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Social Media: A Mixed Blessing

Social media have a special place in our lives today. It has become a part and parcel of our lives. Turning to our phones in the early hours of the morning with “Good Mornings” and late at night with “Good Nites” have become a ritual. Staying in touch with friends and all and sundry seems to be very important and we are hooked onto our phones waiting for “Likes” and comments from one and all. This attraction and allure of social media are getting firmer and stronger day by day.

But is this an unmixed blessing? Certainly not as we all know. Firstly social media is addictive. I know many people who are on social media the whole day and most of the night. Their daily activities are dictated by social media. Their timings for rest and sleep are cut short by social media. This adversely affects their health and well-being. It is almost like a magnet which draws them day and night. Trimming tie devoted to social media and having fixed hours for it can help curb unnecessary waste of time.

Secondly social media affects self esteem. People from the younger generation are very keen to know what their peers are doing. They tend to compare themselves with their friends and peer groups in every aspect. Girls try to outdo their friends in the shape of their bodies. They ape styles of dressing and hairstyles. Boys want to possess the latest motorbikes or apparel based on what their friends have or are wearing. Even tourist destinations need to be visited because a friend, relative or classmate has been there.

If any of these ventures are not be possible and teenagers and youth get a complex. They feel that they are shamed if their bodies are not perfect and may choose to go on unrealistic diet and exercise plans. Or they may delve into their coffers to buy the latest type of branded apparel or accessories only because their friends have them. This can lead to needless expenditure. Not only does it lead to a thinner bank balance it leads to needless waste and the coveted items maybe used only once or twice before they are discarded.

This kind of race leads to despair and dejection. Wanting that which others have or being envious and covetous and comparing thoughtlessly leads to other problems: Teenagers and youth may be troubled and distracted. Instead of concentrating on their studies or real growth they may be led to striving for worthless purchases or pursue unrealistic goals. A certain amount of detachment and realistic approach is necessary if youth are to remain unaffected by this malaise.

The problem becomes more aggravated because this is the time when youthful adults are forming characters and they are thwarted in their real growth and career paths. Therefore using social media with a judicious perspective is very necessary. In fact youth may need to be guided and helped with these aspects of social media usage and slowly they need to understand that what they desire may not be of use and just because their friends possess it may not be really worth buying  it. This realisation can take time and much advice and guidance.

Another tangible problem is making friends with undesirable elements. It is widely known that criminals are at large on social media awaiting an opportunity to befriend gullible youngsters. Some may want young people to join certain undesirable religious organisations with dubious origins leading to involving youngsters in dangerous activities. Or others may lure them into leaving the house, running away and getting married to someone they hardly know and dubious characters wanting sexual or immoral favours. Keeping teenagers and youth or even adults at bay from such people is of the utmost importance. This is a very real threat and should not be ignored.

Social media also dictate our thoughts. Earlier, before the advent of social media books occupied our spare time. We learnt about the world from books, journals and comics. Now we find that most people turn to social media. The information we receive on this media may or may not be useful or even authentic. There are many untruths prevalent on such media and it dishes out information which is not true or real. We may learn incorrect things or come to believe wrong things. Besides it takes us away from reading books and this can only result in losing out to the joys of reading and assimilating knowledge.

Studies have said that social media and internet use has resulted in a large number of divorces. Young people are so enamored with the media that they have no or less time for each other. Instead of spending time with each other people tend to spend time on their phones. Partners feel neglected and are unable to understand each other. It leads to rifts and meagre involvement with one and another and results eventually in separation and divorce. This is a serious aspect of social media and the internet and once more tells us that we need to use this media judiciously.

Right from affecting social skills and conversation to making meaningful relationships social media dominate our time and living space. It is undoubtedly one way of keeping in touch with our friends but the real joy of meeting or conversing with our friends or spouse seems to have gone backstage. Therefore there seems to be an urgent need to look at the effects of social media usage and how we can curb the urge to look at our phone once more or get involved with all and sundry online. Using the media effectively is the need of the day and we need to take a real hard look at what it can do to us. We also need to guide our children in the usage of social media and make them aware of the dangers of dubious online friendships which may have undesirable outcomes. This is the need of the hour and should not be taken lightly or ignored.

Dr. Sushama Kasbekar
Dr. Sushama Kasbekar is an author, journalist, educator and content writer. She has recently published two children’s books on Amazon and is going to publish her second novel soon. As Associate Professor at Assumption University, Bangkok from 2000-2018 and Reader at the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Indore University from 1986-2000 she had an illustrious academic career.
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