Alexander Dummer

We Woke: Social Media

Today I would like to share with you a personal story that made me think of how cognizant are we about the power social media holds on us.

I have 2 younger brothers with whom I wasn’t raised with. I got to meet them when I was 11 years old back in Colombia. Their names are Juan and Emilio and the first time I saw them they were 4 and 6. Juan is now 13 and Emi is 15. Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to grow up with them I do feel an unconditional love for both. Although they grew up here, in a western society, they were raised with Spanish customs as my dad and stepmother are both Colombian. When you are a Spanish immigrant and have the fortune to raise kids in a developed nation, like this one, the only thing that worries you is that your kids will get into bad habits like drugs, sex at an early age, or even stop believing in God. For those of you that don’t know the Spanish culture, or at least Colombian culture, is very ingrained into Catholicism. Well, my brothers were those fortunate kids who never lack anything and they still are. They’ve had the last gaming systems since they were 5, they’ve had access to unlimited internet and smartphones since they were 12, they both go to good schools and for what I know, they both have good social relationships at school. Now, since Emi got his phone his obsession for being on it 24/7 has not stopped. It’s like his phone was this monster that he needs to feed every other second with texts, snaps, comments, and likes. I remember one Christmas we were at the pool and I pushed him in the pool. Unfortunately, his phone was in the pocket of his bathing suit. This guy didn’t talk to me for a week!

Now, based on all the information I just gave you about my brothers, I would like to ask you why my teenage brother Emilio has had thoughts of committing suicide?

About two months ago Emilio broke up with his girlfriend. They had been dating for almost 2 years. They both seemed “to be in love” with each other. However, 2 months ago, after a silly argument, she decided to broke up with him. Since then, my brother has been in a really dark place, he doesn’t smile anymore, he doesn’t eat anymore, he doesn’t want to go to school, he doesn’t want to talk to his parents, he doesn’t even want to delete the pictures he has on Instagram with her nor any of the conversations they had when they were together. A week ago my brother dropped out of school and the day after he left to Rome for 3 months. That was the only option my dad saw as solution to this depression my brother is going through. But is it really? Does the place where he lives or the people he socializes with matters? What happens when he gets to Rome and he gets the Wi-Fi password of the house he is staying at? I believe this is not going to solve anything, because I think we can all agree that the internet and social media have granted us with a limitless access to the things we don’t want to see but do.

Personally, I do not know what could’ve been the right thing to do if I were in my dad’s place. However, I do believe society has taken advantage of the wonders of the internet to portray to parents and kids that social media is harmless, that we NEED social media to go on with our lives. While the later may be partially true, I believe society has forgotten to dig deeper not only for the advantages that social media provides but also all the long-term consequences it creates on every single one of us, but most importantly, on children.

We have reached a point where we have created this digital embodiment of our voices called social media. The education system encourages kids to go online. Parents are no longer the go-to person to ask for questions of how to build a Lego. Instead, kids have YouTube and other platforms that replace their parent’s knowledge with fast-speed-always-available unlimited information. One could argue that social media has ripped off power and authority from parents. But then again, you see moms and dads giving their 5-year-old kid the latest iPad, and/or smartphone as a Christmas gift.

I believe this is not technology’s fault nor the innovators that started social media, I believe this is our fault, society’s fault. We have given too much power to these technologies that we have unconsciously numbed our minds of the content that runs through the same.

But this is not about pointing fingers at each other because that does not improve nor solve anything (society’s response to the latest American elections are living proof of the later statement), this is about finding viable solutions.

In my opinion, we are living in an era where we cannot and should not neglect the existence of technology. Instead, we should embrace it, adopt it as a positive tool. However, for this adoption to be the least harmless, we must understand our limits. We must begin to build a strong foundation of values and morals in ourselves and in our children. We must condition our minds to have good habits and principles regarding our use of technology. Lastly, as a society we must learn to use our voice (physical and digital) to edify and not destruct.

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