If you are reading this (and clearly you are), you are most likely doing so online. First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time. There are all sorts of other things that you could be doing. You could go for a walk or watch some television. You could visit a friend. You could, if you were so inclined, sexually abuse a dolphin. Instead, you have decided to read this article, so thank you.
We spend a great deal of time online these days. We bank there, socialise there, do our research, and find our entertainment. Most of us have even created online personas that we use to represent ourselves in cyber space. In fact, I’m doing that right now.
Whether you consider this to be a positive thing or not is irrelevant. It doesn’t change the facts. It’s only stuff.
Personally, I use Facebook quite extensively. I’ve never really played with the other social media channels that much. I don’t understand the point of limiting myself to however many characters Twitter will allow me, I don’t fully understand what Snapchat is about, and the others are allowed so little of my head space that they have all walked out in disgust. Facebook is where I hang my virtual hat.
It’s a useful tool. I get to keep in touch with people all over the world, and I get to do so quickly and easily. I operate a couple of groups that people find helpful, and I find a small audience for the shit that pops up in my head from time to time. I like it.
Apparently though, social media is responsible for more teen depression and suicide than almost anything else. They call it Facebook Depression Syndrome, and itis very difficult to feel positive about. So what is it about this particular brand of stuff that is so damaging?
Like so many things, the problem with social media is the people who use it. The thing itself has no inherent value, only the people that use it can attribute one, and the fact that most people seem to be fucking idiots it what gives rise to all the bother.
We are all inclined to show ourselves in the best possible light whether in any given situation. So in the same way that most of use wouldn’t knowingly go out of the house with chocolate pudding all over our faces, there is a tenancy for us to post more about the positive things that happen to us than the negative or the dreary. If I win some money tomorrow, I will feel far more inclined to post about that than I am to post a picture of me having a dump. It’s only natural (so, I must add, is the dump). The result is that when we log into our favourite social doodah, we are presented with a myriad of familiar faces that all seem to be having a much better time than we are, and this is what is popularly seen to be the damaging element. Looking at this stuff can, we are assured, result in feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem, which in extreme cases, can lead to depression and/or suicide.
The fact is though, that social media does nothing of the sort. It is our reaction to social media that causes the trouble. If reading what is essentially a web site makes a person feel inadequate, then there is a very good chance that they have more pressing issues to address. If they go on to decide to kill themselves, then that is a great shame, but the blame lies firmly at their own feet.
Is there anything that we can do about it? I honestly don’t think so. I mean we could post warning all over Facebook and it’s friends, but it probably wouldn’t help. We could put a higher age limit on there, but it seems very unlikely that anyone would abide by a law that would be so difficult to enforce. We could ban the use of such services, but seeing that geo blocking is so easy to get around, and the owners of these sites make such an enormous amount of money from them, any attempt would be futile at best.
And even if we did manage to stop their use completely, I doubt that the situation would change much. Teenagers would just find something else to get all maudlin about. They are teenagers; that’s their job. We would also, no doubt, see a return to the more traditional forms of bullying, and speaking purely for myself, I would much rather be repeatedly called names online than be kicked in the bollocks every day in the dinner hall.
Social media, in all it’s forms, is here to stay. It will continue to grow in popularity until something replaces it, or people lose interest. Will it continue to drive people to suicide? Well, I don’t really think that it ever did, but it will almost certainly continue to take a chunk of the blame.
So I have an answer.
Social media. Use it if you want to, but if it makes you feel sad, do something else with your time. It’s a choice. We apply this rule to most other things, so why not this? Rice pudding. Try it, but if it makes you feel unwell, stop. It’s that simple. Digest this pearl of wisdom yourself, and pass it on to your kids.
In short, enjoy yourself, but don’t be a dick.
Minister of Stuff.