The Social Media Blame Game
One issue that has been on everyone’s radar lately is social media. There are a lot of people who believe that social media is horrible for society, that it is destroying the minds of the youth, that people are being hurt by it, that it is causing people to be unhappy, and more. That isn't a fair assessment though. We cannot blame inanimate objects for all of our problems. We cannot overlook human nature. There are many negative and positive outcomes of using social media, and instead of taking a look at what social media has done to us, we should take a look at what we have done with social media.
Many researchers and reporters have spent many hours attempting to find out whether Facebook is good or bad for society. That is a challenging task because while every human is the same in some ways, and every human is different in a countless number of ways. Because we are all different, social media and Facebook in particular, doesn't affect us all in the same way. However, there are some patterns in human interaction that have existed for centuries, and we can’t blame websites like Facebook for pointing out those patterns.
My eleventh grade history teacher used to always say to us, “Countries are made up of people. Governments are made up of people, therefore they are going to behave like people.” This applies to social media as well. Social media is run by people, and social media is used by people. Therefore, at its core, social media is going to reflect the attitudes, tendencies, and actions of human nature.
I am relatively young, and most people believe that our generation has been dominated by social media. But I remember the days before social media though, and personally, I was bullied more back then. I noticed that since social media became popular, the issue has been talked about more in school, and they have taken more actions to prevent bullying. It’s possible that social media has helped us. There are so many horrible things that happen on the Internet every day, but because they are out there now, it just makes it easier for the rest of the world to see them.
Now that social media has exposed some of the darker sides of humanity, we might have an easier time fighting it, and cyberbullying is an example. This is probably one of the worst ways for a person to use social media. Many might say that bullying has become more of a problem since kids have gained access to social media. However, what many people have not considered is that the problem itself has not increased, but rather our awareness of the problem has increased. If that is the case then it could be a good thing that social media has brought the issue out in the open.
However, there are arguments why social media has made bullying worse. One in particular is that cyberbullying brings anonymity. While it is true that people do use the power of anonymity to hurt others, some people also use it as an escape. The same kids who were being bullied can also then use the Internet to make a Tumblr, play an online computer game, or join a chatroom. These tools really help people feel the freedom to be who they are. There are positives and negatives to everything, we should blame the people who are bullying others, not the place where they conduct their bullying.
The other complaint against social media that people are looking into is that Facebook makes people unhappy or even depressed. Once again though, we shouldn't be spending so much time looking at what Facebook has done to us, but rather how Facebook, as well as other social media sites, reflect how humans have been interacting for years, long before the Internet was invented.
One of the ways Facebook can make a person upset or depressed is that they feel left out. If one sees that others are having fun together without them, it can make a person feel sad. The thing is, social media isn't even necessary for that though. One example from my own life is that my friends go to ConnectiCon every year, which is a convention in Connecticut. One year they were going to the events centered on the show Supernatural, and I don’t watch that show so they didn't think to invite me. While they were there though, they happened to meet Marina Sirtis, who played one of my favorite characters on Star Trek the Next Generation. I was so mad that they didn't invite me, but I wasn't sitting in my room watching them post pictures about it. I found out because my friend told me the next time I saw her. It had nothing to do with social media.
There is the issue of people being offensive online, but that isn't inherently a quality of the Internet. It’s about how people use the Internet. In my college writing class we talked about Kiyun Kim’s blog on microagressions. These microagressions were offensive statements that other people made about one’s race or appearance, even though the comments were not always intended to be offensive. I had never really thought about that in my own life before, but I have been told thing like “You’re too white to be Italian.” People do hurt each other online, but it’s just as easy to hurt someone in person, even in a casual conversation.
The Internet and social media have changed the world in many ways, but it has not simply or suddenly just made everyone’s lives worse. People are using social media as a scapegoat for our society’s problems right now. People are blaming social media for people being hurt, depressed or offended. None of that is new though, it could just be that people are talking about those issues more. People should be aware that there are problems in society, but we cannot fix them by blaming social media. We need to look within ourselves to fix the problems.