Social Media And You

We live in an age where it has become difficult to distinguish between the real world and the virtual world. You might be having dinner with your family but at the same time so engrossed in sending messages to your friends that you are not mentally present in the moment, even though you physically are.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and WhatsApp — this is the world we are surrounded by and frankly, it has become hard to imagine what our day would be like without an internet connection and without socialising in the virtual world of social media. We seem to be caught up in some fantasy where we think that marking our presence out there is highly essential, and that failure to do so can cause the Earth to rotate the other way round.

Let me make one thing clear before I proceed. I am not here to lecture you about the bad aspects of social media, nor am I writing this to make you feel guilty about using it. Instead, I want to make you aware of some of its ill-effects that you have probably overlooked and what measures you can take to protect yourself.

overlooked and what measures you can take to protect yourself.

If used carefully, social media undoubtedly, is a very useful tool. It has become possible today for us to keep in touch with old friends and our loved ones anytime we want and anywhere in the world, to keep ourselves updated about events, to have important discussions in groups, and to share our ideas with a wide audience — something our grandparents couldn’t even dream of when they were our age.

However, technology has its own pros and cons and the same tool, if misused, can be disastrous. The unfortunate fact is that since we do not see any evident and direct harm coming to us, we ignore the long-term and unforeseen problems we may face. What is the harm I am talking about? Let me explain.

Social media is highly addictive

Addiction doesn’t always come in the form of drugs and smoking. Social media is another form and one that can get worse. In former cases, it is your physical health that is at stake, but in the latter case, it is both your physical and mental health, as well as social connections that are threatened.

The sad part is that this danger comes without you realising it. It sucks all your time and energy. You must have had those moments when you were scrolling your newsfeed and before you knew it, an hour had gone by. Afterwards you were too tired to do anything else. Social media sites, especially Facebook, are designed in a way to captivate you completely because that is how people behind the screens make money.

It gives a false meaning to accomplishments. Have you noticed that momentary rush of joy and pride when you discover that 150 people liked your photo and another 50 commented? Congratulations, but this is another way you have been deceived.

The likes, comments and shares on social media give you a false sense of accomplishment that fools you into believing that you are the most important personality on the planet who has done a remarkable feat, when in reality you were only sitting on the sofa or lying on the bed doing nothing.

Suddenly, you feel that to make yourself important in the eyes of others, you don’t actually need to do anything but put filters on yourself. Studies show that for every like, comment and share, there is a dopamine rush inside you, the same neurohormone that is released during feelings of smiling, hugging etc.

It lowers your self-esteem

It is not uncommon these days to feel sad, jealous or grumpy because you discovered through Facebook that your cousin is having a completely awesome life, far better than yours, or that your friend won a competition but you didn’t.

Think about this: will anyone post photos of themselves having a bad day, or will your classmates announce on social media if they flunked an exam?

Remember, what you see on social media is most likely an illusion; the real world is very different and far more important

Of course not! The sad reality is that most people only paint the best pictures of themselves out there, that causes you to have feelings of inadequacy and inferiority about yourself. Remember, what you see on social media is most likely an illusion; the real world is very different and far more important.

Social? Not really

Just because you actively socialise on social media does not mean that you have the necessary social skills. It only takes a bunch of cool words, a couple of emojis and pressing a button to communicate on social media these days.

On the other hand, socialising and communicating in real life is far more complicated and requires you to have a specific set of skills, such as the right body language, pitch of voice, behaviour, knowledge and good observation, among many others. It can take a lot of time and practice to learn these skills, so don’t let social media fool you into thinking that you are a very social person.

It sucks your time

Telling yourself, “Oh, I’ll just check notifications and then start homework” is actually deceiving yourself because guess what, within minutes the screen casts a spell on you and you find yourself stalking your best friend’s best friend’s profile.

Be honest with yourself, and if you are checking your phone for notifications, don’t tell yourself that you want to research an assignment. Turn off your phone or put it away.

Privacy issues

The more features and updates social media sites offer us, the more exposed we become to online crimes and scams. Some stranger might be accessing your photos and you may never know. Or, you might discover suddenly that your account has been hacked and all your private information is at risk.

These days, people using fake accounts can easily make teenagers fall into their trap. Cyber-bullying has become a common issue and usually very young people are the target, because it is easy to scare and threaten them. It is very important that you keep a tight check on all your accounts’ security settings and if you don’t understand the settings, ask an adult for help.

So what should you do?

Now the question is what can you possibly do to protect yourself? Here I have some suggestions:

Set a time limit: If you find yourself picking up your phone every five minutes, you should set a time limit for yourself. For example, you can promise yourself to check your phone only one hour everyday and not more than that. This one hour can be divided into slots of 30 minutes each, one in the afternoon and one in the night.

If you cannot resist the urge — and this will happen in the beginning — keep your phone a good distance away from you, where it is beyond your reach, or ask your mum to keep it.

Turn off notifications: Notifications popping up every now and then can be very tempting but, at the same time, distracting. Perhaps you should turn off notifications altogether of apps that tend to have too many notifications.

Limit usage: How many times a day do you check all your accounts? You probably don’t even know that!

If that is the case, you are very likely overdosing yourself. You can limit this usage, for example, if you check them 50 times a day, then limit yourself to first just 40 times, then 30, then 20, then 10 and then five.

Don’t try to restrict yourself too much for the first time. One thing though, you will probably go through many FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) moments during this time. You will feel that by not checking your phone, you are missing an exciting group chat or an interesting comment, etc. However, you can always catch up afterwards and the world will not come to an end.

It is for your own benefit that you take some cautionary steps before it is too late. Remember to always use social media as a tool and not to let it make you its tool.

The Article First Appeared In The Dawn

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