How social media is a necessity today, and why that might not be beneficial
In sixth grade, I made a deal with the devil. In the middle of the night, I created a Facebook account against my parents’s wishes and, like most of my friends, lied about my age. Within a few years, I amassed more than 2,000 “friends.” Bizarrely enough, many of my friends in the social media world were acquaintances at best. In my opinion, social media transports its users into an alternate world in which friends are not friends, and a false sense of connectedness often leads to emotional distress.
A few years later, I made another deal and created an Instagram account—this time, I did not have to lie about my age. Slowly, I learned the platform’s complex code of conduct: when to post, how to write a creative caption and, of course, the importance of maintaining a ratio of more followers than following.
Later came Snapchat. Travel became a chore for me. If I didn’t post about my location, how could I prove to my friends where I had been? As if by some invisible deity, the pressure to post began to feel forced and, in hindsight, took away from my ability to truly engage with the places I traveled to.
Of course, social media is not entirely evil. It allows family and friends separated by distance to stay connected. However, the connection these platforms promise is not true interaction. Posts on social media are two-dimensional representations of real life. Social media gives the user a fleeting sensation of connectedness, but these moments are illusions that leave the user feeling more disconnected than before.
Beyond its influence on our emotions, social media wields a disturbing amount of power. According to Newsweek, Facebook is the parent company of Whatsapp and Instagram. Its increasing monopoly on how we connect ought to concern us all. I am part of one of the last generations to experience a world that connected without technology. Younger generations are going to grow up with technology companies documenting them from the cradle to the grave. Consider the facts—as of 2018, according to Forbes, Facebook has over 2.2 billion active users. That’s larger than the population of any country. According to Pew Research, Facebook is the primary news source for 67 per cent of Americans. Additionally, these social platforms offer their services for free, often misleading the user into forgetting that their information is now being exploited by corporations, without any sort of compensation.
Companies collect information about our posts, likes, and friends to create complex algorithms that categorize user information, demographic, dates, political beliefs, and even who we are attracted to. This is the hidden cost of social media; we are literally selling pieces of our personality in exchange for fleeting moments of connectedness.
I regret using social media. In my last year of high school, I deleted all of my social media, but like an addict, I am back again. Ironically, I had to resurrect my Facebook to participate in a Concordia club. The world is changing into one where living without social media comes with consequences that impact our friendships, employment opportunities, knowledge of popular culture and invitations to social events.
Mark Zuckerberg—ranked among the annual Forbes most powerful list eight times––has changed the way we learn, shortened our attention spans, and radically transformed political discourse. Elections around the world have been impacted by social media platforms; Twitter played a role during a series of revolutions known as the Arab Spring, where people were able to communicate en mass throughout the revolutions. Today, social media platforms are changing history, and users are giving their personal information away for free. If they can do that today, shouldn’t we be afraid of what they may do tomorrow?
Graphic by Ana Bilokin