In 2023, the internet as a whole is synonymous with the broad range of applications that operate under what we call ‘social media’. After thriving for the last fifteen years, only a small portion of younger generations do not own and use some form of social media account.
Featured Image VIA
For all its perks, there are some more sinister implications that could unravel themselves in coming years, though, particularly for youngsters who have only ever known the world of social media. We explore some of these implications below.
In Unfamiliar Waters
One of the main concerns surrounding social media is the freedom to navigate an ocean of content, relatively unregulated. While some sites have an age restriction in place, this is often easily bypassed; users as young as four are accessing social media every single day. A recent study by ExpressVPN revealed that in the US and the UK, four-year-olds spend an average of 21 minutes a day browsing social media, increasing each year up to 13-year-olds, who average 45 minutes per day. This adds up to over 16,425 minutes or 273 hours spent per year browsing a sea of unregulated content and connecting with anonymous strangers. Put into perspective, the potential effects that these interactions could have could be life-long and might encourage parents to be more aware of their children’s online activities.
In one of the most toxic accompaniments of social media, trolling has formed its own community. This is the act of wreaking havoc online with the intent to deceive and provoke – you’ve probably encountered a few of these ‘trolls’, commenting outrageously offensive words under certain posts and starting illogical arguments in comment sections for the sake of conflict. This kind of behaviour can have seriously negative effects on recipients: we only have to look to the world of celebrities to see them play out. Insider list a series of stars who felt the need to retire from social media after the negativity of it all became overwhelming, listing megastar Lizzo and young actor Millie Bobby-Brown amongst others.
Losing Your Identity And Your Confidence
Communicating online comes with its pros and cons. One potential pro – depending on how you perceive it – is that with most forms of messaging, you do not have to reply instantly. You can half-swipe the message from your crush on Snapchat and spend hours thinking of the perfect reply without them knowing. This can be great in impressing people, but behind this lies a more sinister consequence.
If the majority of our interactions are reliant on this asynchrony and the time we have to craft a response that paints us in the best light, to what extent are we ‘being ourselves’ online? At what point do we lose the ability to communicate in real life with someone, without the time to craft our online identity? This area is a newly developed issue that stems from technological development, and the outcome is yet to be seen.
Technology and social media can be brilliant. They can also be pretty scary though. Moderation and regulation are critical in its progression. Until then – stay safe!