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Coming of Age in a Hyper-online, Always-connected World

One of the issues with our modern society is that the things we consume are put into rigid boxes, where everything we consume is categorised as either good or bad. The danger is that these boxes leave no space for nuance. Yes, there are things that are undoubtedly amazing and things that are undoubtedly awful, but life is not that black and white. I view the internet in the same way.

I’ve grown up in the digital age, so my only comparisons are the stories of my parents. When I moved abroad three years ago, I had a wealth of resources to keep in touch with my friends. We would FaceTime, text daily, play online games. While we were, of course, plagued with technical difficulties, this ease of communication is something we take for granted. 

Our online world also allows us to share resources and mobilise much more easily. I’ve seen the way petitions and news stories have gone viral, capturing the attention of not just the general public but also those who have the power to make change. The way protests and gatherings have been organised online, leading to large demonstrations, is fascinating. During the Black Lives Matter protests, it was lovely seeing social media as a force for good, with many sharing books, personal experiences, and petitions.

I spend a lot of my time on social media but I still question the authenticity of Instagram. It’s the way people do things just for social media– as seen by the fact that my first thought when eating out is that I should post a picture. I think everyone who uses social media aids this facade in a way, friends and family have often remarked about how fun my life looks on Instagram. Yet, I write this with my Instagram account disabled to preserve my mental health. I find myself comparing my life to other people’s and finding my life inferior–seeing others who are skinnier, smarter, prettier, and having more fun. I have first-hand experience that social media is deceiving, yet I still allow myself to get sucked in.

I also worry that having everything happen so quickly and so conveniently has made us impatient. We get so frustrated when social media is down, when FaceTime is glitching, I even remember a strong feeling of annoyance when I had to wait eight minutes for a train. We expect things to happen immediately, but it’s a good idea to slow down and remember that generations before us could only have dreamed of what we have now.

I don’t think there’s a particular solution to the issues I’ve raised; some of these are just ingrained in society. I’m trying to avoid sounding like a 2014 YouTube morning routine, but I do think there’s a quiet pleasure in taking time offline to focus solely on yourself and not on the rest of the world.

Helena is a first year at King's College London, studying global health. Though her family lives in New Jersey, she grew up in South West London. In her free time, she loves creative writing, making too much pitta bread and watching true crime documentaries. She loves sunny weather and is always looking for an excuse to head to the beach.
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