Generation Obsessed

 Photo: Netflix

Photo: Netflix

It was bound to happen, wasn’t it?  Social media, as a tool, has blown up over the years with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, to say the least, becoming part of our everyday routines.  We wake up and check our phones, constantly looking for updates from our friends and family on the World Wide Web.

We constantly travel with our phones in our hands, typing away, headphones in, searching for WiFi on the tube just so we can be connected with each other.  Why are we so afraid to put the devices down?

I shan’t preach here because I am a culprit myself.  I plug my phone in at night and put my phone next to my bed overnight.  I use my phone as an alarm clock so when my phone goes off, I hit the snooze button (of course) before going through my social media for updates.  I mean, why on earth would I have unread notifications overnight?  But, I do.  Because everyone’s on social media at all times of the day.  

We are bombarded with ways in which to stay connected with each other via messaging services such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and emails. We have no time to relax, our phones are never turned off, and our brains are constantly on overdrive.

In Black Mirror’s first episode of Series 3 on Netflix, it perfectly portrayed the effects of social media on our mental wellbeing. We rely heavily on likes and approval from our peers to appear to have a solid social standing.  The more followers you have the more important you are. Everyone is judged on their social media presence.  Should you only have 100 followers you are a nobody. You’re not as cool as the other people.

You become anxious and paranoid that you aren’t good enough.  You spend all your time comparing your life to others, forgetting that what you see on social media is what people want you to see.  You don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, do you?  People will misinterpret things online because they are not able to work out body language/eye contact/tone.  

There’s so many attributes of social media that we are missing from real life interactions that I am afraid that as a society, we will forget how to really interact with each other if everything is done behind a computer screen.

However, in social media’s defence, it is an extremely powerful tool to spread awareness, market products etc.  You outreach a far wider audience than you would if you were standing on a soap box.  Social media allows you to reach and connect with communities globally, which is something you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do unless you travelled constantly. It opens a gateway to other cultures, religions, and beliefs and it does bring people together.

But my recent experience of social media whilst being in a very small limelight for campaigning for mental health is that it opens the gateway for people to attack you and there’s little you can really do behind a computer screen.  Reading words online, for some reason, are much more hurtful than if you heard them in real life.  Perhaps, in real life, you could just walk away and ignore the person but with words written online, for everyone to see, in black and white, it is quite humiliating.  And this is something else our society is continuing to do.  There’s a great book I read by Jon Ronson called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and he touches on issues surrounding publicly shaming people via social media and how it can really tear people’s lives apart.

It is easy to write hurtful things or maybe even write things you wouldn’t normally say in real life because, well, you can. No one is going to stop you from pressing send except yourself.  However, if you were to say something in real life, perhaps someone else’s actions or reactions could prevent you from doing so.

Social media has helped me but it has also hindered me.  I have found myself in a predicament where in order to spread awareness for mental health, I need to use social media to reach more people.  But using social media heightens my anxiety levels to the point where I have had to turn off all my notifications and delete various apps from my phone.  I use Instagram and Twitter from time to time and Facebook using Safari.  This obsession we have with the word ‘instant’ is slowly going to drive us all mad. It’s time to take regular breaks from social media and spend more time with each other in real life, creating real life memories, rather than living through a computer screen.

We’d be happier, present and able to communicate with each other. It’ll be hard but it’s time to cut loose and let go of this obsession with social media.  

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