.
Even though she has the Facebook application on her iPhone, Jolly estimated she checks her account only every other day.
“I just want it to be for fun,” she said.