Words by Oriana Cuenca
Social Media is a favorite enemy of school teachers and parents. The classic kaka-computer mo yan! has changed with the times, and kaka-selpon mo yan! is a new favorite. There have been cries all around the world about how kids need to lessen their screen time or for social media sites to increase the minimum age of their users. Countless studies have discussed the negative impact of social media on everything from mental health to democracy, and these studies all have their merits. Social media has become a melting pot for fake news, cyberbullying, and unrealistic expectations.
No one can deny the bad social media has done, but the bad is all everyone seems to remember. Surely there must be a reason why Filipinos spend the most time online?
There is. Social media has been around our generation since we were born, and we often forget how much apps like Facebook and Twitter have changed people’s lives. I say that without any exaggeration.
On a car ride with my mother, she talked about the friends she had from college decades ago. I asked her why I’ve never met them, and she said it’s because they lost touch when school ended. To me, it sounded like they had drifted away or that life had become too busy to meet up. What really happened was that my mom had no way of contacting them. She lost their numbers, and in those days that was how friendships died.
I grew up in a time where anyone I’ve ever met could be contacted in one way or another. I can talk to everyone from the kids I played with in kindergarten to the friends that moved to the US anytime I want to. It’s the same for many of us. This sounds like a given nowadays, and we forget to marvel at how a feat like this did not exist just 15 years ago. A couple of years earlier and we would have been leashed by a telephone wire and a family that also needs to use the one landline in the house. A few more years back and we would have been stuck waiting for a letter that came a handful of times a month as best. As much as letter writing is romanticized, it’s not practical for the kind of lives we live today, and going back to the “good old times” would mean having to give up many of our modern conveniences.
Social media does not just alienate us from each other as all the critics claim. Stories on Instagram and messenger chats have brought us closer together than any other generation before. These apps are enablers. They give us a means to maintain friendships we would have lost and to talk to family members working abroad; they give us a platform to share our lives with those we care about.
What everyone detests is the social media people have created today, but it does not mean social media itself is bad. It is the way people use and abuse social media that has lead many to turn away from it. The question now is: With the state social media is in, is it still worth continuing to use it?
Yes, because social media has infinite potential to be good.
No other generation is as concerned with world issues as the one that was surrounded by them. Social media brought the world closer and created a platform where everyone’s voices could be heard. The youth now know about climate change and environmental issues; the youth has learned to talk about mental health and social inequalities. We have reached the point where even 16-year-old kids all the way over here in Manila would know about the political issues the United Kingdom is facing. For as much as social media can be mind-numbing, it can also be the greatest avenue of first-hand information we have ever had.
The social media experience all depends on how one uses it. Facebook can be mind-numbing because people follow cat pages and cooking videos. Instagram can be pressuring because of how people compare themselves to the ideal, not because there was anything wrong with the photos. Twitter can be toxic when following and replying to all the wrong people. In the end, social media is just what we make of it. We should not be blaming apps when it is people who choose what they post and what they follow. The apps we love have done far too much for us to deserve our blame.
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