It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the internet has become an intrinsic part of our daily existence. We turn to the world wide web for answers to all our questions and to access the materials we need. A huge amount of the time we spent in the virtual world is spent on social media platforms. Social media has become a phenomenon of its own, becoming the axis around which many debates, discussions, and even trade occur. New trends are set, news is shared, opinions are written, art is created, and community is built. The number of people using social media has risen steadily over the years and almost half of the entire globe is now virtually present on some platform or the other.
Social media has many benefits and has made our lives richer in many ways. Here are some of them:
- We have increased awareness of social issues and access to much material to educate ourselves.
- It has enabled us to connect across distances and remain in touch.
- It has made global communities of like-minded people possible, and much creative and collaborative work done.
- It has widened our perspectives and increased our reach.
- The entertainment industry greatly relies on social media for promotion as well as for profit.
- It allows for the propagation of ideas, ideologies, and support for those who might be struggling.
While these are all great things in themselves, it is no secret that social media has also become a cesspool of anger and narcissism. It has made people more disconnected from their immediate spaces and the challenges they face there. Despite the increased connectivity that we have with the world, social media has not helped with loneliness. Rather, it seems to have made the problem worse with the internet being considered one of the loneliest places in the world. Here are some other problems that social media has brought around:
- Creates a sense of invincibility giving rise to the keyboard warrior culture, where one is extremely bold and loud but only under anonymity and on a screen.
- Increased sense of isolation; does not aid in mental health issues and depression.
- Many create false identities by their interactions and project these onto the people around them, even deluding themselves. This causes them to be unable to love who they are once they have to deal with their weaknesses and flaws in real life leading to numerous self-hate and self-perception issues.
- Social media has not made us more empathetic as some would like to believe but rather has fostered reactionary comments, one-liner retorts designed to hurt, and increased intolerance. Conversational skills and capacity to understand another that comes with extended engagement deteriorates.
- It has severe effects on our mental faculties, clarity of thought, time-span of attention, time spent with oneself and one’s thoughts, and ability to engage on the ground with those who may oppose us.
- Encourages a culture of instant gratification where one’s image and identity are built around likes and shares, and where one seeks immediate results. Continued work and perseverance for a cause become boring and illogical when momentary satisfaction is available through virtual means.
It is time for us to truly consider what social media has done for us and how much of it is good. It is becoming increasingly clear that when given a free rein, it can cause an amount of harm that outweighs any good it might do in any way. It is the knowledge of the effects that addiction to a virtual world causes that lead to many wealthy and brilliant men like Steve Jobs putting strict limits on the time his children spend online. With so much of our everyday lives moving online with the pandemic, it is impossible to completely keep away from all online platforms. Yet it is the need of the hour that we find alternate unplugged means of balancing our mental and physical health. Moving away and “detoxing” from social media has become necessary if we are not to lose our grip in life and our ability to have meaningful conversations and relationships in reality.