While it might seem as though social media usage has peaked, it is actually still growing at a phenomenal rate. Internet users have an average of 5.54 social media accounts each, this includes Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. Every year, another 176 million users embrace social media. If this doesn’t seem possible, think of all the nations that are relaxing their online controls, think of all the new youngsters signing up. Over 60 million Facebook and WhatsApp messages are sent daily and half of the world’s global population now uses social media. There is no doubt the social media is a powerful tool, particularly in terms of communication or advertising, yet we must remember to recognise its insidious side.
Social media is designed to be addictive, not least because of the revenue many of these companies derive from your screen time. The average American now spends 1.74 hours a day on social media. Think about your own usage, it may well be a similar amount. What did you actually accomplish with this time? What else might you have done with it? The only thing that’s certain is it’s time you’re not getting back. Social media gives you a false sense of accomplishment and a distorted picture of the accomplishments of others. This is bound to lower your self-esteem. It’s something you recognise as you scroll through various feeds; everybody else’s life seems infinitely more glamorous than yours, packed with daily achievements and life-defining events. However, if you think about this for the briefest of moments, then its extremity is revealed. If something were mediocre (endless pictures of people’s meals aside), then why post it? People are also unlikely to post about their daily struggles, which will all face, and the inevitable ennui of work and life. Consequently, a distorted picture is created, which is bound to make you feel inadequate. The more time you spend looking at content like this, the more likely you are to internalise its message.
Lastly, we need to remember that there’s a growing body of research indicating that social media actually compromises your social skills. Young people who grow up using social media can compromise their social skills in ways that those who grew up without it have avoided. Communicating via social media is simple and it allows time for a response to be formulated, but communicating in reality is often rapid and requires the mastery of various subtle triggers including tonality and body language. These skills need to be continually practiced and refined. Investing time in social media is the worst investment you can make. There will be little or no return. Time spent doing almost anything else is a far smarter investment.
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