Not So Social Media

Social media is harming communication

Sarah Hanson, Co-Online Editor

Twenty years ago, if I had asked you the question,“How many followers do you have?” you probably would have looked at me as though I was insane. And if you are reading this in present day and still think I’m deranged, let me assure you, I’m not asking if you started your own religion.

The strange thing is that this question is quite common, and the answer holds much more significance than one would assume. It’s not just a number: For teenagers on Twitter, the amount of followers you have equates to the amount of “friends” you have. In reality though, a person may have 500 followers on Twitter, and out of that pool, may only be friends with 50 of them—as if 450 people care whether or not you just took your dog for a walk or woke up from a nap. Why is that? Why, in recent years, does your internet persona define your relevance as a person?

Currently, it seems to me that social media has deviated from its original purpose. When Facebook first appeared in 2004, it was created to make communication easier. Since then, it has sparked a movement of social media which has actually made communication worse. Social media tramples over the idea of physical contact while limiting our communication.

With the development of more advanced technologies comes the development of new forms of communication. Before the invention of the internet, human connection was exactly that, a connection. Face-to-face. Heart-to-heart. The development of social media has, ironically, ruined the social aspect of our culture.

Rather than physically speaking and making a personal connection, social media teaches us that the internet is the best way to show our “true feelings” and meet friends, or even significant others. However, this ultimately creates timid, paper-thin relationships within society social media itself also creates a sense of anonymity.

Due to the layout of this communication device, it becomes very easy for people to find the courage to bully someone behind the face of their phone screen. The idea that you can say anything harmful over social media, and get away with it, has become such a normality that it has numbed the empathetic side of society.

This was perfectly demonstrated at MTV’s most recent Video Music Awards. Beyoncé and her daughter, Blue Ivy, arrived at the award show in elaborate dresses. Within seconds of airing the four-year old’s face, there was talk on social media of how unattractive she was and how horrible her dress looked. When did society become so numb to shaming the image of a little girl?

People have become so reliant on hiding behind the face of a screen that they don’t know how to do anything else. It has become so frustratingly normal that most people thrive behind the veneer of social media. Social media also causes a discrepancy in information. Politicians and the like believe that it’s okay to summarize their thoughts into 140 characters, making it very easy for the term “politically correct” to slip from their vocabulary, as clearly seen in this presidential election.

Moreover, with such a large concentration of people on the Internet, it’s easier to cause conflict in a `community and even in a society. Yes, it’s true, very true in fact, that social media has served the world in many beneficial ways. When you look at the spread of information by use of the internet, social media has clearly played a large role. However, when you look at the deterioration of true social contact, social media is also the culprit.

Is there a solution? Unfortunately, there is no way to undo past advancements in communication; however, there is a better way to move forward. Here is my advice: Look up from your phone and take in the world around you. Spread positivity, not negativity. Instead of using your thumbs and a strong Internet connection to deliver a message, use your voice.

My hope is that, with the invention of new technologies there will be more effective ways of communication outside of social media. That way, our grandchildren will be taught to understand that their voices are larger than what they can fit in a text box.