Does social media do more good or harm? Or both? Have you ever thought of its consequences? How much time do you spend on social media every day? How much time do you spend with your real friends or relatives?
Social media networks started being popular when I was a sophomore at the university. I haven't started to use it immediately. I have always preferred real meetings with real people and I think that there is nothing more enjoyable than a nice conversation with a friend at the coffee shop. I was very suspicious of using it at first. When I moved to the USA in 2009 I was attending American culture class. During one of the classes we had a debate over social media. We were divided into two groups: one group supported the spread of social media, the other mostly talked about its disadvantages. We were free to choose which group to join. I joined the group that talked about disadvantages of social media usage as I was pretty much against it at that time. But slowly, listening to the advantages of social media I decided to give it a try and registered on Facebook and Vkontakte (Russian social network). Step by step I started enjoying it. What I liked the most is the opportunity to keep in touch with the people I've met, but who were far away from me.
Six years have passed since I started using social media. No doubt, I saw a lot of advantages in it, but.... But recently I caught myself that I spend more and more time browsing the news, reading articles I am not quite interested in, looking at my friends' statuses and checking on their photos, then checking photos of their friends and so on. If somebody told me about it, I would ask: "Why are you doing that?" My answer is: "I don't know". I feel like I am kind of addicted. No matter how many times I tell myself not to open it during the day, I would still open it several times a day, every day, even when I am on vacation. And it is getting harder and harder to control. Then I count how many hours I waste on browsing unnecessary things on social media, and it's terrifying - lots of hours that could be used for something more useful. And I am not so eager to meet my friends and acquaintances in reality as I used to. I can always drop a few lines and ask how they are doing, see their pictures and quite often even see what they eat and what has happened to them recently. I haven't even noticed how it happened that I've become a social media addict. And I am an adult; I am rational and can clearly control and take responsibility for my actions. And what about children, teenagers? How do social media networks influence them? These days teenagers spend more and more time on social media without any particular purpose and without knowing that at times it might even be dangerous. Parents, as Pam Myers suggests in her article, should:
Teach them (children) to never give out personal information, and how to handle rude or harassing comments from others.
And, of course, parents should monitor the time children spend on social media.
Overuse of social media might lead us to the future with almost no real conversations. It's in a way easier to talk while hiding behind our profiles as we can create our own personas, an image of ourselves that has nothing to do with the reality. Maybe it's a more serious issue than we think of it.
Yes, I wouldn't deny the fact that social media networks are great in terms of keeping in touch with the friends who live abroad or is a good way of learning something new by following the groups you like. But what to do with our human weaknesses and with our inabilities of taking control, of our escapism from realities and deeper diving into virtual reality?