Social media is an infinite scroll of humblebrags, naïve politics and insufferable sunset snaps taken somewhere better than wherever you’re reading this from. It is a source of entertainment, envy and enlightenment but is there a point when social media becomes dangerous?
Facebook is The Procrastination Station when it comes to student life. It is irritating at the best of times but otherwise mundane. So why do we keep going back for more? The urge to check your news feed again comes from this idea of live updates. If you only check your Facebook once a day you might only stumble upon your immediate friend’s actions. But if you scroll further, you’ll see that your friend’s cousin’s boyfriend shared a meme about Donald Trump that has gone viral. By tomorrow, this will be old news.
Therefore as soon as you pass your driving test, it is practically illegal not to pose with your papers and enter your accomplishment, an ‘achievement unlocked’ in the race towards death. It is a competition of milestones and if it’s not on Facebook, it’s not real. Does that mean my mum doesn’t exist?
Snapchat plays with this idea of capturing the immediacy of life and documenting it instantaneously. They take advantage of our obsession to stay up to date with everything by introducing snapstreaks, keeping track of how many consecutive days we use the app to contact our friends. I have personally seen friendships being tested by the ‘loss’ of a streak and I think that truly conveys how much pressure is on young people to stay online and relevant twenty – four hours a day, seven days a week.
Secondly, Snapchat especially emphasises the notion that one must appear desirable every second of the day. I cannot count the occasions I have been caught off – guard at a party and begged a friend “No please, take that down! I look awful, I didn’t even know you were filming!”. So, every time I see a phone with a camera (constantly) I must be conscious of how I look, what I’m wearing, what I say, who I’m with… the list goes on.
There is genuinely concerning elements to this situation because who does the footage belong to? If the subject of the photo/video has not given their explicit permission, then is it moral to post it for everyone to see? The dangers of social media have a worrying link with the question of consent which is beautifully addressed in Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It.
Instagram is another perpetrator in this pressure all young people are submitted to. It shows life through a picturesque filter and no, I’m not talking about XX-Pro or Valencia. This is a filter that hides muffin – tops and double – chins and illuminates feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. It forces you to compare yourself with skinnier, more photoshopped models and can be a dangerous route to eating disorders and depression.
It is difficult to think that you could lose your job with one hundred and forty characters’ worth of text. But oh boy, you can. Twitter is a war zone of politics, celebrities and free speech which has gotten out of hand. Increasingly, employers turn to your social media accounts to see who you “really” are.
The trouble is, once a comment is launched into the mysterious twittersphere, there is no going back. Twitter is particularly risky as sometimes the character limit restricts your room to explain that this statement is meant in a satirical sense and a potential employer might read something you wrote five years ago and decide on this basis not to hire you. You may delete it straight away but it can be retweeted, favourited and reach the other end of the earth in a matter of milliseconds. It is out of your hands. This instant nature social media is both what draws us in and what could destroy our future.
-By Grace Kieran