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How Social Media is Playing With Our Minds

by Haziqa Salman
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Entering the new decade, it is clear that social media has fully assimilated into our lifestyles and many of us can simply not do without it. But is it all that it is made out to be? While it has certainly played its part in making this world a global village, it is not without its drawbacks.

For starters, we seem to be using excessive amounts of time on social media. According to Global Web Index, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide in 2019 was 144 minutes – and the number keeps increasing every year, but remember, this number is an average, which means that in reality, some people spend far more time on social media, and some far less. In fact, for many adolescents, the time spent on social media can take up a large fraction of their day. This begs the question, is that much usage worth their while? Or is it merely spent mindlessly scrolling down newsfeeds and Instagram posts? One cannot deny that excessive usage of social media is a problem when one sees that such a thing as ‘Internet addiction disorder’, or ‘social media overuse’ has been proposed – the term is self-explanatory.

Teens using mobile

With excessive use of social media comes the drawbacks of neglecting day to day responsibilities at home and work and spending less time on more productive tasks. Students are especially affected as the prime time i.e the formative years when they work on mastering their subjects and achieving a foothold in their field of choice are spent serving every other purpose but that – thanks to social media. Professionals too may have their performance adversely affected. It is no wonder that this problem has pervaded even the sphere of parenting where irresponsible behavior on the part of parents leads to infants having a large part of their waking hours spent in ‘screen-time.’

“If you don’t go to that exotic beach on the coast of that specific country and take a picture in a certain way, you’re not cool! If you don’t take the perfect selfie with the perfect lighting or buy designer clothes, you can never be happy!”

The influencer trend is all the rage nowadays as well. While it is certainly a great way for the ‘influencers’ themselves to earn money but it seems that many of these platforms advocate unhealthy and impossible standards. Such platforms seem to romanticize and glorify all the wrong things. Advertisements on social media seem to be telling the same story. If you don’t go to that exotic beach on the coast of that specific country and take a picture in a certain way, you’re not cool! If you don’t take the perfect selfie with the perfect lighting and the facial expression that’s trending these days (read: pout or duckface or anything along those lines) then oh man, you have not lived at all – or if you don’t buy clothes from a certain high-end brand and splash your money on designer accessories and cosmetics, just get out! These messages though not blatant are rather slipped in ever so subtly that they permeate your subconscious and leave you feeling incomplete…as if you couldn’t be happy if you didn’t do these things either. And with everyone around us – all the people in our virtual social circle, following all these trends religiously, one cannot help but decide to jump on the bandwagon and seek to conform to these outlandishly ridiculous examples to find validation and happiness.

“What were concrete and noble ambitions like serving one’s community or pursuing higher education can become replaced with more hollow and worldly goals…”

If one does not take everything with a grain of salt, one can find themselves lost in this race for having the perfect and most consistent Instagram theme for their profile. What were concrete and noble ambitions like serving one’s community or pursuing higher education can become replaced with more hollow and worldly goals like getting the latest model of the car a more prominent jawline? Not that such ambitions are infernal or wrong, but imagine when one prioritizes the number of likes and followers they have over everything else, would you not suspect that setting such standards would inadvertently lead to the destruction of one’s well-being by completely eradicating any last sense of contentment and self-assurance that they had? Would you not believe that normalizing splashing one’s money over expensive designer brands would lead to a concomitant decrease in one’s humanity? When such practices are done occasionally, it may bring a certain amount of excitement or glee (example: therapeutic shopping) but taking it up as a lifestyle has the effect of turning one’s priorities topsy turvy – where scrambling to get things at discounts before the sale ends is more important for us than trying to alleviate the suffering of the poor.

The lifestyles of such bloggers that social media portrays leaves people’s mental health in a sad state. Many types of research have linked the excessive use of social media to anxiety and stress. This sad state of affairs holds in many places and unless people are wary of everything they absorb while using social media, they too can fall prey to it – which is why it is necessary to take steps to avoid getting toyed by social media. Here is how you can outplay it.

“The possibilities of social media are endless.”

The possibilities with social media are endless. While spending half your day scrolling through your feed and watching other people’s successes does nothing but waste your time, doing it yourself may not necessarily be the case. Social media gives you the power of communication, the power of getting heard by the whole world. You can put your business out there and watch it grow and become more popular thanks to social media. Products by different entrepreneurs can be put up with their accompanying details and bought online, similarly, other services can be offered too. Have a passion? Painting, journalism, singing – every skill can not only be learned but also shared with the rest of the world managed by a few simple clicks and if you didn’t already know, the same skills can also help garner you some bucks while you are at it.

Social media with its incredible growth day by day is crossing all limits in the way we interact with the world. Estranged families having virtual reunions and the prospect of freelancing and working from home has made the internet and social media a life-saver in many ways.

Social Media icons
With the COVID-19 pandemic, social media is ever necessary for connecting with friends and family whilst continuing work and learning from home.

This is especially highlighted at this hour when the whole world is beset with the Covid-19 virus which has made it imperative to socially distance from other people. Suddenly, universities, schools, and offices are closed – but still open virtually – thanks to social media where one can learn from one’s professors and hold business meetings all in the comfort of their homes. Life, as we know it, has stopped – yet learning continues with online classes and for many people, their offices just happen to be their homes too now. Family and friends meet and interact online and every experience has suddenly found a virtual aspect to it.

We see that social media can either be an instrument of our destruction or our salvation but it all depends on how we use it. In quarantine especially, social media has become ever vital to connect with our fellow human beings and perhaps now, with airports closed, shutting down the prospect of traveling to exotic destinations just ‘for the gram’, and social distancing necessary, precluding sales of expensive makeup and clothing lest they carry the infectious organism, it seems as if we may just finally sort out our priorities and use it for more productive purposes rather than mindlessly scrolling over the same feed and wistfully staring at the in all those lavish ads that we can’t afford to emulate. In quarantine, we might just outplay social media after all.

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Noshad Ali

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