In my last blog I mentioned a reference to a dedicated blog on Social Media, and its current impact on our generation because our generation (all teens and adults aged under 30) has apparently been named the ‘Social Media’ generation. I see why we have been given this tag; I mean I don’t have any issues with this (and even if I did it’s not like anyone would care) but my main motive in this blog is to pen down the issues I see with this entire social media phenomenon. I’m also sure you have read content of a similar nature before online, so nothing new (I’m hoping) but as a tech guy, this falls right into my radar. I’m going to try and present this from the perspective of an individual who deals with tech on a daily basis and the role that social media plays within my personal and work life and its impacts.
I know right now you may be thinking that this is going to be a long lecture or essay but if that is the case then so be it; I’m going to be a lot less formal of course and bear in mind I do enjoy writing, so I may just go on for a while.
I’ve never felt more motivated than now to actually write about this; if it wasn’t for a conversation that came about with an old friend whom re-connected with me, I don’t think I would have been. So, where did this whole social media craze start? Well, it was Mr Zuckerburg, the pioneer of the biggest social media network site in the world – Facebook, who started all of this back in February 2004. I mean, there may have been other social media/networking sites in existence prior to Facebook but this was the trend setter. Who knew a University Computing project would become a worldwide craze overnight? Dude, this guy is the fifth richest man in the world – Jheeze! Sorry, going slightly off topic, coming back to social media, this was then followed by Jack Dorsey’s Twitter, of course Facebook and Twitter can’t be directly compared because they do vary from each other in their own ways, but still fall under the same social media bracket. Then as time went on we saw the likes of Instagram (now owned by Facebook) and the latest is Snapchat. Now, we also have WhatsApp, the biggest chat messenger in the world and as of recent YouTube (which is making people online sensations) both of which aren’t social media platforms, but I will include them on here anyway just because they fall straight into topic.
Most people (I say most as I still have friends who do not) have accounts on these social media platforms; it now seems to have become a norm to have an account on them otherwise people look and think about you in a different way. Weird right? I have witnessed this myself happening to some of my friends and it does make me sick to the gut – what gives people the right to judge others just because they don’t have a social media account? I mean don’t get me wrong, social media is great to keep up to date with the latest happenings around the world and follow your favourite celebrities and so forth but along with it comes growing problems, which I will discuss below.
I’ll try and not make this too generic to focus on the impact it is having on me.
As I mentioned, I’m a tech nerd so it goes without saying that I am of course on all the top social media sites, and I use them on a daily basis, some passively, others extensively. I am opening up a little about my experience; I’ve not discussed this before with anyone but believe self-reflection on your habits will only help us be a better version of ourselves and help us see our short falls from a wider perspective. It’s like looking at your own routine as an outsider; I am doing exactly this in this blog.
The first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do when I sleep is check my phone – you got it, Facebook, Twitter etc. And I am sure I am not the only one who has this habit, I can guarantee that a lot of us have this routine too, to the point that I also drag my phone to the toilet and find myself scrolling through my feeds. This has recently just made me realise how scary it is because I do this all subconsciously without thinking. Naturally my hands now grab my phone without me having to think about the action – I bet, pretty much all of us can manage if we forget our wallet but not our phone, right? I am also guilty of this! We all know we take our phones with us because all we really care about is taking that perfect selfie on a night out and then posting this on Insta to get lots of likes. Am I wrong? And then going back repeatedly to check how many likes and comments we get for our post. By the way I don’t have a problem with mobile phones, they are of course great in emergency situations, but I also remember the days of the Nokia 3310 and the joy I got out of playing Snake on it. That was epic! Long gone are those days though and I’m an Apple Fanatic myself but if it wasn’t for the iPhone I don’t think society would be like what it is today. Yes, smartphones are amazing, I get all that shazzle (I code aps for them myself) but it’s scary! Like really scary; all these addiction habits especially as I do all this subconsciously. The even more scary thing is that I have now seen primary school children with smartphones on Facebook and the likes and there was me getting excited over MSN Messenger (those were the days). It’s clearly evident that this is a social media addiction that is only spreading! Young children make themselves extremely vulnerable by getting themselves on social media – the increasing number of paedophilia cases are relative to this, but personally I don’t think parents should give out smartphones to their children but that’s a different subject for a different day.
As I said, I use these platforms myself daily both as part of my job and personally; I post regularly about interesting tech projects I have worked on at work and Twitter in particular is great for keeping up to date with the Tech world, upcoming hacks, tech conferences etc. Personally, I use these platforms for posting my tech blogs and promoting my graphic design work, so it does have its advantages. Putting all this aside, the point I am trying to make is that I know what I am doing where I have found that a lot of people don’t. They have simply joined these platforms for the sake of jumping onto the social media bandwagon and not wanting to feel left out. People who don’t know how to fully interact with these platforms only add more damage to themselves. Some people post their entire life on there, some to the point that they make accounts for their new-borns almost instantly. I mean come on give me a break. It is actually sad, social media is dismantling society to the point that I even forgot how to write with a pen. Yes. That is correct. I had a phase where I had not written with a pen for 6 months and then when I did I struggled, since that day, I make notes at work regularly in my notebook. Yes, I have a laptop in which I can make notes but after the experience of not being able to write properly, I don’t find that the best of ideas, we are all so habituated to checking our social media accounts, that on a day we don’t, it feels weird.
Let me tell you, I got to a point where I was legit feeling upset if I didn’t get a WhatsApp message or a Facebook like. I mean come on – this is what opened my eyes and I observed that this could possibly also be something that others may be going through. I started seeing how social media is dismantling society – people are forgetting simple every day skills like communicating with people. This becomes a lot more apparent on my morning commutes to work, when every person on the train is indulged in their own world with their headphones in and head down in their phone screen (of which I am also guilty). I am admitting that I have also done this, but as of recent I have tried to hold verbal conversations with people, which sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t go down too well with others. It just depends on the person.
I know I sound really negative about social media right now, it is because there are more cons with it than pros. Of course, there is a good and bad with everything and the same goes for this, like I said it’s great for keeping in touch with people on the other side of the globe, promotion for business and so on, but I am here focusing on more serious issues.
Social pressure is a big one in this, society only makes it worse; as I mentioned earlier, it compels you to join otherwise you feel left out and lonely.
My next point is a big one – I mean as part of me day to day job I am behind the screen as it is, but I got so indulged in all this that I realised soon enough that I was not giving enough times to those who are actually around me, my family and friends. I was so busy behind the screen I became ignorant of what was in front of me. I created a Virtual world in front of me which consisted of likes, comments and blue ticks. Until recently, it now also included a subscribe button (Yes, I am fond of my YouTube channels). This idea of being behind the screen has led to a rising number of online YouTube sensations, it’s great but we end up subscribing to a million channels and spend all day on them. But, I am so glad that I realised what I was doing sooner than later; I tried an experiment with myself. I took myself out of my comfort zone and trialled this for a month – I kept my phone way from me during work hours and when I went to sleep at night. This automatically avoided me having to check it first thing in the morning and distracted me less at work. (I used it for posting work related stuff but no WhatsApp or personal us). Automatically, I was interacting more with my surroundings and without having to make an effort naturally spending time with friends and family. I was on social media a lot less, felt a lot more happier and of course ACTUALLY felt real emotions and not virtual. It was then that I realised that the virtual reality and virtual happiness I had created for myself was only isolating me.
I feel that you can’t even openly express your feelings on social media without them being turned into controversy, we have seen it happen before and it will still continue to happen. I felt my opinions were being oppressed, so I decided to do something about it before it got any worse. I encourage using social media, but don’t make your life part of social media, make social media part of your life. Don’t let it control you, you control it. I came to finally realise that ultimately, it is those around me who will stand by me, not the number of likes I have got on a post on social media. The way things are progressing, it won’t be too long before ‘Social Media Syndrome’ will be an official medical condition. I hope this is not the case; I am glad I got my wakeup call and have controlled my social media addiction – trust me, it will only cause you more damage if you excessively Like, Comment, Subscribe, Tag, Repeat!