By Mollie Campbell.
We all understand the current climate of society, a very large proportion of life now revolves around the use of technology and its corresponding apps, social media etc… from simply using email, to Apple Pay, from ordering Christmas presents, to managing your bank account from the comfort of your own phone. These things have not only become a very popular way of doing things, they have become essential to the way we live in 2019. If you think about it, in the least systematic way possible, we have created a system that relies so heavily upon satellite connections that if anything were to go wrong, society would grind to a halt. We would be thrust back into pre-technological methods, which can be somewhat more reliable anyway. This overwhelming technological dependence that has developed has created a surge of people who cannot pry themselves away from their social media apps/accounts, and with this comes consequences that we were simply incapable of predicting during the early days of the internet’s existence.
According to current statistics, Facebook has by far the largest user base, with over 30 million people actively using the site, with 45% using it ‘several times a day’. This means that almost half of the population are checking their devices multiple times a day, on an app that didn’t even exist just over 15 years ago. Whilst Facebook, like many other social media sites, is a great way of connecting with friends and family, and even employers (e.g. LinkdIn), there is a darker trend developing. Since the launch of Facebook many other apps like Instagram and Twitter have stemmed off this idea of connecting with people from all over the world. All of this has erupted at a time of major technological advancements, we can now search a topic and know everything about it within minutes, someone from Wales can have a full blown conversation with a native of Japan or New Zealand in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee, this sort of accessibility and freedom has been a catalyst to a seemingly harmless concept, turning it into something far more dangerous, a prison…and we are responsible for locking ourselves up and throwing away the key.
Technology and Social Media has turned into a massive aspect of childhood, with more young people using the internet than ever before. Should we be letting our children loose on something that can let them access every dark corner of the world? Obviously parental controls can keep the darkness hidden, for a small amount of time at least, but it is the less alarming threats that can cause more damage. Many people aren’t aware of just how much the inescapable sphere of social media can impact a person, especially a child. We are all on a voyage to this next era of modern society, and nobody is looking back. But if you think about it, whilst the pros are incredible, the cons are almost endless… the internet encapsulates thousands of different aspects, the main thing we see is other people, different relationships, opposite lives, a complete juxtaposition of worlds. It is a constant comparison, and whilst an unparalleled sense of differentiation and contrast is good and unique, it doesn’t diminish the simple fact that every single individual is seeing something that they might not have even thought about before, a seed is planted, and we cannot determine if it is good or bad until it is too late. It may range from a quality they don’t possess, wealth that they will never be able to acquire, a life they will never be able to live, the list in endless. What is this doing to our mental health? On the outside it can be hard to detect, but it is happening to all of us subconsciously, although it is hardly covert. According to NHS UK, 91% of 16-24-year-olds in the UK use the internet and other social networking sites regularly. More importantly, rates of anxiety and depression in young people have increased by 70% over the last 25 years.
Arguably, the ages from 13 to 18 is a pivotal time in our lives, we develop who we are, laying a foundation, central to the way we live the rest of our lives. Up until this point, every generation has gone through their teenage years without the magnetism of the online climate, providing a somewhat harmless environment in which to learn, morph and grow. These days, children do their growing up on the internet; they express themselves on a platform. Due to this, people see what is ‘successful’ in the eyes of popular digital trends, and this in turn will bury itself deeper and deeper into their minds until they are blinded by the world’s desires, as opposed to focusing on their own dreams and ambitions. This not only strips us of our individuality, it also diminishes our passions for contrasting things, kids these days feel so much pressure to join in with the ‘correct’ online trends of their age group from around the world, that they conform to this modern sheep like mentality that is only fuelled further by the endless capabilities within social media. This makes branching off and creating your own identity and enjoying your own hobbies far more difficult and much less popular. What makes all of this even worse is us, the adults in the situation. We have given our approval when it comes to these modern capabilities, confirming that it is safe in the eyes of every child in the world…but how do we give something a seal of approval when we don’t fully understand it ourselves? Should we be taking more responsibility in terms of sheltering them?
Yes. We are forcing our children into something that is inescapable as soon as they set foot in it, stripping them of their chance to grow into their own individual personality. For example, why pick up an instrument and use your own organic elements to write a song when you can tap an ipad and produce identical sounds and be welcomed with a hit single? Why take the time to read a classic book when you can just watch the adaptation on Netflix? All of these things are creating not only a lack of passion but also a culture of laziness, people can gain so much through the internet that they don’t want to put in the time and effort in the real world. Without this individuality there will be no diversity, a generation of brainwashed zombies with nowhere to look for inspiration, not that they would even think to.
Without sounding too much like a conspirator, I think the dangers of the internet and social media is taking away what makes us all unique, it feeds into this dystopian future, a future that is parodied constantly in popular culture…ironically, we may be headed there quicker than we realise. If you think about it, the internet can be disguised as many things, it can morph into whatever we want it to be, which is catapulting us into a society in which we are slaves to something that doesn’t even have an identity. We are on the cusp of transcending into something that parallels Orwell’s ‘1984’, we are signing up to be identical puppets on a perpetual string all for the sake of a like on Social Media.
In conclusion, whilst I am not disputing how much the internet can help us to connect, develop, explore and ultimately live, we must wake up and look at things for what they really are…before we are remembered in the history books, or tablets, as the generation that didn’t put a stop to the manifestation of a worldwide dictatorship, one which we created ourselves.