Like technology in general, social media has both an upside and a downside. And when it comes to teenagers and young adults like me, those pros and cons are particularly significant. Social media, as defined on Wikipedia, are the interactive mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.
Some of the known social media platforms are: WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and many more. As a young teenager trying to find his path in this vast world of never-ending possibilities, I would say that the experiences I have had with social media have been simultaneously beneficial and harmful to my personality.
On the positive side, social media allows me to create an online identity, an avatar of sorts—where I can communicate with people, express my views, ideas and thoughts on what is right and wrong to a significantly large number of people without being bothered by stage fright. It gives me a voice, a chance to be heard—irrespective of my background or past. Social media have also been of immense help in terms of entertainment and humor. The consistent memes and jokes found on social media platforms are just so amazing. The creativity displayed by people in the form of videos, music, pictures can be so mind-blowing and captivating. They leave a tremendous effect on me—inspire me to be more creative. They are efforts people make to leave a print on this world.
I am constantly learning new ways of being funny, approaching people, being jovial, current, following trends, stories and so on. Social media has made countless positive impacts on my social life. Business has been made easy and conducive for me via social media. Being a teenager, it is difficult to get the capital required to start up a business venture. However, with as low as one hundred naira, I have been able to advertise products of friends, share business links, engage in referral activities, become an active blogger.
A vast number of business opportunities are made available with social media platforms .Currently, the world is facing severe economic recession due to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus. But in the severe recession, I have been able to get the basic things I need from the money made from the online businesses I was able to engage in.
In summary, social media have helped my commercial perspective of life. I have been able to keep in touch with close friends who live far away, childhood friends and relatives. Learning has been made really easy and conducive during the lockdown. Social media platforms like Zoom—where I can have the real life lecture experience at the comfort of my home, make this possible. Social media have helped in boosting the spirit of learning in me and have helped me preserve long-standing relationships.
However, as rosy as social media seem, it also has a lot of detrimental effects on my personality. Top of the list of detriments are increased anxiety and low self-esteem. Study shows that about sixty percent of teenagers active on social media suffer from severe anxiety, reduced esteem and depression. And I completely agree to that. I am a victim of social stigma, anxiety and neglect. Late replies to texts, being ignored by people I hold in high regard and derogatory comments and remarks about my shared opinions tend to make me anxious, moody and even worse, scared of sharing my views with people.
Physical disconnect is another major issue I battle with. I find it really difficult to interact with my peers outside the confinement of texts and calls. Making friends physically has also become really hard for me—adding to the already depleted self-esteem. Nothing seems interesting or mind-blowing if it isn’t on social media. I barely bond with my family; my phone has become my companion. It has also led to a series of arguments between my parents and me. The addiction to my phone has become a major cause for alarm. I barely sleep at night due to late chats or midnight browsing. One would think I am nocturnal judging from how I stay awake all nights and sleep all day, neglecting both personal and household responsibilities.
The effect on my academic life is even more depressing. Although platforms like Zoom and Duo have been really helpful academically, I barely read my books. My never-ending online schedule takes up valuable time for reading. I must confess that my grades before I had a smartphone were very pleasing and cannot be compared to my current grades.
Having the delusion that I am needed on social media, I have completely forgotten how to organize my time and activities. Vulgarity is also a concern to me. Through social media, I have been exposed to a large number of vulgar contents, in the form of pornographic expressions, sexting, use of vulgar languages. The more alarming aspect is that I am gradually becoming accustomed to it. My orientation is changing negatively; my vocabulary has suffered a lot. I barely learn new words while texting, I just keep finding new ways to shorten words for easy typing. I have almost lost all sense of formality.
Writing this essay, I can fully understand the resentment most parents feel regarding use of social media. The disadvantages seem so overwhelming. However, like I said earlier, social media like every other technology has its merits and demerits.With self-discipline, however, I believe I have what it takes to yield maximum benefits using social media.