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National, News — March 4, 2013 at 6:18 pm

The dark side of social media

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St. Cloud, Minn. (UTVS News) – St. Cloud State student Anthony Machette used to be one of a billion social media users.

Machette had a recurring problem many college students are familiar with, multitasking. After hours being spent on his laptop at the library at St. Cloud State, Machette found he constantly switched from reading textbooks to checking his news-feed on Facebook.

Dr. Diana Rehling, a professor of communication studies at St. Cloud State University says “people absolutely cannot multitask” and that “People think they can, but what your actually doing is ‘task switching’.”

“Every time you switch tasks, you lose focus,” said Rehling. “If I am doing that all day long, I am constantly distracted and not concentrating on what I am doing”

There are two things, however, Rehling says are possible to do at the same time.

“You can listen to music without words while you do something with words,” says Rehling. “For example, you can study with instrumental music because it uses a different part of your brain.”

Rehling also says Social media has implications on some people’s ability to communicate in face to face interactions.

“People who spend more time online are not developing the same face to face skills, especially for people who are younger,” said Rehling. “They may be developing other skills — that is a possibility — but they may be losing those critical skills.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that it (social media) can enrich our lives, but I can see how it can also run peoples lives, distract them, and disorient them,” said Rehlining. “As well as create illusions of relationships where no real relationship exists.

Having an open dialogue is something Rehling says will help spread awareness of the internet addiction of social media.

“We need to have this conversation so people are not undermining things such as the relationships by the way they use social media,” said Rehling. “We need to be more thoughtful about it and more intentional about it.”

Rehling says current norms include constantly checking digital media “whenever we feel like it” which “disregards the people around us.”

Social media, however, has its benefits, according to Rehling

“We came to the conclusion that it’s not that digital media or social media doesn’t have value, it does,” said Rehling. “My 82 year old mother has been able to see her granddaughters first steps on Facebook and she Skypes with one of my nieces all the time. It means the world to her”

“Social media is an invaluable contact,” said Rehling. “It comes down to whether you use it for your life goals and values, or if it’s just a habit that distracts you from those life goals.”

© 2013, Written by UTVS News Reporter Nick Minock

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