More Harm Than Good
LOG OFF Guest Writer, Michelle Shajan, speaks on social media through her eyes, defining what it means to be a teenager navigating a journey of digital minimalism, and what led her to begin that journey in the first place.
Being a 17 year old without social media is far easier than I thought it would be. I don't know what my friends are doing at all times, and I don't keep up with the latest memes; I have survived.
I left all major social media platforms in August of 2020. There are many things that pushed me over the edge and into digital minimalism, and I'll get into these reasons in just a second, but, please, don't worry, your snapstreak with Rohan isn't going to expire in the time you read this article.
Am I pretty? Are you?
You would probably receive a response that highlighted the subjectivity of beauty; what may be attractive to one person is not necessarily attractive to another. But, not anymore. With the advent of face filters, social media suddenly has the power to make beauty very, very objective. When comparing a picture of myself to one taken with a face filter, I could point out plenty of different issues. For example, half my chin had disappeared; I had bigger eyes, a smaller nose, smaller ears, hollowed-out cheeks, and clearer skin.
What is so incredibly unflattering about me is that Snapchat, Instagram, and other platforms feel the need to make face filters that digitally alter my natural features to enforce the idea that I look pretty this way and this way only. To make me resemble a specific societal ideal of beauty. All of a sudden, I found myself noticing everything Snapchat deemed unworthy. I felt lesser than when compared to my filtered self. Nothing should hold that kind of power over you.
Another blatantly problematic aspect of social media is the numbers. A small change in the number of followers you have and the number of likes and comments that you got on your latest post has the power to influence your general mood and mental state.
When I was younger, I would actually hang out with my friends when we hung out. Nowadays, people want to create the image that they had fun on social media even if it was not like that in reality. What is all this for? Why do we care so much? Just because there is no record of you online, hanging out with your friends, or having fun, does not mean that it did not happen.
This leads to my next problem: we do not need to know everything our friends are doing all the time. Quite frankly, I find it weird that we have that ability in the first place; it allows for unhealthy obsessions, making it acceptable to stalk people for hours on social media while masking this behaviour as fun.
Social media is no longer about sharing the happier moments of your life with the people you love, but, instead, it is about the numbers, the other people, their validation, and their approval. It is simply the only thing that matters.
I do believe that social media has its advantages. Platforms like these have saved lives. People now have a space to express themselves and their opinion, creating content and building actual livelihoods off of social media.
But, racists and sexists too have a place to voice their opinion, just like activists and humanitarians. We cannot expect people to be able to discern what is true or false online. In this way, social media has the power to influence the way you think.
Despite being a powerful tool, it is also one of the most dangerous. From issues with body image, to seeking validation, to even mass polarization, social media adds fuel to the fire of too many societal problems, begging the question of whether social media is all that great after all.
Ketz, Amine. “Why Snapchat Filters Make Them More Attractive ?” Medium, Marketing on Acid, 13 Sept. 2017, medium.com/heedx-connect/why-snapchat-filters-make-them-more-attractive-d669fbf00e74.
Chandler, Simon. “Social Media Is Fostering A Big Rise In Real-World Stalking.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 11 Oct. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/simonchandler/2019/10/11/social-media-proves-itself-to-be-the-perfect-tool-for-stalkers/?sh=753d16053d79.
Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández, Johan Farkas. “Racism, Hate Speech, and Social Media: A Systematic Review and Critique - Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández, Johan Farkas, 2021.” SAGE Journals, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1527476420982230.
(email@example.com), John Simkin. Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, spartacus-educational.com/GEReducation.htm.
Cover photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash