According to the Pew Research center, 15 percent of adults have used online dating sites and/or mobile dating apps. Students and community members in Elon, North Carolina have mixed emotions about the benefits and dangers surrounded with the growing phenomenon.
With the increase in mobile phone usage, individuals are finding themselves with more time devoted to mobile connectivity. According to the Pew Research Center,about a quarter of U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online. With roughly four-in-ten 18- to 29-year-olds (39%) now go online almost constantly and 49% go online multiple times per day, physicians are questioning the effects of our constant connectivity.
Sandia National Laboratories Staff Member Dr. Barbara Jennings has studied the ways our brains respond to interactions with cell phones for the last decade.
“When your brain sees your phone light up, the chemical dopamine is released,” Jennings said. “This chemical is responsible for seeking, resulting in the ‘dopamine loop.’”
She finds herself in this loop when going online to find a recipe for dinner, then hours later, getting lost in cat videos or pages for designer breed dogs.
“The cell phone had greatly impacted our lives,” Jennings said. “But now, in the era of the iPhone, we have developed a dependency.”
Elon Sophomore Emily Wilks would agree that despite the benefits her cell phone provides, her dependency has caused her to waste more time and accumulate stress.
“The only time I’m not online is when I am asleep and during class,” Wilkes said. “It’s definitely a problem. I can’t do anything without checking my phone.”
A poll of Elon University students found that the majority of social media users thought their use was healthy. Participants were asked how many hours a day the spend on social media, and were then asked if they thought that amount of time was healthy. Over 64 percent of respondents said that it was not.
According to research conducted by the Georgetown University Nursing School, mobile devices have significant effects on our health. Their research found that the use of phones at night increase the risk of disrupting sleep cycle that can directly impacts behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body, temperature and metabolism.
According to a study published in the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, along with sleep, social media is sometimes linked to loneliness, social anxiety, mood disorders and depression.
Elon Junior Abigail Gross agreed that her cell phone addiction had negative effects on her overall mental and emotional health, ultimately leading her to delete her social media and creating rules in order to create boundaries for online use.
“I would check my phone first thing in the morning, constantly throughout the day and last thing at night,” Gross said. “I knew it had gotten bad, and I knew I had to go cold turkey.”
For Gross, simple rules such as not having her phone in her bed room, not using it while driving and during meal time helped give her a healthy, productive relationship with her mobile device.
According to online news source "the Guardian," “It’s important that technology is managed effectively to ensure that its benefits aren’t outweighed by increased stress levels, with the idea that you need to be “always on”.
An article in "the Medium" reported, “Excessive use of devices also does a great deal of damage to your energy levels.” This article further explained that taking time in the morning away from technology with further your focus and help with your sleep hygiene.
Despite the need some students feel to detox and remove themselves from social media, these platforms aren’t without their benefits.
“I think being able to keep up with things and current issues going on like news,” said Alex Luchsinger, a professor in Elon’s School of Communications, “it’s a good way to share things and it’s a good way to kind of watch out for each other in a way.”
A Pew Research Center study from 2017 found that 67 percent of adults in the United States were getting their news from social media. Social media use for news is also increasing every year, especially on Twitter where news-usership has increased by 15 percent between 2016 and 2017.
More people are also getting their news from multiple social media sites as well. In 2013 only 13 percent of adults used two or more social media sites for news, but that number increased to 26 percent in 2017.
“Crowdsourcing and things are great,” said Luchsinger, “and grassroots movements can gain critical mass really quickly with social media.”
The recent March for Our Lives movement was driven by social media use. Organizers reached out on social media to gather support and encourage people to attend marches across the country, and even published their own social media handbook to make sure supports were using digital platforms effectively.
Rather than view technology as a necessary evil, Bill Gates reported in the Huffington Post that "technology helps make the work smaller, and in turn, it becomes like a neighbor."