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Imbalance, not addiction: Young adults and social media

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(Image via Jason Howie / Flickr)

Addiction, bullying, distraction — despite critiques, James Arfanis discusses the creative potential teenagers are seeing in social media.

I REMEMBER WHEN I was only 11 years old.

The first time I ever caught the train was to school.

From that day onwards, my daily commute was catching the train to school.

It involved a 15-minute carpool to the nearest station and then a painfully long 30-minute journey, standing up on a packed train until we reached school. On one particular day, I vividly recall the boredom. As a child not yet old or responsible enough to have my own phone, it was a painstaking monotony of staring senselessly into the dull, faceless walls of tunnels and the streets of unmoving traffic.

I couldn’t stand it. The tonelessness of that train ride could be compared to watching grass grow. Now, as an older teenager, times have changed and today my commute has a very different flavour. I still take the same carpool to the same train every morning but now, instead of the boorish silence of what it used to be, I indulge in the colourful melodies of social media.

I’m no expert in psychology, nor can I speak for generations other than my own. But as a rigorous social media user, my lifestyle has changed with its introduction into my life and I see the influence it can have on people. From something as simple as catching the train to school, its impact on me has only been positive throughout my life.

Making new friends, accessing the news and information, allowing for a new mode of communication and expression — I believe that social media has only fostered advancements in our society and, in turn, society has encouraged its ongoing advancement.

Frankly, the way I see it, people who have views on social media are separated into two demographics: those who are optimistic and hopeful about how social media can be utilised and those who “just don’t get it”.

Whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay, so isn’t it time just to embrace it?

In her article for the New York Times, Katrin Bennhold posed this question of today's generation of social media users:

'Are they just doing what we did 20 years ago — gossiping, dating, escaping pubescent solitude — and simply channeling those age-old human urges through this new technology?'

To that, I answer: yes, that is completely true. The gossiping, playing, communicating and sharing from then and now has not changed at all. Only, with the introduction of social media, this process is made more efficient.

From a student's perspective, we are now able to share ideas, messages and homework with more proficiency than ever. Broadening this to the wider world, the same benefits can be applied to the workforce, where messages are faster and clearer as a result.

Due to social media, information is now more accessible than ever before. In America, as of 2016, news is now consumed in 38 per cent online, almost double that of print newspapers representing 20 per cent of all consumed news.

This figure is clear evidence that, as technology has advanced and made way for the rise of social media, society has evolved alongside it. Now, informative messages or important news can be accessed faster and clearer for the masses — a luxury that was once impossible.

While I promote the use of social media, I do accept that it isn’t for everyone. To those who have been subject to bullying through no fault of their own: I understand. I understand how in today’s society, media is everywhere and that it can bombard the victims of this social injustice.

But can we really render the entire platform of social media a hazard to society because of a select few people? In any instance, I see social media as the platform for that to occur, but it is important to understand that it's not the root cause of bullying.

Instead of pointing the finger at social media, shouldn’t we be focussing on the real issue — the actual bully?

Classic lines used against social media are often that “social media is addictive” and that addiction can “ruin friendships”. From my experience, social media does quite the opposite. It can enable long-term relationships, including friendships, and bring together people with common interests.

Of course, addiction to social media is bad and it can ruin trust in any relationship. Yet, isn’t that the case for everything? Sure, we’ve seen the effects of addiction in gambling, drinking and sex — all of which have harsh ramifications but, in moderation, all of those can have positive benefits.

As Simon Sinek puts it:

'Alcohol is not bad, too much alcohol is bad. Gambling is fun, too much gambling is dangerous. There is nothing wrong with social media and cellphones, it’s the imbalance.'

What a lot of people also don’t see is social media’s beauty. An entirely new medium for communication has been invented and with that comes artistic expression. New ways to present ideas, such as the introduction of text poetry, show the artistic side social media has and the potential it provides the humanities to play an entirely new role.

Twitter is designed for people to share ideas or concepts in short phrases. Through photos, Instagram documents live beyond the reaches of what was once considered possible.

The introduction of social media into mainstream society has broken the mould of uniformity and opened a world of artistic and imaginative elegance.

It is inevitable that there will be naysayers, those who reject the idea of change. But consider this tweet from Erik Qualman'We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it'.

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Imbalance, not addiction: Young adults and social media

Addiction, bullying, distraction — despite critiques, James Arfanis discusses the ...  
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