“I see all around me how people’s self-esteem is now wrapped up with their online social activity; this is very problematic for our inner, ethical lives.” -Fay Niker
By | Uzma Saleem Malik
Social Media is an interactive digital world of sharing, tracking, and marketing. It is an amazing platform to keep in touch with friends and family, and undeniably social media has a remarkable impact on our society, culture, business, and livelihood. But on the flip side, Social Media can be delineated as a time-sucker and a complete and absolute disruption. John Berger said, “Social media has certainly made fame and attention more democratic, though not always in a good way.” In this write-up, I aim to highlight how social media integration into everyday life has augmented significantly in recent years and how it affects our society and youth.
Most of us view it as a constructive and encouraging force for social change. Yet, many believe that social media’s over-saturation and obsessive use negatively influence a far-reaching and damaging consequence on our mental and emotional well-being. Indeed, technology is excellent, beneficial, and outstanding, but the excess of technology can be destructive and disparaging; as it has been said that too much of a good thing is never good. Many of us do believe that the biggest challenge around the impact of social media may be the way it is shaping the social order.
“The attention-grabbing algorithms of social media force authoritative practices that intend to sow the kernel of perplexity, ignorance, chauvinism, chaos, hopelessness, and disquiet among youth, further facilitating manipulation, deflation of accountability” (opines a professor of political science from the University of Toronto Ronald Delbert). According to a global online survey of 2019, a significant share of respondents stated, social media had revolutionalized the way people communicate and socialize on the web, it has increased their access to information, ease of communication, and freedom of expression, undoubtedly social media has become an imperative catalyst to reform the educational sector.
On the other side, respondents also articulated that social media had deteriorated their privacy and increased polarization in politics. However, society’s polarization is not a new phenomenon. Still, the damage done by divisive forces(colonialism, Religion, political ideologies) in preceding eras and centuries is now substituted by social media.Simon Sinek,(British-American Author and speaker) elucidate his concerns about millennial and zoomers and their growing addiction to technology and social media. Simon pointed out that we have an entire generation growing up having extreme dependence on technology, which has stimulated an increased sense of seclusion and loneliness. We are already witnessing the outcomes. Irrefutably, Social media has a wide-reaching and significant impact not only on online activities but our offline behaviour, mental health, and life, in general, has also been affected severely. Numerous studies and reports have also suggested that the more social media this generation is consuming, the more likely they are at the risk of developing depression, anxiety, poor sleep, etc. Another study done by The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health surveyed about 1,500 teens and young adults and inquired about their daily social media habits.
The study concluded that excess exposure to Instagram and other similar social networking sites is linked with an acute level of depression, anxiety, cyberbullying, and a “fear of missing out (FOMO). Absurdly this is how social media has reduced the sense of exploration and possibility to sheer anxiety and disquiet. Sean Parker(An American philanthropist, most notable for co-founding the file-sharing computer service)said, “Facebook was built to exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology.” An article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes claimed, when you get a notification beep on social media, your brain elicits a chemical messenger called dopamine, and the same chemical “dopamine” is associated with(food, gambling, alcohol, smoking, and taking drugs)Which is highly addictive if left untreated. Recently, many parents, activists, and policymakers have expressed their grave concerns regarding social media’s potential negative impact. Some reports also indicated that excess and obsessive use of social media had impeded our mental health, resulted in an increased number of suicides, a spike in accidental deaths(overdose), an alarming rate of mass homicide, loneliness, and decreased empathy are few examples.
A report of Dr Minaj Naseerabadi, a psychiatrist with Apollo hospital, said that insomnia, anxiety, depression, and poor academic performances among youth nowadays are all the consequences and symptoms of intense technology use. (The Hindu).Facts and studies reveal that we have a whole generation growing up with lower self-esteem comparatively the earlier era. Furthermore, the dependency on social apps has institutionalized intolerance and annoyance among the millennial and kids. We are breathing in the world of instant gratification, buying our preferred stuff to munching our favourite snacks; it is just a matter of one-touch. You go, visit some sites, and your required product and meal will show up in less than an hour.
Everything happens on the spur of the moment. Sinek, in his speech, put forward another vital point, that Millennial want everything in an instant. He further quotes an example that says that rather than watching one episode of a soap per week, they’ll watch the series all at once, and that’s completely fine, but when they repeatedly priorities these instant gratifications over their long-term ambitions and goals, a tug of war kind of situation encompasses them.On the one hand, they have their phone, which gives them instant satisfaction and a high dopamine rush. On the other hand, they have long-term goals and desires that require patience, consistency, and hard work combined with discipline. They don’t understand that life, career fulfilment, and relationships are a journey. There is no instant app or site for that; you have to go through this slow, plodding, infuriating, meandering life and career process.
This is how the priorities of our lives have changed over time. Instead of working and choosing something worth productive, we keep leaning towards instant gratification, which leads to nothing but procrastination. Do not let social media be your sole basis for “Self valuation.” It is not always necessary that your skillfulness, talent, and proficiency need to be evaluated by all sundry. Not everyone has enough time to focus on what you have posted or shared in your feed and stories, and remember you are not alone; in this expedition, these social apps have taken over the psyche of scores. Nowadays, It has become almost a life goal and the top priority of the millennials and kids to make their feeds, reels, and post appear to be as astonishing and exceptional as they can, and that’s completely fine. Organizing or maintaining your online activities is an excellent way of expressing how creative and extraordinary you are; the problem arises when we look forward to others joining you on the voyage. Many among us got severely obsessed and fascinated with the counts of likes, shares, and comments they receive for their creativity and talent. Whenever the number of likes and share dwindle, their self-esteem and emotional well-being got affected. They start comparing their lives with others. Once you allow yourself to fall into the trap of comparisons and socio-economic inferiority complex, your mental health and emotional behaviour are going to suffer the most. (Displaced Behavior theory also explains how Social Media and Mental Health are interconnected).Instead of falling into the prey of social media validation and conundrum, you should be motivated enough to perform things that make you happy and contented. Utilize your time to build your offline world as well.
If we took all the energy that we use to make our Instagram and social life perfect and put the same power into our goals and aspirations of real life, imagine how successful and blissful we would all be. We as a generation are a bunch of talented, innovative, self-aware, hard-working, and motivated individuals; let us not indulge ourselves in the Sisyphean cycle of technology panics.The above-discussed points are not to belittle or demean the benefit and importance of social media. Of course, social media is a vital tool nowadays. It keeps us connected across the globe and has turned the whole world into a small village. It might sound cliché, but they say “excess of everything is bad.” Hence, realizing that how smartphones have modified our lives is the first step towards the solution. Spreading awareness to friends, family and practicing moderate social media use is vital to alter our behaviours and progress towards happiness and a peaceful lifestyle.
A NOTEClick as many pictures and videos as your heart allow you to, Save all your Snapchat memories, create loads of reels if it gives you immense glee and bliss, Tweet and blogs your ideas, opinions, and thoughts. Create innovative covers and albums for your Facebook and make sure that your social media accounts look as elegant and inspiring as you wish, But don’t let this all distract you from your goals, and don’t lose out on all the beautiful moments and real connections this life has to offer. The quota of likes and double tap on your content has nothing to do with your value, individuality, self-worth, and skills. Stop letting social media hamper your mental and emotional well-being
The writer is a Research scholar at AMU and can be mailed at Uzmamlk99@gmail.com