We live in the era where almost everything has been digitalised. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that social media now dominates our lives. This has both positive and negative effects, but the needle deflects more towards the negative ones. One of the worst effects is that it kills creativity, and badly affects mental health.
We cannot deny the fact that social media tools are designed to be addictive. They lead to fragmentation of attention, which in turn reduces the capacity to concentrate. They do so by offering shiny treats in exchange of your attention and bytes of personal data. Social media is more an entertainment tool then a useful technology. It wouldn’t be wrong to compare it with a casino slot machine which plays with your mind.
Earlier (before the advent of social media), a person had go through an expert review in order to publish his writing. But today anyone can write anything on social media, whether it makes sense or not. This degrades the writing culture as people start judging their writings on the basis of the reactions of others. This is an unhealthy practice which sometimes can discourage a person from writing.
On the other side, it can also make a person overconfident due to a large number of likes.
Today everyone has a platform to speak their mind, without doing anything to deserve it. One consequence of this is that the deserving and talented people are sidelined. Also, people start sharing even their smallest achievements, developing the habit of instant gratification. The urge to achieve something more lasting or bigger declines as a result.
If on the one hand social media is becoming part of some professions, it is also posing a threat to many professions. We can find these days a lot of self-proclaimed photographers or citizen journalists. It is good to follow a hobby but claiming to be professional or an expert is arrogance. Such practices are unhealthy for the art and craft of the profession.
Not only creativity, social media can badly affect mental health. Studies have found that the top three mental illnesses on university campuses are anxiety, depression, and stress. Numerous studies have linked these to excessive social media use. There is no denying that we spend a good amount of time on social media, so it is all the more important that we analyse its effects on us. Anything on which we spend too much time will have an effect on our mind and even behaviour.
We usually post our best moments on social media, moments in which we look great, when we have achieved some success. Steven Furtick says, “We struggle with insecurity because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”. Even though this was happening before social media with TV and celebrities, now it is happening all the time and directly to us. We let others attribute values to us. We start judging ourselves in terms of social currency, i.e., likes, comments, etc. This is changing our sense of identity. We are tying up our self worth with what others think of us.
But what is the solution? The first step towards fixing the problem is recognising it. That’s why awareness is critical. We need to audit our social media consumption. As we know, input determines the output, so what we feed our brain is linked to what comes out it. We need to make sure we give a healthy diet to our brain. We need to create a better online experience and try to not think about social media too much. These things may not necessarily work, but then the only other option is avoid using social media. Initially it can be difficult but life without social media can be quite positive. It can also be quite productive. Outside social media, things become rather more peaceful. It feels far better to start the day with reading a newspaper out in the sunlight than scrolling down on the Facebook feed in a dark room. It may sound retro but life without social media can be pretty nice indeed.
—The writer is studying for a Masters in Physics (Photonics and Nanotechnology) at University of Burgundy, France. [email protected]