Social media has become an indispensable enterprise for people that yearn for connection. Each website is a seemingly harmless opportunity to simultaneously keep up and connect with multiple individuals with the swipe of a finger or touch of a button. The fast paced use of technology in society has heavily influenced the lives of many, arguably brainwashing an entire generation as we know it. Individuals have begun to prioritize staring at a screen and listening to the hasty demands of each social media platform instead of focusing on things like work or school. The more connected we become with social media, the less connected we become with reality. With every like, hashtag, and selfie, more and more men, women, and children are guilty of being swept up in the grand illusion of living the perfect life from behind a screen. I’m guilty, are you?
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Twitter wants to know what’s happening, Facebook wants to know what’s on your mind, and Instagram wants pics or it didn’t happen. Many of today’s youth cannot sit through a typical family dinner without repeatedly checking their social media accounts. Excessive abuse of such websites can leave lasting effects on many individuals that are ultimately not for the better. A study from the University of Michigan found that the amount of time spent on Facebook was correlated with higher amounts of social comparison. Therefore, higher levels of social comparison predicted lower self-esteem and poor mental health. When an individual scrolls through their feed and sees an image or post about how perfect someone else’s life is, it often causes them to reevaluate their own. Self-dissatisfaction generally comes from the way musicians, actors, and athletes are presented online. Idealization of such public figures could result in extreme weight loss or gain, eating disorders, and even as far as developing depression due to self-displeasure. Basically, platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are exhibits in a gigantic museum of self-destruction.
The word cyberbullying did not even exist ten years ago and today it is a problem of epic proportions for millions of individuals across the globe. In reference to bullyingstatistics.org, more than one in three teens have experienced cyber threats online. Enduring such threats can lead to extreme anxiety, depression, and even suicide. The Journal of Adolescent Health states,
Youth victimized by their peers were 2.4 times more likely to report suicidal ideation and 3.3 times more likely to report a suicide attempt than youth who reported not being bullied. (Espelage & Holt)
Two short years ago, a neighbor of my grandparents fell victim to the down right scary reality of online abuse. Brooke was only sixteen when a plethora of crude messages filled up her Facebook inbox, which later resulted in depression and an eventual, unsuccessful attempt at taking her own life. Then, I never considered that I would be signing a get well card for a smiling face that I had just been introduced to a couple of weeks before.
Roughly over the past ten or so years, social networking has taken traditional means of communication hostage and changed the typical way of living completely. Forget a smoke or lunch break, people today are too busy scrolling through their timelines. Our generation has become quite an impressive group of multitaskers. Soon, human beings won’t have enough hands to hold their chicken sandwich and iPhone because something else will come along to grab their attention. Because today’s generation can hide behind a screen and twittle their thumbs, people often take excessive amounts of time to respond to messages in hopes of appearing clever, funny, and maybe even a little bit intelligent. Conversation in real time does not allow for the extra five or so minutes to gather the right words. Traditional conversation then makes a transformation from something meaningful to, ‘Sup?…’Nothing much, what about you?’?’Nothing much.’ Heavy reliance on DMs and text messages creates a false sense of connection, today’s society often perceives light-hearted gestures online as much more than what they are really meant for. Instead of a boy walking up to a girl and asking her out, he blows up her Instagram feed in hopes of being noticed. Instead of a family actually enjoying a trip to Disney World, it cannot be official until someone checks in on Facebook.
Steven Strogatz, PhD, a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University, said that the downside, he worries, is growing confusion between our weak ties (people who might be useful in referring us to a good dentist or helping us find a job) and our strong ties (those we’re very close to). “The distinction between genuine friends and acquaintances is becoming blurred. Users are spending time maintaining relationships with people they don’t really care about. (Jarvis, 2009)
We as a society are on a fast-moving train heading toward more and more nonverbal communication that is not slowing down anytime soon. So, what do we do to fix the problem? Parents need to become more involved in their children’s social media accounts. They need to wean their children and even themselves off of those addictive websites. We’re all in this together, right? Instead of inviting Twitter and Snapchat over for dinner, both kids and parents should adjust to leaving their phones behind for an hour or so. For example, according to Forbes, more than 150 Chick-fil-A restaurants are now offering the family challenge: If you’ll lock your phone up in a Cell Phone Coop for your entire meal, you win a free ice cream cone. Families are actually beginning to talk again. School systems could implement seminars and demonstrations that show students the legitimate effects of what bullying someone online truly does, or that there is more to life than getting 100 likes on a selfie. Teens need to learn to go somewhere without checking in on Instagram, contrary to popular belief, it did happen without pics. Kids and adults everywhere should set aside time for face-to-face interaction instead of messaging each other from across the room. There should be a fine line between online buddies and face-to-face relationships. Can you pinpoint the exact moment when you began to rely so heavily on social media? If we were all truly honest with ourselves, the answer would be no. Scary, right? So the next time you are about to ask someone out on a date, why not consider gazing into their baby blue eyes for a real connection. Anyways, people need to learn to observe the world wholeheartedly instead of from behind a screen.
What is Not Social About Social Media Life From Behind a Screen. (2019, Apr 10).
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