Social media-a blessing or a curse?
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I was in a cold, clammy sweat, and my heart was beating louder and faster than usual. I’m embarrassed to admit I was in no dire situation at all, I had simply agreed to go a week without social media so I could write an article about the affect social media has in people’s lives.
While writing this article was a spur of the moment decision for me, the idea of giving up social media had been on my mind for a while. I had found that recently I’d been spending more and more of my free time online, but I was also falling behind in replying to messages and keeping up to date on the seemingly endless internet. Junior Caroline Haarman expressed a similar issue while talking about Twitter, “You can just keep going, it never ends and you can always find more things to look at.”
There had also been a sermon at my church recently that addressed addiction on all levels, and it had got me thinking about whether or not the internet had turned into an addiction of sorts for me. It is also the season of Lent in many Christian churches. This is a time where people are encouraged to give up something in their life for 40 days. This could be mean giving up certain foods, a habit, or for many people, social media.
Junior Mateo Pignatello decided to give up both Snapchat and Instagram for Lent. He said he uses Lent as a way to “show self will,” and to show the fact that you physically can live without something for that amount of time. Pignatello noticed that he wasn’t really enjoying his time on social media, “Sometimes I’d find myself on my phone doing nothing, just sliding in between screens, trying to find something to do.” This is something I had found myself doing as well.
When I arrived home after being assigned this article I began scouring the seemingly endless amount of posts and messages on my social media accounts. As I scrolled through posts on timelines that would be irrelevant by tomorrow, or maybe even in a few hours, I almost instantly began feeling overwhelmed by it all. That night, as I thought about my upcoming week without social media that was about to start the next morning, I was excited to see how different my life would look without the stress of it, but I also had no idea what to anticipate as well.
On my first morning without social media there was a noticeable difference from what my normal routine looked like. While I would usually be sending Snapchats or checking my Instagram feed, me and my mom ended up chatting while we ate breakfast instead. My mom pointed out the difference to me, and I began to realize just how much social media was affecting my everyday interactions.
Over the weekend my family and I left on a short trip to visit our relatives. While I was spending time with them, I began to realize how much time social media had consumed in previous hangouts with them. I was able to see the difference in how much time I spent with family without the presence of social media, compared to the times when I was on social media.
Whether it be with family or friends, the amount of time people spend on social media can really affect what your interactions look like. “Hanging out with friends who are always on the phone is a downer,” Pignatello said.
The internet can be a really great place to find validation in yourself at times, so without the online interactions I usually have I found I was slightly lacking in some of my confidence. “I have a lot of my self worth wrapped up into social media and validation on social media, which kinda sucks but also at times it’s kinda positive to be validated through comments and likes,” Junior Caroline Haarman said. My week without social media was a good way to recognize how positive of an effect social media can have on you and your confidence, but it was also a good reminder that you shouldn’t get all your validation online as well.
“I like to talk to people a lot,” Freshman Gavin Schulz said, which was another thing I noticed as the week progressed. I interact with a lot of people online, and some of my interactions with close friends are restricted to mostly online communication. This new age of social media has opened many doors of communication that were not even possible before now. Haarman said without the presence of social media she would “have less friends- like a lot less. My circles would be smaller.”
Not only has social media had a huge impact on what our relationships and interactions look like, but it also can be required for connecting to certain groups and events. “Facebook you know- I can’t not have that. NHS runs through that, my frisbee team runs through that,” Pignatello said. Both Schulz and I use Facebook for keeping up to date with South High’s cross country running team, and most other sports use some form of social media platform to update their team members as well.
Social media also provides a platform for other communties to share information. Haarman is passionate about activism, and one of the ways that she is able to support movements is through social media. “I use Facebook a lot for activism because you can find a lot of events and RSVP them,” Haarman said.
“I think it really connects the world on a lot of social justice issues, police brutality, a lot of things like that would just fall by the wayside… There’s no way to cover up police brutality and murder because someone always has it filmed and then once its up you can never take it down,” Pignatello said. “It frees the world through information.. Everyone has the capability now to know all the things that are happening,” Pignatello said.
In the end I’ve learned that I need to be more careful with how much time I’m spending online, but I’ve also come to see how positive of an impact social media can have on aspects of both my life and other’s as well. As Haarman put it “we all use social media,” and so just as long as we are mindful of how we use it we can also appreciate the good effects it can bring.