Over the last few years social media has dominated our lives, becoming the main way we communicate and express ourselves. Connecting with people across the globe can now be done from a tap or click. Social media has helped connect the world in numerous ways, allowing us to easily access and share information between us all. However, the platforms that make it up have a dark side to them, with their rise in popularity leading to unintended negative consequences for its users. Social media may be doing the opposite of what it was set out to do, as it dramatically setbacks how we look at ourselves in the society that it promotes.
Influencer content has skyrocketed over the years, with Instagram becoming the home of them. They have helped popularise and glamorise certain lifestyles and looks that have become mainstream. The problem is that these lifestyles and looks are for the most part completely unattainable for regular people. Social media allows people to only post the highlights of their lives, completely missing out the boring, monotonous or difficult things that many others go through instead. Influencers normalise this unrealistic perspective of luxury and easy living that is completely fabricated but is broadcasted as the norm instead. Viewers get a completely falsified feeling of missing out on something that for the most part is out of reach for many others instead. The same can be said for beauty standards that it promotes. Influencers that are the most successful are seen with picture perfect, almost unrealistic faces and bodies, that have now slowly become normalised as the only way to be seen as attractive. Many influencers use plastic surgery and photoshop to hide their imperfections while coming across to their audience as if they were completely natural. This considerably twists beauty standards that their viewers believe in, glamorising things that for most people are completely unattainable.
Social media has also led to the rise of political echo chambers, allowing misinformation that can be easily shared. Fake News’ rise has been linked to political campaigns and the divisions that modern day politics now has. These divides have been strengthened due to the echo chamber effect that social media has allowed to happen. The echo chamber occurs when sites like Facebook and Instagram, through their algorithm, promote posts with similar political points to the ones you have previously liked. But those sites fail to show you the other side of these arguments, focusing only on the opinion that you agree with. Echo chambers on social media have resulted in much more heated online discussions as both sides fail to understand each other’s viewpoints. Social media has helped make politics more divided, stirring hatred and discontent within wider society which has had real life consequences because of it.
Lastly, the addictiveness of social media has real impacts on our health. With the never-ending timeline that makes us continuously swipe down and down, social media can be time-consuming to go through. The algorithm these platforms use, try to keep our eyes glued to the app for as long as possible. For many people including myself, it has negatively affected the amount of sleep we get. Social media and our phones have been widely reported to be leading causes for sleep deprivation, which has knock on effects in our lives, whether that be mental or physical. Social media’s addictiveness through all the sneaky ticks it uses, plays a major part to why we are obsessed with our phones.
We need to change our relationship with social media, be able to fully detach from it when we need to. Social media blurs what is seen as real and what is not, distorting our perception of ourselves and other people. Social media is good in short bursts, but we need to make it less important in our lives and re-emphasises what matters the most, real life and the beauty that its imperfections have, as regardless of what social media says, no one is flawless.
By Riyad Hussain