Monday, June 24, 2024

Social media: A Blessing or a Curse

Written by Dev Agarwal

What if you have a jumbled Rubik’s cube lying on your table and you want to solve it, but you do not know how to solve it? What would you do? If I were there, I would open up YouTube and search “How to solve a Rubik’s cube?” Likewise, what if you want to send a message to someone in another country and have it delivered instantly? I would use apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook to send the message.

What can all these platforms be classified under? All these platforms are classified as social media. Social media has recently become a very popular term, but do you know what it means? Social media is an online platform that allows people to communicate with each other and helps connect them with larger audiences, organisations, and social and political bodies. As of January 2024, there are 5.04 billion users on social media. If almost 5/8th of the world uses social media, we should know what are the boons and banes of social media.

Social media has been a great help to us, making our day-to-day lives easier. But how did social media make our lives easier? Let me elaborate.

Looking back at the Rubik’s cube scenario, social media allows us with easy access to information, thanks to apps like Google and YouTube. A study by Lords University shows how YouTube is helping students learn better. The study states that YouTube allows students to have a diverse learning style, allowing students to watch videos that provide visual and auditory information. It is also cost-effective compared to buying textbooks, allowing people from all backgrounds to learn. Adding to the previous point YouTube allows students to have a flexible schedule, not bounding them to a fixed schedule.

Whenever you go on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, you are bound to see ads. This is greatly helping the advertising industry. A total of 656 billion U.S. dollars was spent on all types of advertisements, and out of that 656 billion U.S. dollars, 64.4 % was spent on digital marketing. Advertising on social media is way cheaper than advertising via traditional methods because there is no material cost, no billboard cost, etc.

Further, social media is helping the business sector too. Social media is helping the business sector in multiple ways. Firstly, it allows brands to build brand loyalty in which customers become loyal to their company. This helps increase revenue. Secondly, it allows for more accessible communication between the company and the consumers. Thirdly, it allows for easier customer feedback, helping the company improve. In addition to the previous points, data from SCORE states that 77 percent of small U.S. business owners use social media for marketing their products.

Looking back, we see so many uses of social media but we forget the primary use of social media! Did you guess it? It was communication. Approximately 270 thousand texts are sent every second. That means that in a year, 8.4 trillion texts are sent.

Day by day, social media is becoming addictive. This is because social media feeds us new information every second on random topics, for example, watching shorts or scrolling through Instagram. This addiction is spreading like wildfire among teenagers. Data from ‘Gallup’ states that an average teen spends 4.8 hours a day on social media, which means out of the 365 days in a year, teenagers spend 72 days on social media. The increased usage of social media leads to social anxiety, cyberbullying, depression, and a lower attention span.

Furthermore, cyberbullying has become another concern. Roughly 46% of U.S. teenagers from 13 to 17 years old, and out of those 46%, only 1% of kids report or claim they have been cyberbullied. Victims who have been cyberbullied have a 90% more chance of committing suicide.

Additionally, you never know who is behind the screen. It could be your friend or a scammer. This leads to financial scams. According to a report from ‘Statista’, 41 billion U.S. dollars were lost in 2022 due to online scams. These days a few people misuse the information shared on social media by others, and trouble their lives.

Social media is not only scamming us of our money but also of our attention span. According to Gloria Mark, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and works at the University of California says that back in 2004, the average attention span of human beings was of two and a half minutes (150 seconds), but in 2012, it became a mere 75 seconds and from 2019 onwards our attention span is 47 seconds. What has led our attention spans to reduce by three times? Gloria says that the reason for depleting attention span is due to the constant shift of watching one topic to a completely unrelated topic in a couple of seconds and minutes, especially while watching stories, shorts, highlights, snaps on different social media platforms. for example, one video short can be related to books and the next video could be about a video game. This constant shift ruins the concentration ability, especially among kids.

The list of banes continues, but I will end here. According to experts and authentic sources, social media does more harm than benefit to us, if it is not used correctly. My feeling is that whenever we use social media, we should be careful to preserve ourselves and not get carried away.

I would like to end with a quote by Abhijit Naskar – “It is okay to own technology, but it is not okay to be owned by technology”.

Featured Image Courtesy – United Nations Development Programme

Dev Agarwal
Dev Agarwal
I like to read and write, cube, play table tennis, do taekwondo, play piano. I am a singer and love to sing western songs. I am quite good in wave-boarding too.


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