It has been almost a decade since Orkut, facebook, twitter burst into the picture. At present, internet, social media, messaging services have become an integral part of our lives, so much so that it is deeply affecting our personalities, our emotions, our choices. Basically our state of mind. These effects are both positive and negative. But overall, for an individual’s state of mind, social media has done more harm than good. It has been proven in studies that people who are more active on Facebook are more likely to suffer from depression. Whenever you get a like or message, a chemical called dopamine is released into your brain. This is the same chemical that is associated with smoking & drinking. That’s why you keep on checking your messages, likes, notifications. Simply because it’s addictive. It gives an instant gratification. Smokers, sound familiar?
But there are more ways in which social media is doing more harm than good. Here are some examples.
- The game of likes: We all know this, we all have played this. But before looking into this game, let’s look at what a “like” means. It means nothing. It is just a button to show your appreciation for a post. Now, the way likes are used depends on the user and his certain behavioural traits. For people like me, it depends on my mood. Sometimes I just scroll through the feed and don’t care what’s showing. Sometimes, I like every post, every photo I see. Some posts are so impressive and relatable that I can’t scroll down without liking that post.
But for a majority, “likes” mean something. It is not just a button of appreciation. Your mutual likes with your friend may even reflect your relationship with him. I will give you an example. Suppose you had an argument with your friend. That happens, no big deal. You came home. Now a few days later you changed your profile picture after coming from a trip. He didn’t “like” your picture but he liked the picture of another friend with whom you went for that trip. That somehow further strains your relationship. Now, what was just a small argument turned into a prolonged grudge. Without social media, your mutual anger would have eased off slowly. Now you never like each other’s pictures or posts.
Another example is “likes count”. Most of the users take this seriously. Hence, just by looking at the number of likes and number of friends in anyone’s profile, they believe, they can make a very accurate guess on user’s behaviours and personality. He has just 40 likes on his profile picture, must be an introverted guy with no good friends. 300 likes on his profile picture, he must be the student of the year. Girls have some more serious issues here. Girls, in general, are more conscious about how they look, which is not a bad thing. However, it becomes dangerous when they start judging themselves based on the “likes count”. Here is one secret coming from a male. I never judge the attractiveness of a picture based on “likes count”. The picture, pose and sometimes even the comments & caption plays a part in my judgment but the number of likes, never. Oh, yes the judgement, it happens all the time. Which brings me to the second point.
- Judgement: Have you ever had a crush on someone just by looking at her/his profile. Sometimes, just a single picture is enough.
Told you, a single picture is enough. You have a strong crush on her but she didn’t even know you exist. That’s the reality most of the times. I already discussed how people judge someone based on “likes count”. Another thing that social media is very good at is making people jealous. We are all humans. Our emotions are wild. Getting envious or jealous of other’s pictures, posts is something that happens a lot on social media. You see your college friend vacationing all the time with his girlfriend and here you’re stuck in your boring 9 to 5 job. This way, we started envying other users and their life. We start getting impatient with our own life. The judgement of other users starts affecting our own state of mind.
Before social media, we used to judge people based on one to one interactions, his speeches/debates, his write-ups, his body language, confidence, eye contacts, etc. Now, once he posts 3 consecutive picture wearing fancy suits and glasses, some users start judging him as a self-centered, egoistic person while others may think of him as a dashing, confident dude. Both may be right or wrong but social media facilitates too quick judgement of a person. It also happens that sometimes you think too highly of a person (your crush maybe) based on his/her profiles but once you meet them, they turn out to be a disappointment (mostly because your expectations were too high due to quick judgement).
My problem with this kind of “Profile Judgement” is it is too quick, shallow and based on what users are portraying themselves (knowingly or unknowingly).
- Fake posts: And what users are portraying themselves is sometimes the half-truth or even fake. These days cameras are very good at taking pictures. There are beauty modes, filters, then there is photoshop. Even the landscape pictures are not true. You will be surprised to see what a DSLR and basic Lightroom editing can do. Social media has made people expert in faking things. There are filters, slo-mos, catchy captions. Many of the top class models suffer from depression yet you can never tell those things based on their Instagram accounts. Contrary to this, their Instagram accounts will make you believe they are having a blast.
Every day, news, articles, quotes are presented as facts on social media. A large number of them are a half-truth, have a political bias, or downright fake. Not only do they affect a large community, they potentially affect political dynamics and even promote religious tensions & terrorism. Even the popular users, film stars, journalists and especially politicians promote these articles every day.
- Privacy: Things that can be done with your Facebook profile if it falls on to a wrong hand. From reading, sending messages to using it for posting hate posts, spreading religious tensions, harassing other users (you can use your own imagination). Female users are more vulnerable here. They are constantly harassed by messages from unknown users, stalkers. Their pictures and videos are used, morphed and posted online elsewhere. ISIS hire and target their potential candidates via their social media accounts. And then government agencies are constantly tracking your activity.
Conclusion: The harmful effects of Social Media are real from addiction & fake news to privacy. What’s the solution? Education & self-control. One should learn to make himself non-dependent on social media accounts. Be sceptical about articles, posts, political biases even if they are posted by your favourite author. Be intelligent enough to maintain your privacy and use the “block, report” option if needed. And lastly, don’t get disappointed, envious, impatient with other user’s posts.
Social media has given us immense power to communicate and be in touch with people we care about. Let’s use it to our advantage.