Digital technology has evolved rapidly over the past few decades. It has changed the way we process and analyze information. One particular form of technology that is used today by people of all ages is social media. Social media has erupted over the past decade and is one of technology’s greatest innovations. It has led to easy communication, access to information, and knowledge, but on the other hand has led to laziness, lack of social skills, and impulsivity. Although social media is beneficial to our societies, there is also several disadvantages encompassing it.
Growing up, I always watched my parents buy calling cards, as this was the easiest way to call family in Bangladesh. However, with the emergence of Facebook, Instagram, and Skype all my parents need to communicate with a family member across the world is internet connection. It used to be a hassle to make long-distance calls: purchasing and refilling calling cards, making sure the card can call the specific country, and unnecessary hidden fees. Today, my parents benefit from advances made in social media and can easily talk to their family, friends, and pretty much anybody around the globe without the extra planning.
About two decades ago, when social media had not come into play, people would have to go out and seek information. If they had a question about anything, they would have to go to the library or bookstore to get their answer or ask friends and relatives. Fortunately, through the expansion of social media we have been given effortless access to infinite information. By simply going on someone’s Instagram or Facebook profile, one can find several details about current events and pop culture. I have found out about various social movements over the past few years through Instagram. For instance, I heard about the death of Sandra Bland, the young African-American woman who was found dead in her jail cell, via other Instagram users I follow. I learned about her story, gained insight about the discourse surrounding the incident, and began to formulate my own thoughts and opinions about the subject.
With the expansion of several social media apps, people are connected to current events and are more aware of different cultures and traditions. They can generate their own opinions and thoughts on issues thus changing their critical thinking skills. In Sherry Turkle’s article, “No Need To Call,” she asserts “at the screen, you have a chance to write yourself into the person you want to be and to imagine others as you wish them to be, constructing them for your purposes” (374). People state their opinions on news and culture based on what is “correct” to avoid confrontation from others. This statement proves that “the influencing machines” like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are not only used as a method to obtain information about our world but it is also an important tool for analytical contemplation.
Not only does social media provide one with swift knowledge but it also gives quick opportunities. For example, Youtube has been an increasingly notable platform for people with varying skills. From singing to education, Youtube is an amazing arena to get one’s voice heard. Musicians, like Justin Bieber, began his musical journey via Youtube and is now one of the biggest pop sensations. Khan Academy, the online non-profit organization created to make education available to people everywhere, started with one man — Salman Khan. Khan’s Youtube videos range from mathematics to computer coding, all employing simple tactics to help the student understand. Indubitably, social media continues to be a stunning tool that has contributed to extensive benefits for society.
Regardless of the numerous advantages brought by social media, it also has its downside. People are so engrossed in their social media accounts that they are losing the ability to interact person to person. I have witnessed this several times especially when I am at school waiting to go to class. I hardly see any interaction between students because they are constantly on their phones. Unfortunately, I am also a victim of this trend and the reason this problem is so common is a result of our dependency on apps like Instagram and Snapchat to keep us occupied. In the article, “The Influencing Machines,” by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld, states, “…many studies showing how people who talk only to like-minded others grow more extreme. They marginalize the moderates and demonize dissenters. The greatest danger of echo chambers is unjustified extremism. It’s an ongoing threat to our democracy” (332). This is prevalent in our society because people are narcissistic and self-conscious about themselves. We are afraid of what people might think of us in person so we try and overcompensate by using the screen as a barrier to avoid that humiliation. We find comfort in knowing people can’t say or do anything unless we give them the permission to do so.
Since we are so reliant on social media, it has made us lazier. Social media has carved us into passive people who rely on apps to solve problems. I have observed this several times in my classes where students in group projects were so lazy they wouldn’t even contribute to writing one sentence. They took group projects as a burden and simply began to use their phones to find the answer. Nicholas Carr, author of “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” explains, “our ability to interpret text, to make rich the mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” (317). Carr’s statement proves my observation that our generation today is mentally deteriorating as a result of social media.
Social media also leads to impulsive behavior. On social media, users act and say things they wouldn’t have the courage to say in real life. To take a case a point, a Kuwaiti fashion blogger on Instagram, “Ascia AKF” is left with horrific comments on her pictures stating she represents her culture inappropriately, is shunned for the way she dresses, and is considered to be a bad mother for leaving her family to go on business trips. People are so vulgar on social media because they know the screen keeps them protected.
Social media has been a significant invention over the past few decades. However, the rise of social media has both its advantages and disadvantages. It has led to better communication, easy access to information and knowledge but it also leads to loss of social skills, laziness, and impulsivity. It has become a stage to express skill and vast opportunities, but has degenerated social interactions and led to an increase in idle performance.