Now, before I begin, let me tell you I’m a hypocrite. I am a user, but I’m working on it. I was introduced to it by my brother when I was about 14 years old. He told me all the kids at his school were on it, so naturally, I wanted to be on it too. Church leaders, teachers, parents warned our youth of its dangers. It immediately became a staple in my free time. I did it at school. I introduced some friends to it. I’ve gotten so used to doing it that I keep it on my bedside table.
It’s more of a habit than an addiction, I’d say. I could stop. Probably. I mean, I am the master of my mind, the lord of my lair. I can just stop, right?
I’m a social media user. From prehistoric Myspace to the tantalizing Amanda Bynes tweets, social media has had a presence in my life for the better part of a decade.
By definition, a habit is a behavior pattern developed by frequent repetition and tends to occur subconsciously. An addiction is a strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something. I think, as a generation of Internet users, it is safe to say that most of us are habitual in our Internet endeavors. The question I would like to raise is this: Are we addicts? Is social media considered harmful? I worry that social media, for some, has gone beyond habit, beyond entertainment, and there is now a psychological need to obtain validation through likes, shares and comments. There are people willing to do anything for their 15 minutes of Internet fame.
Chances are the only harm an excess of social media will bring is a further detachment from reality. It isn’t a physical harm, but mental and social. The birthday call or card has been replaced by the Facebook post or Twitter mention. Real interactions are being replaced with digital ones. This leaves a gray area where people feel comfortable saying or doing things they wouldn’t typically do or say. Enter cyber-bullying. Most kids wouldn’t dare to say in person what they write online.
Let’s talk about friendship. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with seeing the little red box that hangs over a small globe on the upper right of your Facebook homepage, we cannot deny that. It begs you to hover your cursor over its white numeral centered in its scarlet square and click. Wow, would you look at that? So many people liked your status or retweeted you; they must really like you.
As soon as this dose of cyber-satisfaction is up, you’re ready to use again. Some users even choose to recycle. Typically I am all for recycling, but when it comes to liking your own status to bring it back through the news feed again . . . it seems desperate. But if that’s your thing, you do you, boo. Many of us are hanging out in chat rooms, but when it comes to literally chatting with others in the same room, we are content with disconnect.
People are forgetting how to enjoy moments because they’re too busy trying to capture them. I myself am guilty of this. Whether it be a hike or a simple gathering with old friends, it’s easy to realize the beauty of a moment and feel an impulse to share it via social media. What’s harder is to disallow the impulse and simply enjoy the moment without the shout-out. The moment you decide you must share that experience with the world is the same moment that you choose to detach yourself from it. You replace your observing eyes and mind with the lens of your phone’s camera and its 2-by-4-inch screen. There is absolutely no wrong in capturing and sharing moments of happiness or entertainment, but it is easy to get caught up in the process of it and let the actual fiber of the experience dissolve. Your friend had a baby? Oh, perfect, let the Instagram games begin! Be sure to spend a few hollow minutes trying to get the perfect picture. Then you must cycle through every filter until you find one that looks nice and vintage; you want people to think this baby was born in the ’70s. You’re not done, though. This is followed by the infamous hashtagging sesh: #baby #eyes #iwantababy #likethisphotoplz #isoldmysoulforhashtags.
While it’s easy to say that you dislike social media, it’s just as easy to understand the benefits. Networking is made easy; a letter to a friend or distant relative is replaced by an instant message, and immediate reply is possible. With social media being intertwined with more daily activities by the day, it’s tough to escape the tangle after you’ve become a user. And one last thing — don’t be the person who scoffs at social media users. You’re almost as bad as the person who likes their own status. It’s all right to take full advantage of the social platforms we’ve been provided. Just be wary of the time and energy you spend online.