The Facts of Life: Social Media Edition
Written by: J. Stokes; Photography by: Adriana Reyes – February 5, 2015
Like a plague it spread through the entire nation. Almost instantly, its presence could be felt by all, regardless of age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. Social media is here to stay. Its grip on the whole world, let alone the United States, is mind-boggling. From Facebook to Instagram, Tinder to Twitter, social media has virtually taken over everyday aspects of life, including socializing, dating, as well as receiving news and other bits of information up to the minute. With the changing climate regarding social media’s influence on society, one must ask if there is any room for the preservation of previously known normalities, such as direct person-to-person socialization minus the presence of a phone. A key demographic to focus on concerning this topic is, of course, the youth.
According to an article written in 2010 entitled Using Social Media to Engage Youth: Education, Social Justice & Humanitarianism, the youth of today represent the first cohort to grow up technologically fluent and fully wired. Some consider them to be “digital natives” while others refer to them as “Generation M2” (more specifically aimed at highly tech-savvy youth aged 8 to 18). In the United States, 90 percent of the 33 million digital natives aged 10 to 19 can access the internet from home while 73 percent have access at school. Each month, teenagers are averaging 24 hours and 54 minutes spent online or using internet-enabled software. Moreover, the average teenager sends about 3,400 texts a month or more than 100 a day, according to a 2010 Nielsen survey.
Keeping the aforementioned statistics in mind, it should be noted that a large amount of activity via social media has proved highly beneficial. A 2011 article entitled Clinical Report – The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families states that social media can help foster one’s individual identity and unique social skills. A study conducted by The University of Maryland in 2011 also highlights its importance in helping their students learn about important nationwide and world news. Lastly, social media has been shown as a way to better assist collaborative argument and gather competing perspectives on particular issues. Needless to say, this tool can be used to enact social change and bring about more analytical thinkers.
However, with every yin there is a yang. When underscoring youth involvement in social media, there are many potential issues. To begin, Generation M2 is said to spend close to eight hours a day in front of various electronic screens. The Kaiser Family Foundation states that this is longer than one spends sleeping, going to school, or engaging in any other activity on a daily basis. Furthermore, youth oftentimes run the risk of privacy issues when utilizing social media. Although social media provides a means to express meaningful though, it also can harbor trolling and individuals whom can convey hurtful messages without having to identify themselves. When on any type of web-based media, a collective, ongoing record of one’s web actions, known as a digital footprint, is collected. Youth must be educated on the consequences of posting or messaging information that is inappropriate. In some cases, such activity could lead to difficulty being hired for jobs, as employers may find this information useful in weeding out competition. In today’s age, one post could help or haunt an individual for a long time.
All in all, we must strive to educate the digital generation of today about the complexities of social media. As was mentioned, there are many benefits to utilizing this tool. On the other hand, the negative effects of improper behaviors can prove life-altering. With both of these vital aspects understood, however, it is important to remember what was stated earlier in this blog entry: Is there any room for the preservation of previous social interactions, which occurred before the onset of social media? The youth of today, with their tech savvy nature, must be made aware of the importance of having a face to face conversation in the absence of a screen. Who are we as humans if we cannot communicate without the assistance of technology? Keeping this in mind, make sure to check out the video posted below:
- Updated: November 30, 2016