*How many likes did I get??
*How will I be viewed if I post this??
Social media, a tool that encompasses many of our daily lives and keeps us glued to our smartphones, has begun to shape our reality. Social media can function as an “alter ego” where we produce the best or the worst of ourselves to the world. The line between real and artificial blurs the moment we log on the app.
Of course, social media isn’t all bad. It is an excellent way to keep up with old friends and relatives and share a portion of our lives with people who can’t always be there. It allows us to quickly disperse news and information across a wide range of platforms. It is great for developing businesses and marketing to potential clientele. Social media has provided the route to stardom for many of today’s celebrities. People have created industries based solely on social media marketing. Without social media, we would live in a much less connected world.
However, does the good outweigh the bad?
Intense addiction can be developed with the constant use of social media. It becomes the first thing we view when we wake up and the last thing we check before going to sleep. Our phones function as external organs that travel with us every day. Many people feel lost and empty without a cell phone or access to social media. Anxiety and depression can develop while trying to abstain from social media use. The need for that constant stimulation can become as addicting as alcohol and nicotine. According to a 2018 article, psychologists have found linkages between social media usage and recreational drug addiction. As a result, programs and apps have been developed to help people curb their social media appetite. Many people escape to nature to “unplug” from the network or vow to take social media hiatuses.
Another byproduct of excessive social media consumption is the constant comparisons that we make by logging into our various apps. This can range anywhere from beauty to money to success. We often subconsciously measure our own worth by what we see on social media. The constant feeling to live up to standards that seem “successful” to our internet peers often fuel anxiety and depression. People usually highlight the amazing aspects of their lives and negate the day-to-day realities, but from our living rooms, the grass seems so much greener. Our society is largely concerned with letting others know what we’ve done, seen, or bought. At concerts, parties, and events everyone is recording on their phones, but no one wants to talk to each other and engage in what’s really happening. We often see the event for the first time on Snapchat the next day because we recorded, but did not watch.
Threats in security and privacy are an issue with our increasingly global and connected world. Many of the applications that we use not only collect information on our location and preferences, but they use it to steal our attention and influence us to purchase products. For example, Facebook and Google, among others, monitor our location and our search histories. From this information, they are able to create personal profiles and learn how to target us individually. We think that we are subconsciously controlling our own searches and finds, but complicated algorithms make these decisions for us. Coupled with this is the staggering amount of information a person has access to just by viewing our profile. Nothing is private.
I love social media. You love it. Apparently, millions of other people love it as well. It has the power to energize and organize communities, fight injustice, bridge family and friends, change the world, and most importantly, provide some of the best comedy on the internet. However, it also has the power to tear down, shame, judge, and invade. It would be illogical to ask someone to stop using something that is so integral to our society. I am only asking that we be cognizant of our social media usage and its effect on our social, physical, and mental health.
So, go outside, talk to people, pursue your passion, and enjoy the world that God has blessed us to see.