Social Media - Does It Do More Harm Than Good?

It’s social media week, and many people will be discussing how the digital world has changed lives for the better. It is true that social media is beneficial, but there has always been an underlying controversy surrounding it. It has only recently become an integral part of our everyday lives, so it’s no surprise some of us are still coming to terms with the change.

I’m currently 21, and have grown up watching society turn digital. I’ve been using computers from the age of 6, being a kind of ‘expert’ on them by 9 or 10. It’s ironic that children of the past two decades, myself included, have spent most of their lives with technology, while their parents have observed this, not thinking much of it, and before we know it, computers and social media have taken over, and the current generation know more about it than their parents do.

This is where I believe problems can come in, when concerning the effect of social media. It’s hard for me to remember a time I wasn’t using a PC; it’s become an essential tool for my life, and I can’t imagine doing 90% of my everyday tasks without one. Older generations, on the other hand, will have grown up while technology was only just emerging, and didn’t rely on it as much. Their childhoods were probably more focused on outdoor activities, breathing in fresh air, keeping active, and talking to each other in-person or on the phone, instead of through messaging.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the benefits the Internet has brought to society. Marketing has completely changed because of it, and we’re now able to reach more people than we ever could, making international connections which were never easy before. However, in the grand scheme of things, how is social media activity making people feel?

In terms of mental health and wellbeing, there have been concerns that young adults, teenagers, and even children are spending too much time on their phones, leading to obsessive behaviour and letting technology govern their lives. I, myself, will often realise I’ve been staring at screens for around six hours at a time, which is worrying enough. When I need to do work, I use my laptop. When I want to entertain myself, I use my laptop. When I need to take a break from my laptop, I use my phone. Can I do anything nowadays that doesn’t require a screen?

Or are we all just addicted?

If adults need social media and technology for work and relaxation, then how are children using their devices? How are young people entertaining themselves when they have nothing to do? Are they scrolling mindlessly through Snapchat and Instagram, checking other people’s stories and feeling like their lives aren’t exciting enough? Maybe they won’t have left the house for the entire day. They’ll tell you they’ve been socializing, but that probably means they’ve been texting friends instead of seeing them face-to-face.

If this is happening to teenagers and children every single day, how will their health be affected? In my opinion, it could be affected significantly.

I think social media governs my generation almost completely, to the point where we don’t know how to occupy ourselves without it. Anyone can put their opinion on it, and any naïve person might be blind enough to look at information online and judge it as fact. A model might have 1,000,000 Instagram followers, therefore a girl might think she needs to be like that model to validate her self-worth.

Is this really the healthiest way to be? After all, social media is a consumer-based product, and it deliberately pulls people in with the temptations it offers, which is why it becomes so addictive. Sometimes I want to accept that we’re living in a digital world, and it’s just a part of life now, but should we really be so accepting if it might have negative effects on young people?

Diana Booher points out in an article how social media may be a positive thing in many ways, but it is ‘fast evolving into a cacophony that drowns out communication and drains productivity.’[1] She wakes up feeling like she has to post, before she can ‘eat, call home, pray’, and the likes. I can’t help but agree with this, as it not only drains the minds of adults who use social media for jobs, but may have worse impact on younger people who have more time to spare and may let it consume them entirely.  

Why has it become so important that we consistently post and share before taking physical care of ourselves? Why should it be our number-one interest?

In my opinion, I think more people should learn to put social media aside. Go outside, take a walk, spend time with the people you love, in person. Experience your life and enjoy it because you want to, not because the whole world has to hear about it.

 

References

[1] Dianna Booher, 6 Ways Social Media Is Doing More Harm Than Good (2014) <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dianna-booher/social-media_b_5375853.html> [accessed 3 May 2018].