A New Perspective on Social Media

By Cora Gennerman on December 3, 2015

Social media: friend or foe?

In today’s “digital world,” social media has become an integrated part of our everyday lives. Between checking our Facebook feeds, Instagram posts, Snapchat stories and emails, we barely have any time to ourselves before we feel another urge to start the cycle over again.

Naturally this doesn’t apply to everyone or every situation, but for the vast majority of this generation it does. Speaking as a college student, it is impossible for me to go anywhere without passing by someone on their phone. If I arrive to a class early, there is a dead silence that fills the room. Why? Because everyone is staring at their devices, scrolling mindlessly through their social media.

It is very eerie when you begin to pay attention to this, and notice just how brainwashed and zombie-like we’ve become. I’m only 20, but I miss being able to walk into a classroom with people talking and laughing. I miss being asked out on a real date instead of being asked for my number so they can text me instead. I miss joking and getting to know each other face to face. I hate the awkward silences when nobody knows how to begin a conversation.

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Now, before I delve into the negative impact social media is having on us, it goes without saying that there is, of course, many appreciable qualities. It brings people together from all across the world by making the facilitation of communication simple and quick. It helps upcoming professionals network across the globe, creating vast opportunities while also affording the public the ease of having almost any information readily available at their fingertips.

According to Carmen Gennerman’s research paper titled “The Effect of Technology,” she elucidates that although this new age of technology has created both changes in brain structure and an increase of mental illnesses in younger children, there is still a silver lining in that “Generation Z is able to accomplish tasks at a much faster rate.” This will serve as useful and pertinent with today’s culture, and the future as we know it.

The problem, however, lies in people who have become so attuned to their devices, that they struggle to disconnect. Unfortunately, these “people” happen to be the upcoming generation “Z.”

“Generation Z, also known as Digital Natives, [were] roughly born between the years 1995 and 2010. They are the first generation to be born into an Interconnected world” (Gennerman 1).

Being interconnected as stated earlier is not a bad thing, but rather good as it provides many opportunities. The age-old saying proves useful here that “too much of a good thing is indeed a bad thing.” To attest to this saying, a study published from the University of Glasgow surveyed 753 middle and high school students. In their research they found “that those who spent more than two hours a day on social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter were more likely to report distress, poor mental health and even suicidal thoughts.”

Two hours a day is not a lot when you go through the endless loop that is in fact social media. Between tweets, feeds and countless other outlets, there is a never ending stream of updates that people feel compelled to follow in fear of missing some “vital” information. People feel a false sense of belonging within the realms of the web.

Generation Z as well as previous generations becoming increasingly involved on social media tend to judge their self worth based on how many “likes” they get or how many re-tweets. Some of my friends will even delete their posts if they don’t reach a certain amount of  ”likes” because it makes them look and feel unpopular.

The unfortunate irony in this thought process is that most users feel this way, but think they’re alone. This precipitates new companies to take advantage of this vulnerable cry for help, and create apps that will “like” your Instagram photo or Facebook status for a small price. Yes, you read that right, fake likes!

What is humanity coming to that we need to pay an app to make it look like we have worth, value, purpose? No wonder more and more teens are becoming depressed and suicidal. We aren’t perfect and never will be. The desire to put out a fake sense that our lives are quintessential is what’s ruining the well being of today’s generation. It is a cycle that we can’t seem to grasp. We see pictures of others’ seemingly flawless lives without knowing the countless filters and editing time it took. #nofilter.

It is an exhausting, depressing process, yet despite all these hidden facts, we are still a generation constantly addicted to knowing what others think about us because we have that information readily available. We are slaves to our “smart-devices,” spending well over two hours a day on them. We are brainwashed to believe other people are more special and perfect than we are. We only post on social media what makes us look good to an outside perspective. There is no behind the scenes post. No bad day post. No posts about failing. There is no authenticity to any of this, and I’m sick of it.

Because social media is a newer concept to the parents of generation Z, they typically don’t realize the harmful effects until it is too late. There has not been enough role models to speak out against the superficiality of social media and what it is doing to us. We need more people to stand up and let our young generation know that it’s okay to have a bad hair day, everyone does.

It’s okay to gather socially without posting all the details. It’s okay to read a book without checking your phone every 10 minutes. Despite the pressure that seemingly everyone you know is going to college, it’s acceptable and even admirable to take a year off. Everyone is special and unique, that’s the beauty of humanity. We aren’t cookie cutter robots. We each have a different frontal lobe to our brain that gives us an individual personality. We are not built the same and therefore we don’t all have this “perfect life.”

Can we please take a step back and realize what we are doing to each other? We need to make the change. Let’s start by embracing what makes us ourselves. Love who you are, faults and perfections. Find your own self worth without the approval of others. Let’s start by really talking to each other face to face, and showing each other the best version of ourselves, the real us.

We are the first generation of an interconnected world. We are the first ones experiencing both the mental and emotional side effects of social media. Let’s stop lying to ourselves and others and put an end to this madness. Post a picture of yourself looking goofy. Don’t go on social media for a week.

Let’s help ourselves so that we can better help future generations to come.

This is me.

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