In this modern world, you hear the phrase “social media” almost as much as you hear “hello” (or for those of us in the UK, anything to do with the weather). Over the years, the world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other form of notification-flooding app has woven their way into our everyday lives. Nowadays, from the moment we wake up to the moment we go back to bed, we mindlessly scroll up and down, app by app, saying “LOL” in our minds. Despite how judgemental I might’ve sounded just then (not that I intended to) I am just as bad and just as addicted as everyone else. Whether it’s responding to tags, sharing funny videos or most importantly, protecting those Snapchat streaks as though they were the Crown Jewels, I am well and truly TRAPPED! I allow it because… why not? And I know I’m not the only one.
Of course, there are reasons why we allow social media to play such a huge part of our lives; in fact, social media actually brings a lot of benefits. Think about the connections that we can make from it –simply by trading an email address we now have the possibility to create friendships and contacts all across the world (as long as it’s done safely). And how much does it cost? Nothing! Social media has helped me maintain so many friendships with people I have been fortunate enough to meet over time, whether they’re in a different continent, country, county or just a different postcode to mine. Also, social media allows us to meet new people with the same interests and hobbies which might not be available nearby – although once again, do it safely!
Additionally, social media has also given us new connections and accessibility to different support networks. As social media has evolved, new charities and support organisations have emerged, and well-known names like ChildLine have made the most of social media in broadening their reach. All of which helps young people, who can simply type a query in a search bar and receive instant help and support, sometimes with questions they’d be too embarrassed to ask in person. And this help can really make a difference.
Social media is also a big platform for raising awareness of campaigns, helping to promote causes across the world like equal rights, injustice and poverty. It’s a place where we can share stories, issues and world problems and use our voices, express our opinions and make a change. These are rights and freedoms that we have and should use, and social media helps us to do so.
Furthermore, social media has also presented a world of opportunities to help us find work, placements and adventure. Take NCS as an example – if it wasn’t for this platform I wouldn’t be able to write these articles or participate in these campaigns, or perhaps even have become an NCS Leader in the first place. Had I never signed up, I would have been limited to local events and openings.
However, as great as social media is, there is dark side always lurking, always present, and is something we try to ignore. It can make a huge negative impact upon us. And it already has.
As we are all well aware, since the advent of social media, cyberbullying has been an unwelcome reality. Whether from hate crime, abusive content, threats or any form of nonsense and maliciousness directed at someone, it can be classed as bullying and sadly it occurs a lot. Although I’ve personally never received it, we all have faced bullying in some form and just because it’s on a screen doesn’t make it any different. In fact cyberbullying is one of the most common forms, as it gives bullies a chance to hide behind a username, to be anonymous, because they too know full well it’s wrong. This online abuse can really cause pain and emotional trauma in a person, leading towards awful consequences. And although this post doesn’t revolved around this topic, it’s important that we mention it – to ask why. Because if you know that you are the cause of some of this hurt, ask yourself why. Why do you decide to share hatred instead of love and respect for others? Or why do you feel this person even “deserves” it in the first place? Is it for your amusement? Entertainment? Revenge? Status or hierarchy? I can assure you there are so many better routes you can take and you know that. To those that are receiving it – don’t tolerate it, do something and tell someone.
Now, moving on to the last issue, it’s worth highlighting how social media makes a significant impact on our minds and behaviour. We face imagined pressures to be perfect on our accounts; all of a sudden we begin to think of our pages as ‘aesthetics’, some sort of display at an exhibition or gallery; a representation of us where we want to look the best of the best, so much so that it can become a competition and damage our perceptions. Without even realising it we begin to compare ourselves to one another, find our own imperfections, insecurities and realise what we don’t have, and what others do. This means that unconsciously we act differently, more like the people we idolise, not realising that our role models feel the exact same way. And so the cycle continues! I know this is becoming very deep, but it’s also the truth, as although we laugh and brush it off, we always desire more; there are always characteristics we wish to steal off others. All of which means our vision can be clouded with an obsession to have followers and ‘likes’ for that reassurance.
But what’s the point? It’s our differences that make us beautiful and we should celebrate the diversity. We should remind ourselves of everything great about each other – you and those around you. So instead we should use social media to our own advantage, rather than let it manipulate us. We should spread love and positivity and share kindness and great memes (never forget that) rather than putting one another down. Ultimately we’ll feel better about ourselves. Rather than concentrating on followers and likes, focus on the followers and supporters in your real life. And rather than spending all day switching between apps, switch off every once in a while to spend your time in the real world.