Social Media - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Updated: Jun 6, 2021
It is undeniable that social media has become a staple of modern living, whether it is a mindless and mundane thing that you do, or a borderline obsession that lowkey dictates your life. In recent times, it has been a burning hot topic, sparking countless discussions, articles, and even documentaries; everyone seems to have an opinion about it. On episode 5 of the young and foolish podcast, the guys express what they think about social media, discussing both the pros and the cons.
There are certainly many criticisms towards social media nowadays, with a lot of people realizing the dangers that come with it. The young and foolish guys understand this and agree with many of those criticisms. For starters, social media is addictive and designed to be so, enticing you to stay on the app or the website for as long as possible. It is easy to mindlessly wander on these platforms and spend way too much time. The consumers appear to lack the awareness that they are falling into this dangerous trap, into this vicious cycle. Those who do recognize that it is a problem have to put in the work and intentionally stop themselves from spending all their time on these social media platforms - almost like rehab. The newness of this technology and this global cultural phenomenon makes it difficult for people to understand and develop that awareness, especially for those who grew up with it. Perhaps, parents and educators should provide the adequate warnings and bring awareness to the dangers of social media at a young age. However, George Wang suggests that it would not be realistic to expect this, as many parents, educators, and older generations, in general, are themselves subscribed to this digital lifestyle and addicted to these platforms.
As terrible as spending your time all on social media and missing out on other aspects of life and other more important things you could be doing is, the danger reaches far beyond that. Fake news, misinformation, and extreme ideologies have been on a rapid rise in the last few years. It is beautiful that social media allows the freedom of speech and expression; however, it is also horrifyingly dangerous that almost anyone could post just about anything online and have those ideas exposed to the world. The young and foolish guys talk about the niche groups (antivaxxers, flat-earthers, etc) experiencing confirmation bias and buying into their ideologies even more. The combination of posting anything you want and the platform feeding you the same stuff you look at and post has the potential to drive people down all kinds of rabbit holes. This kind of influence on people's thoughts needs to be brought to awareness. People need to understand how the algorithms work and how others use it to spread and influence ideas. If that does not occur, it would not be surprising if the world gets even more divided because of it, like we've seen with politics and the pandemic.
Constantly glued to the screen and fed new bitesize information, social media is also driving our attention span straight to the ground. The young and foolish guys brings this to their attention and questions what effects it could have on the younger generations. Who knows what consequences this could have long-term on our communication, lifestyle, and behaviours. The guys do not spend a lot of time on this specific issue, but that is not to say that it isn't within the compass of their concern regarding social media.
"I feel like a lot of people live their lives on social media." - Raymond Xiao
Focusing on another unhealthy aspect of social media, the clout culture is a serious problem. People are living their lives online and constantly exposed to the opinions of others, with posts, likes, shares, comments, and follows. A large portion of users buy into trends and fads, following the crowd and seeking clout for doing so. We see so many people being mirror replicas of each other, lacking a strong self-identity and authentic personality.
Related to the clout culture, it is important to address the unrealistic expectations that influencers and brands set by selling certain lifestyles. The posts and advertisements that appear on our feed often portray unmatchable lifestyles that are detrimental especially to the youth and other more impressionable groups. People have a natural tendency to compare themselves to others, which has been put in overdrive by social media. When they see those lifestyles, buy into them, and even worship them, but cannot reach them themselves, the psychological hurt they experience is serious. These unrealistic expectations truly have negative effects on the mental health of many. How that should be dealt with is unclear and complicated; however, the issue itself should be brought to greater awareness.
Talking about the consumers and the influenced, there is definitely a lot of pressure for creators and influencers as well. How many YouTube videos have we seen from our favourite creators addressing their burnout and talking about taking a break? The constant pressure to upload and produce content on a regular schedule is a lot, pushing many to jeopardize their mental health. Similarly, the obsession with taking it to the next level and "improving their content," often drives creators to even more unhealthy behaviours; sometimes, they even put their physical health on the line. There is also immense competition, as followers have plenty of other content to consume. This further drives creators and influencers to develop tendencies that negatively impact their mental and physical health. In fact, it is such an impactful factor that some creators even comprise their values and standards to outcompete others. Evidently, social media has this potential to severely hurt both the consumers and the creators.
There are definitively incredible benefits that social media provides as well. The obviously being communication, it enables people from all over the world to interact with one another. People can make friends, build communities, and even find love, using social media. In addition to this, it lets people have easy and convenient access to information and knowledge. Lorenzo brings up the usefulness and quality of the contents created by The Organic chemistry Tutor and Khan Academy. There are many other incredible educational materials being put on social media for everyone to freely access. Nowadays, people can just pull up a YouTube video for tutorials on anything. We can look for recipes, advices, and other useful information in a Facebook group or on an Instagram page. Evidently, when it comes to social media, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Listen to the full conversation the young and foolish guys have on this topic on episode 5.