I began writing my new blog, focusing on recent developments in social media. It was all planned out. I was going to discuss the value of apps like Instacart, Venmo, Doordash, and Instagram. These apps facilitate communication, improve efficiency, access rapid information, and provide on-demand entertainment. I was also planning to discuss the potentially massive downsides of exposing ourselves and our children to instant gratification and algorithms designed to keep us chained to our devices.
TikTok, which was created in China, limits users under fourteen in China to forty minutes per day, only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. It also intentionally inserts educational, artistic, and naturalistic content into its algorithm. These features are optional for U.S. users, but most people are unaware.
Then I realized I was thinking too small. I was leaving out ways artificial intelligence has begun infiltrating our everyday lives.
Have you ever heard of ChatGPT? It’s a new language program using AI to model human conversation. This program is still in its research phase and is currently free to use. Essentially, you pose a question, and it attempts to generate a valid response. I asked ChatGPT to write a blog post about the mental health risks of social media and ways to mitigate those risks. It took the program about fifteen seconds to write the post. My initial take on reading this is that it was reasonably simplified and basic but impressive nonetheless. The post is as follows:
Social media has become a ubiquitous part of modern life, with billions of people worldwide using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with friends, family, and the wider world. While social media can be a powerful tool for staying connected and building community, it can also have a negative impact on mental health.
1. Increased feelings of isolation and loneliness: Social media can make it easy to compare our lives to the curated, highlight reels of others, leading to feelings of inadequacy and isolation. Research has shown that increased social media use is associated with increased feelings of loneliness, especially among young adults.
2. Negative impact on self-esteem: Social media can also have a negative impact on self-esteem, as users are constantly bombarded with images and posts of people who appear to be living better lives. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a distorted view of reality.
3. Depressive symptoms: Studies have found that social media use is associated with an increase in depressive symptoms, particularly among individuals who spend a lot of time on social media and who tend to compare themselves to others.
4. Anxiety: Social media use has been linked to increased anxiety, as users may feel pressure to constantly check their accounts and respond to messages, leading to feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out) and social pressure.
5. Sleep disruption: Social media use can also disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and other related problems. Research has shown that the blue light emitted by screens can suppress melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep.
To minimize these risks, it is important to set boundaries and limits around social media use. This can include setting specific times of day to check social media, limiting the amount of time spent on social media, and engaging in activities that promote mental well-being, such as exercise, spending time with friends and family, and reading. It’s also important to be mindful of the content you consume, unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself and seek out accounts that promote positive well-being and mental health.
It’s also important to remember that social media is just one aspect of life, and it’s not a replacement for real-life social interactions and relationships. It’s essential to maintain a balance between the online and offline world to promote overall well-being.
In conclusion, social media can be a powerful tool for connection, but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks to mental health and take steps to minimize them. By setting boundaries and being mindful of our social media use, we can enjoy the benefits without putting our mental health at risk.
This output by ChatGPT is pretty solid, in my opinion. And the content it produces becomes less generic if the questions posed become more specific. I would expect that its capabilities will increase dramatically in the coming years.
The lazy person in me loves this development. Having a program generate content based on my questions or requests seems like a tremendous feat. Think of all the time this would have saved me on my high school term papers!
Does this turn into a Matrix or Terminator situation? I don’t think so. I’m sure I could ask ChatGPT about the risks and benefits of itself. The only problem is, at a certain point in the future, I’m not sure I’ll be able to trust the answer.
Dr. Nathan McClelland is a clinical psychologist who specializes in providing individually tailored, evidence-based psychotherapy with a focus on increasing self-understanding – the way one makes sense of their own history, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – and the examination of how and why individuals often engage in distressing or ineffective behaviors.