I was the proud early user of a mobile phone that was large in itself but coupled together with the battery, that fitted nicely into a small holdall, was somewhat unwieldy! Social media has largely passed me by. I do try and use it for work purposes, because I am informed that I must. However the endless searching Instagram, Snapchat or whatever other platform that entrances so many, fails to interest me. I have come to realise that I am not that interested in what others do with their spare time, as often, it only serves to inform me that I was not invited to that particular event. Videos of animals doing silly things, I find okay for the length of time it takes to view one posting that my children have shoved under my nose, saying, 'look at this it is hilarious'. Then I want to move onto other things.
I therefore realise that any commentary on social media is a bit like a non smoker trying to understand a nicotine addiction. However, I do know what I have experienced whilst living with teens and counselling many adolescents for a number of years.
Teens cannot be separated from their tech, it is almost worse than death itself, they spend more time on it than they spend at school. A symptom of which can be lack of sleep but suggest turning tech off and avoidance sets in. Recent research by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) in July says ( surprisingly) that cyber-bullying is relatively rare, I have found the opposite.
Bullying does indeed follow students home. It invades the privacy of their bedrooms. It does not cease upon leaving the school/college gates. Unknown people can now abuse whomever they choose, people will say things remotely that they would never say to someone's face. No longer is the school bully the only offender. Younger and younger children are exposed to pornography and it is worryingly common to have indecent photos on phones. The boundaries of acceptable nudity have been increasingly erased.
However, some of these points above also apply to the adult world. How often have you been out in a restaurant and either one or both/all parties are spending time talking to someone not at the table? It is common place for people to talk via headphones whilst walking, freely discussing their every day trials and tribulations for all to hear. They text and walk, lost in their own world, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. But, what they fail to see is the swathe they are cutting through the oncoming pedestrians who endeavour to get out of their way, like some latter day parting of the waves.
We talk more than ever, but rarely to the person we are with. Surely this must eventually affect our ability to connect in real time? Our brains were never designed to flit from one image to another. We are unable to be bored, constantly seeking entertainment, every free nano second filled with social media.
Social media does not in itself lead to anxiety but for many its overuse can do exactly that. If you are the sort of individual who compares themselves, always looking for perfection, then this can affect your sense of self worth - and this is something I see time and time again in the therapy room. A very real side effect of living in this technological age.
At the present time, there are no answers to this Social Media disease. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle. The future is already here. I feel that we do need to manage our own addictions and those of our children. We need to decide what makes us feel good about ourselves and limit things that erode us. We must educate people on the benefits and the downside of social media, for with education comes choice. Individuals need to become empowered, they can block malevolent feeds, they do not have to just accept abuse.
Speaking as the luddite that I am, I would say, live your life to the full. Do not just observe others through a small screen. Embrace new technologies but control them, do not allow them to control you. Do not live vicariously.
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