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Don't Unplug Society: Why Social Media Is Necessary For Our Generation

May 30, 2019

I have only just picked up my phone when the familiar sound of a notification bell chimes and my screen lights up with a message. 
Someone commented on my Facebook post.
Those are from a group chat.

  I confess: as a 16-year-old, I am a frequent user of social media. It has become an integral part of my life, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the first thing I checked each morning. Like most people these days, I am also used to hearing about the dangers of social media, especially for teenagers.

    According to Common Sense Media, adolescents spend an average of nine hours a day online. Our attention span has decreased, compared to older generations, and psychologists have noticed a link between social media usage and mental health issues. Because of all this concerning evidence, it's easy to understand why social media is seen and portrayed in such a negative light in today's culture. After all, it's hard to list the benefits of something that has been called out by former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya as "destroying society". But what if I told you that social media was not only harmless, but a driving force towards a better future? What if I told you that the Internet was one of the most productive ways to spend your time?

    Because of its largely negative reputation, social media is not usually described as our generation's primary source of inspiration. Do a quick scroll through your Facebook feed, though, and you'll see what I'm talking about: news of groundbreaking innovations, beautiful pieces of poetry, and stories of people achieving their dreams against all odds. A 2016 survey from Adweek found that 87% of millennials on Facebook said they use the site for travel inspiration, while 20% use Twitter and Pinterest. With infinite resources at our fingertips, it's pretty much impossible not to get inspired online. While 17th-century artists may have had nature and sunlight as their muses, we have found ours in YouTube videos and Tumblr writing prompts. The Internet is a bottomless well of inspiration, one that everyone can draw from. We shouldn't see this as evidence of a generation being "devoured" by the powers of the Internet; it is, rather, a testament to the spectacular technological advancements of the 21st century.

    Not only is social media a source of inspiration, it's also a fountain of motivation. Who here doesn't know the feeling of seeing pictures of a toned fitness trainer and feeling motivated to go and work out? Or reading a post about the benefits of eating healthy and being strangely pumped to eat a salad? One of the issues people usually raise about social media is how it makes us feel inadequate when seeing other people's 'perfect' lives, but I think this depends on how we choose to react to what we see. If we treat social media as a means of comparing ourselves to others, it becomes an incubator of insecurity. However, if we are able to understand that what people choose to show in public is not the whole truth, we can use these "perfect" posts as encouragement to keep working towards our goals. In fact, why not share those goals online as well? In a 2013 research study published in Translational Behavioral Medicine, participants who published their weight loss progress on Twitter lost more weight than those who kept their progress to themselves. By mastering the art of social media, we can use it as a powerful booster to achieve our aim.

    Last but certainly not least, social media is a platform and a community. Websites like Write The World and DeviantArt allow people to express themselves and share their creations with the world, and apps like Twitter provide everyone with an opportunity to make their voices heard. Without social media, teenagers would never be able to launch campaigns like Teens Against Bullying. Movements like #MeToo and #ProtectOurWinters would never have made such staggering amounts of impact on society. Social media catalyzes change, and without it millions of people would not have the opportunity to rise up and make a difference. This is perhaps the most important use of social media. It provides people of all statuses with a means to shape the world they live in, and that is the force that drives our society ever forward. 

    Much like an electric socket, social media's power can be either harmful or helpful. The Internet is enormously influential, and it's up to us to choose how we use that influence. Perhaps we shouldn't unplug ourselves from social media. Perhaps we just need to plug in to the right socket.

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  • thelumosduck

    As a “social media is bad blah blah blah” person, this really put a new light on things. Brilliant work.

    about 1 year ago
  • JCWriter

    This is really clear, logical, and well-written. Amazing job!

    about 1 year ago