A big argument for the benefits of social media is that its accessibility allows for easier communication and thus brings people together. Initially, through the use of Facebook or MySpace, people could find and reach out to people whose number they’ve lost or never had. They could reconnect with old friends, or stay up to date in general. These sites later evolved into current platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Arguably, TikTok is less of a communication app than something like Instagram or Snapchat, as its main appeal is fast entertainment. People can send these videos back and forth with each other, but generally there isn’t much communication outside of watching and liking a video. Instagram was used for finding and messaging friends, but we’ve reached a point where that is no longer its purpose. People often message one another on the app, but they are doing so instead of interacting with people in person.
People’s eyes are often glued to their phone; whether they’re watching TikTok videos or scrolling through Instagram, people are being pulled away from the real world. They’re missing out on real face to face interactions. Not only that but the content they’re constantly exposed to is causing more divisiveness both online and in the real world.
Most people are aware of the addictive nature of these apps, but choose to use them anyway.Unfortuantly, our lives require not just the constant use of technology, but the use of social media apps. Clubs and events are advertised on Instagram, people get their news from social media sites and can hear the opinions of millions about said news. Along with that, social media may seem like an escape from the constant stress and seemingly endless void of bad news. What one would soon find out after deleting these apps is that using social media only worsens that stress. It’s not an escape, but rather, a platform to endlessly expose yourself to stressful things.
Discussing the downfalls of social media doesn’t seem to counteract the usage. For me, it was difficult to delete social media. I started by deleting TikTok, as it was the app that consumed most of my time. I haven’t had the app for over a year now and it’s greatly impacted my life. I have much more time to spare and feel more creative. I can focus on the things that matter to me as well as have the time to pick up new hobbies or practice old ones. I don’t find that I’m out of the loop on important news at all, and when I hear bad news it’s easier for me to focus on the positives because I’m not surrounded and immersed in bad news all day. The use of social media may feel like a necessity, but it is not.
Speaking of news, politics seems to be more divided than ever, with neither side able to listen and understand the other. While this issue doesn’t lie just within social media, it is a big piece of the puzzle. Echo chambers are a real issue that thrives on social media. TikTok’s algorithm sends users the same content that they’ve shown interest in. Their popularity stems from sending users what they like and nothing else. This may seem like a good thing because users of the app are only getting content they enjoy and find interesting, but in reality it creates harmful echo chambers that easily spread misinformation and reduce critical thinking. Even if you believe yourself to be someone who doesn’t fall victim to misinformation or has good critical thinking skills, there is a psychological phenomenon called the illusory truth effect, where if you hear something repeatedly you believe it to be true, simply because you’ve heard it multiple times.
It’s easy to think the vast number of communities available online are positive, as they provide a space for every type of person to find people like them. People can presumably find others with similar interests, problems and stories helping them feel less lonely and more connected. In reality, however, these connections are merely surface level. While the shared experiences may be deep and personal, the relationship remains on the surface nonetheless. You can’t form proper connections over the internet alone. These communities more often than not make people feel like they have to fit into a box, reducing individualism. People latch onto certain labels and trends to get more likes or just to feel like they’re part of a community.This is hard to break away from, especially when it’s so normalized that it’s hard to find communities outside of the internet. But we can’t end the cycle of loneliness and detachment without each individual deciding for themselves that they won’t let their lives revolve around social media.