Status update: Social media is likely to promote a dishonest sense of positivity and communication
In the morning when the alarm goes off, one reaches out for the mobile phone on the side table to check over-night updates on social media. Many can relate to this morning routine. Social media is mostly used to update personal life, announce achievements, connect with distant family and friends and express opinions, to name a few functions. The replacement of face-to-face communication has become an important and inseparable part of our daily lives. This behavioral change caused by social media has become so normal that people are less capable of judging it as something harmful with damaging consequences. Excessive attachment to social media has changed the outlook on an individual's life, purpose and intentions.
The obsession with social media is easy to trace. Social psychologists argue that individuals learn behaviors by observing others, and the behavior is likely to be repeated if it is supported by any reward or praise. This procedure is reflected in the pres-ent digitalized world. Nowadays, it is rather obligatory to subscribe to any social media as a majority of people use it. It has become very difficult to ignore the existing virtual social connection. Once people become part of social media sites, there is an urge to use it more because of the likes, views, and followers. This positive response lays the foundation for a never-ending series of 'self-promotion'.
The number of people using diverse social sites is increasing day by day globally. In Nepal, it was estimated that in 2017, there were 8 million Facebook users, 3.2 million Twitter users, and 5.4 million YouTube users. More people are joining social media platforms because of the obvious perceived benefits such as being in contact with old family and friends, increased awareness, local and global events updates, and learning and sharing innovative skills.
Most people believe that engaging oneself in these sites has benefits; but actually, it does more harm than good. Nowadays, all age groups use social media sites. Even toddlers are participating, as most parents use their phones to keep their babies occupied. Similarly, continuous use of social network sites has negative impacts on teens because it is often an easy distraction, which is seriously reducing their social skills and relationship within their social circle. Moreover, students are compromising their valuable pursuit of education, as it is often the case that the tendency of original thinking is replaced by the urge to `copy-paste' from any available source on the internet.
It is evident that social media has become an inseparable part of the lives of our generation. Addiction to these sites has increased the tendency among people to consider social media platforms as reality. The original objective of social media, that is to `connect' with people, has lost its meaning. Instead, the new purpose of social media sites rests on the foundation of judgementalism, comparison, enviousness, stereotyping and competition among one another to prove that their life is more 'happening'.
Sadly, it often the case that people relate themselves not by the person they are in real life but to the number of responses they receive on their respective posts, videos or tweets. There is a race to prove that they are unique, exclusive or more intellectual. In this process, the main intention of the people is to get more likes, comments, views, shares, subscriptions or tweets. Therefore, one of the major characteristics of social media is reflected in the valuation of quantity over quality. However, this tendency is not its most destructive part. The situation gets worse when an individual's self-esteem depends on their online activities. In other words, the fewer responses one receives the less self-esteem one has. Its consequences are definitely not visible online, but in reality, it results in a lack of confidence, social withdrawal, anxiety, stress, depression, and emotional disturbances.
Social media has a tendency to promote a dishonest sense of positivity and communication. Instead of talking to one another directly and spending time together, people prefer to text or chat on social networks. This has made some people believe that a life without social media is near to impossible. The growing use of social media has definitely brought the world and people so close that they are available at one touch or click, but the same closeness has increased distance among people and made them more isolated than before.
These days, most people have forgotten to enjoy the moment, and are occupied by an obsession to post photos or videos immediately. Likewise, a majority of people mistakenly consider their opinions as fact and completely ignore the possibility of considering other people's point of view. Moreover, people are becoming more disrespectful towards other people by not connecting to one another socially, physically and emotionally.
Before virtual reality completely takes over one's life, it is important to analyse the current situation and eval-uate its consequences One should carefully use social media to stabilise between what is real and what is mean-ingless. A limited but balanced use of social media is essential to freely con-duct our lives and stop seeking valida-tion from other people. People should practice the skill to sign out from their respective accounts and understand the true meaning of human connection.
Pant is a postgraduate in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.