Followers, voyeurism and false pretences – The social media complex

Platform for friendly communications, influential sales tool or beastly community for wrecking body image views and fuelling hatred? Whatever you feel about social media there’s no denying; in this day and age, it’s well and truly integrated into our lives.

At the touch of a button we can gain an insight into the life of our distant friends on Facebook, gawp at completely staged photos of scantily clad women shamelessly endorsing the next fad on Instagram or access the views and opinions of almost everyone in the world on Twitter (yes Donald, we can all see what you Tweet).

The key channels are enormously popular and have become world recognised names turning over unimaginable amounts of money, giving careers (in one way or another) to individuals across the globe. But why then are so many people now frowning upon the influences that excessive use of social media is having upon our fragile and self satisfactory lives?

The social media complex. Powerful tool or beastly communities?

Anonymity

One of the big reasons that people are hesitant about social media is the ease in which one can create an account that is not a true reflection of themselves. You can base yourself on a celebrity or prominent figure, stealing their pictures to use yourself, and thanks to social media, we pretty much know where they eat, what they wear, who they hang out with on a daily basis. In this sense, social media is a tool for identity theft, and in short, you never truly know who is the real person behind an account.

Once someone is active on this type of account, they are not themselves. Sat behind the safety of a screen they feel that they can get away with anything. Younger people are progressively acting more sexual and aggressive online because consequences are not so black and white online (although that is changing), and it is starting to seep out into the real world. With almost every 10 year old and up (often even younger) owning either a phone, tablet or laptop with internet connectivity, parents are allowing them to have access to resources that individuals so young have not had in generations past. Things can easily spiral out of control when a child knows that what they do on their device is their business and theirs alone. They are not fully formed as human beings, yet they are saying and doing things as if they are.

Losing touch with the real world

This is derived from the advancement of technology as a whole. What do parents do when they want to occupy their kids? Stick them in front of a screen. At a very young age, the majority of kids are either watching TV, playing a video game or browsing the internet on a regular basis. That time when they are doing so should be spent playing outside with the neighbour’s kids or quarrelling with siblings – very important parts of forming your identity.

By being occupied by an electronic device, these young people are losing the ability to communicate in the real world. We are all guilty of it, I’m not going to pretend I don’t sit on my phone and not talk sometimes – I do. But the amount of times you go out and see people in restaurants, pubs or bars – in social situations with friends – glued to their screens, it’s not like we’re exactly setting a great example for the young ones.

The difference is that we were introduced to the technology (albeit far less advanced and easily accessible) when we had already had years of play time outside and not being influenced by what we saw on the internet. Today, the kids know no better – it is all they do know. Because most of their communications occur online, they haven’t developed the skills to read social situations and understand non-verbal behaviour. When they eventually enter the working world I foresee that becoming a real issue for both them and employers.

Peeping through the keyhole

I was brought up with the strong beliefs that you should not bother yourself with business that does not involve you, eavesdropping was an act of a sinner and that you should keep your own business private. Oh how times have changed.

Thanks to social media we now know almost every little detail of people’s lives. Who spends time with who, what they wear, where they eat, what car they drive, what they spend their free time doing and who’s shagging who, or more aptly who wants to shag who – you’d be surprised what can be inferred by a few ‘likes’ or comments. Things are taken out of context and what can seem innocent to you may be seen in an entirely different light by someone else. This can cause utterly unnecessary and excessive drama.

When I was at school conversations after the weekend would be about “did you see the football” or “did you catch the new show on Saturday night”, but now we already know this information and probe for further information “I saw you were with Kim on Friday night, you going out now?” Obviously this is an ironic exaggeration and I don’t have access to these conversations between youths, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t far off the truth.

The part of it that really gets under my grill is the fact that people feel the need for verification. Anything that we do, little or large, needs coverage and to be put out on social media. We want people to know what we’ve done so we can get verification from them online. But why? A lot of people live for the likes, but are they really living if they only reason they do things is to put it on Facebook or Instagram? I don’t think so.

Gone are our private lives, it’s not only Big Brother we should be worried about now, it’s everyone, even that kid you met at your cousin’s friend’s party who added you despite the fact you never actually had a conversation. If you post things on these sites, you are letting people peep through the keyhole and see what you get up to behind closed doors. Scary huh?

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