The late 1990’s saw that rise of the social media platform which changed forever the way we shared and received information, how relationships were formed and maintained and expanded our sphere of influence. The first recognizable social media site was 6 degrees established in 1997 then followed Myspace 2003, Facebook 2004 ,Youtube 2005 ,Twitter 2006 and finally Instagram in 2010. All are distinct in their own right but they all essentially serve the same purpose of helping people connect and become informed. Social Media has helped bridge geographical and cultural gaps and helped us form and maintain long distance contact with people we love. You can’t help but marvel at this great technological feat. However there is an underside to these sites that should not go unnoticed which is slowly gnawing at our social consciousness. It allows sociopaths largely unregulated access to our families and is resocializing us, negatively influencing the way we view ourselves and our communities.
Bullying is no longer exclusive to hall ways , classrooms or the play grounds. We now have bigger things to fear than hair pulling and name calling. It has grown with technology morphing into the use of electronic communication devices like cell phones to cyber bully. This form takes it to a whole new level of evil, its effects are so powerful that it is now a crime in many states. What social media has done is expanded the reach of anti social personalities and sociopaths who prey on vulnerable people and more alarmingly our children. This platform has made skilled criminals from the least technologically savvy person and makes it so easy for them to hurt people because their actions generally go unchecked by criminal authorities. Unfortunately bully can and does affect even the most self assured matured adult so imagine the impact on children. The suicide rate has almost tripled since social media’s invention becoming the 2nd most common cause of death for people between the ages of 10-24 years. The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 1,000,000 people across the world commit suicide every year. Just last year Michigan teen Zoe Johnson committed suicide after a post about her on facebook encouraging her school mates to “tag a b/#%* you don’t like” . Even after her death kids continued to taunt this teenager and celebrate her suicide leaving vile messages on her profile. These are children hurting other children so imagine the power of grown people.
I remember in the 90’s when I was a kid and the only way we could find out what was happening in people’s lives was to give them a call. Summer family get togethers or holiday trips were vital because that’s how we would catch up with each other. Gossip was generally between a small group of neighbours standing near each other’s fences. Cell phones had no picture taking capabilities and when you wanted to talk about yourself and others you had to do it face to face. Now technology has made everyone a pornographer, voyeur, detective and a sleazy gossip. With one click of a button we can hurt people in ways most of us would never try in person, manipulate whole groups and record each others private moments. Just two days ago basket ball player D’angello Russel released a recording he had of a conversation between him and fellow Lakers team member Nick Young, where Nick admits to cheating on his fiance Iggy Azalea. This is no way to expose such a private matter or destroy someone’s relationship but it is fast becoming the norm. Then there is the sex tape and nude photo phenomenon that has ruined (and launched) many careers and caused many suicides and murders. It seems the more advanced technology becomes the more relationships suffer because we use devices more to hurt than to heal.
Then there is the self esteem challenging app called instagram where everybody’s perfect and happy. If you think about it being beautiful and happy all the time is only possible in cyberspace, with the right angle, filter and photo altering app you can transform yourself into a supermodel vacationing in Hawaii every week. Despite this being common knowledge countless people fall for these tricks every day and use these fake existences as the measuring stick by which they should live their lives. Imagine waking up every morning and signing in to a world where everyone is skinny and beautiful,has a 20 inch waist, flawless skin,the perfect butt and has their own business. Meanwhile you are struggling with your weight and GPA. Worse imagine everyone having thousands of friends and admirers and feeling pressured to keep up when your having enough problems maintaining relationships in your real life. Its frightening out there in cyber utopia. Even I had to trim my friends list to keep my mind and priorities balanced.Now I keep a small friends list where i can manage those relationships better and I am careful to build up my search history with uplifting things so the explore page might send me similarly encouraging things. I have a healthy self image I think but I don’t feel like challenging it every morning when I awake.