Mohmod Irfan Shah
We are in that age of technology where we have self-driving cars, 3-D Printers, Space Exploration, Social Media, Bluetooth, Fiber Optics, and much more. These technologies have changed our lives for the better by providing us with several advantages, including unlimited communication, saving our time, treating incurable diseases, easy ways to earn money, easy travelling, and much more. But social media, being one of the most used technologies by all age groups, is becoming menacing at an alarming rate, negatively impacting our lives.
Social media is becoming a reason for both psychological and physical issues. It is causing less sleep and more time-wasting. People of all age groups are addicted to smartphones, be it a little kid who doesn’t eat without watching cartoons/YouTube, teens who have isolated themselves from their family and friends, or retired employees who find it hard to sleep without scrolling on their phones. Smartphones were invented for easy and accessible communication, keeping people updated with this technological world, or using small screens instead of large computers/televisions. Unfortunately, the small screens are not being used healthily. As reported by Pew Research Center, 97 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds use at least one of seven major online platforms, and the average teen of age 13 to 18 spends about nine hours on social media each day, with ‘tweens’ aged 8 to 12 for about six hours a day.
There are some severe drawbacks that social media has on our mental as well as physical health:
A majority of people from all age groups prefer sitting alone while surfing social media. Either they don’t want others to notice them or want to hide the content they are looking at. Social media is becoming a reason for people being antisocial or people not wanting to face anyone physically. People are turning into introverts as they are not much into physical communication anymore. Social media is pushing people to build virtual relationships, which isolated them further from the physical world. Self-Isolation eventually leads to anxiety, distress, and suicidal thoughts.
2. Lower Self-Esteem
People have started underestimating themselves while following the lifestyle of so-called “influencers” on different online platforms. They portray themselves like celebrities, social media influencers, and models, which builds an inferiority complex. They blame themselves for not being capable of doing things that other people post about themselves, which makes them forget about their capabilities, uniqueness, and specialty. Stalking the life of other people on social media makes them feel as if they are unprivileged and that everyone else on the internet is living a better life. Most of us forget that social media is an illusion and that people only post the positive side of their life on social media. Nobody would post the flaws or problems of their life, and we often ignore this truth.
Cyber-Bullying is the harassment or bullying done over social media. It is so common in teenagers that you will find numerous cases of online bullying everywhere. Cyber-Bullying includes posting rumours, threats, sharing victim’s personal information, spreading hatred about the victim or any other form which disturbs the mental peace of an individual. Cyber-Bullying is one of the most distressing things that can happen to someone, and its root cause is social media. I personally have been a victim of cyber bullying and at times have had nightmares as well as suicidal thoughts because of it. The bully makes fun of the victim in social groups or posts, the standard form of Cyber-Bullying, which is considered as a piece of humour by cyber bystanders. According to StopBullying.org, the percentage of individuals who has experienced Cyber-Bullying at some point in their life has more than doubled (18% to 37%) from 2007-2019.
4. Less Activity
Before we adopted the norm of being glued to our electronic gadgets, children were found playing with mud, families used to go for picnics with their relatives or neighbours during the summer, and old ones used to keep themselves busy by going through their religious books or counting their last breaths. The social interaction was relatively high compared to what we witness now. Back then, parents used to force their children to come back home, but they didn’t want them to stop playing with their friends outside. Now, these children are sitting at their homes using smartphones, totally isolated from any social interaction. Today we see a lesser number of children in playfields. Children are busy playing online games or surfing social media, which harms their physical as well as mental health because of which they are exposed to bad posture, physical and psychological stress, eye strain, etc. Adults who used to be busy with office work and household chores are usually scrolling social media, leading to the same problem. Older people are being avoided, as every family member is busy scrolling, making them feel lonesome.
5. Suicide/Self-Harm/18+ Content
One of the significant concerns related to social media, which is harming a considerable number of people, is the kind of content that people follow, make, or find on social media. The majority of the posts on social media have no age-restricted filter or warning for different age groups. To find explicit or suicidal content on the internet is just a search away. Images or video clips of self-harming or 18+ content have no warnings about graphic content. All this can develop an intimacy disorder or may cause trauma in the younger generation. Children copy most of the acts from social media, where they find self-harming content, which later pushes them to imitate the same actions.
Hence, it becomes a moral responsibility for all of us, including me, to take our time off the internet as well as smartphones. Also, parents play a vital role in disciplining the younger generation; they have to educate their children about the good and the bad aspects of the internet. Parents should hold their children accountable if they witness any disturbing act their child commits if he/ she is too young for it. A weekly or monthly report about the child’s behaviour should be made for children by the teachers and submitted to their parents. On the other hand, adults should spend some time with their friends, family, and themselves and be grateful for their life and the privileges they have rather than comparing their life with people on the internet.
—The writer is a student of BE Civil Engineering at SSM College of Engineering. [email protected]