My generation is particularly preoccupied with social media. We anxiously await every Instagram like, refresh Facebook updates, and obsessively hash-tag the top trending celebrity on Twitter. We’re constantly vying for online affirmation to remind us of our worth.

The funny thing is, most of us don’t enjoy social media. At my Christian college, most of my peers gave up social platforms as part of their 40-day Lenten fasts; they recognized them as addicting, overpowering forces, and chose to give them up.

It’s not a secret that social media is bad for you.

The average person spends about two hours on social media per day. That’s more than five years throughout someone’s lifetime — and teens usually average around nine hours a day. 

The number of sexual assault cases related to social media has increased 300%, 22% of teenagers surveyed have lost friendships due to social media, and the statistics only get worse.

But beyond the headline-grabbing stories, social media can control your emotional reactions in your day-to-day life. Have you ever noticed that when scrolling through a feed or viewing IGTV’s, you feel emotion without processing it first?

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Why is it that when I watch Abby Lee Miller yell at Chloe for the 10th time in an episode, I too get upset with Chole’s inability to keep time with the rest of the group? Do I subconsciously adapt my emotions to fit the emotions of the screen in front of me?

Short answer: yes. In some ways.

The “emotion contagion,” a concept that describes the translation of one person’s emotion to another, explains this reaction. In recent years, the emotion contagion has also been observed in social media “interactions” — when you see someone sad online, or happy, or angry, it inflicts the same emotion in you. 

It makes sense that we would do this in a situation where we have to interact with others. People mimic the emotions of those around them, but isn’t it terrifying that something behind a screen could have the same effect?

Though previous studies have only found purely correlational evidence, a study investigating Facebook users found that emotions can be received, translated, and mimicked “without direct interaction or nonverbal cues.” 

Even without face to face interaction, emotions spread. Something as trivial as social media has a huge impact on not only the short-term moods of people, but their physiological emotions.

I’m alarmed to see how addicted my peers have become to social media. People have fewer real-life conversations when their noses are pressed in a phone, productivity suffers as time on social media increases, and people are often not the same online as they are offline. 

It’s easier to bully someone behind a screen — because behind a screen, no one is holding you accountable for what you do or don’t do. This manifests itself in cyber bullying, pornography addictions, desensitization to death, murder, rape, and more. 

And the cherry on top? The government, and big tech, know all of this.

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Experts try finding ways to more easily manipulate media-users; they compile our data, learn everything about us, and try to make our decisions for us. Often, these technology departments house the best psychologists, therapists, and programmers — which shows how seriously they take this data compilation. 

The best argument for social media isn’t really an argument at all. Many hide behind the excuse that “social media is better than no social media,” but if you’re going to spend two hours of your day doing something, you should find some inherent good in that activity. If you don’t, consider deleting your accounts.

I have a professor who deleted his social media after the Twitter-storm erupted last year. Now, he posts a whiteboard outside of his office door with lively debates and polls on Shakespeare or the news of the day. He still encourages sociable interaction, but found a much less pervasive way to incorporate it into his life.

It may seem hard to give up social media — but if it seems hard, that should show you that you need to. Addictions aren’t easy to break, but they’re worse to keep. 

Next time you automatically open your phone to a social platform, stop, pause, and ask yourself: Why? If you can justify your answer, keep scrolling — but I’m almost certain you won’t be able to.

Haley Strack is an intern with the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.