I want to jump right into what’s been on my mind lately—it’s time to have the social media talk. I’m not going to pull a parent move and talk about how Facebook is destroying our generation, but I do want to address the ways in which platforms like Twitter or Instagram have the potential to do more harm than good.
First, I want to clarify that I’m a firm believer that social media can be used to do a lot of good things. My entire extended family lives on the other side of the world, and a lot of my friends live in the States, so without Facebook, I wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with many important people in my life. However, I feel like even for myself, that’s become more of an excuse than anything. True, Facebook does allow us to keep in touch with those we don’t see often—but according to a quick search on Google, the average person has 338 friends on Facebook. Is it really possible to keep in touch with over 300 people on a daily basis? Let’s just assume that there are people who do, in fact, talk to 300 plus people a day. Are those interactions meaningful?
I’ve observed that social media has the potential to become a breeding ground for insecurity. The average person will not willingly upload an unflattering photo of themselves to Instagram, and as a result, our social media accounts are more often than not a collection of our “best” moments. The process of posting a selfie, for example, is a complicated one—it takes several tries to get the perfect angle and lighting, and then we proceed to see which filter works best. It doesn’t end there, either. Once the selfie has been posted, we’re constantly checking to see how many “likes” we end up getting, and let’s be honest, a lot of us have felt disappointment when a photo we thought was good doesn’t get as much attention as we were hoping for. Even the photos we post of our textbooks or homework are carefully coordinated more often than not; we want the photo to look both nonchalant and artsy, so we end up “staging” a lot of our candid moments—enter the classic macbook, coffee mug, and carefully lined up notebook and pencil. No one’s work area looks half as put together in real life as an Instagram photo of their “study space” would lead their followers to believe.
Comparison is a dirty game. There will always be someone whose Instagram account looks artsier than yours, and because we only really see the highlights of other peoples’ lives (concerts, hanging out with friends, camping, etc.), it’s easy to assume that your friend’s girlfriend’s sister’s uncle’s stepson (we’ve all creeped a random stranger at least once) has an extremely fun life, which can lead you to feel dissatisfied with your own. As someone who’s struggled extensively with self-image, it’s super easy for me to come across a random girl’s Instagram and feel like I’ll never be as pretty as she is.
I think that social media also has the potential to eat away at our real-life social interactions. How many of us have gone out for coffee with someone only to have them check their phone every few minutes? Furthermore, have we ever been that person who ends up checking their phone? I try to make it a point to not have my phone out when I’m with someone, but even I’ve found myself looking down to see what notifications I might have. True, the people we’re texting are real people and our conversations are also real, but it doesn’t seem right to prioritize a conversation with someone who is not present (unless it’s an emergency) as opposed to the person sitting right in front of you. It feels like we’re unintentionally becoming more and more antisocial as our dependence on social media increases. It’s also come to a point where we sometimes don’t know how to carry on a meaningful real-life conversation, because we have most of our conversations via text.
In saying all this, I really hope I’m able to make us all reflect this year on how we’re using these outlets. Let’s not let social media consume us—it’s possible to enjoy it without becoming dependant and obsessive.