Does Social Media make us socially active or is it making us socially inactive?

Social media allows us to engage with people living in any part of the world, who have similar interests, and make a big change. Social media activism has been one of the most positive aspects of social media. Social media has spread awareness of important issues in a way that traditional media never could. Social media allows us to be more engaged with people we already know. Many of us were separated from our friends and family once we left for college, and social media effortlessly aids us in keeping those relationships alive. Social media platforms are a great ways for people who are otherwise shyer to open up and feel less alone. Social media gives them access their friends at any moment, making them feel less alone even if they are physically. Social media allows us to engage with others and connect with friends in a way that wasn’t always possible. At its core, social media holds out the promise of connection. A key idea behind Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms is that we can create rich networks of friends, receive frequent updates from people in our lives, and build a sense of community. On sites such as Facebook, it is common for someone to have hundreds of “friends.” Yet, in reality, the experience does not always live up to the hype. Despite this ever-present promise of community, many people feel isolated and alone. Although people may have hundreds or even thousands of online “friends,” they may have few actual people in real life that they can rely on. All of this raises the question, is social media strengthening our communities, or is spending time on our phones and computers actually harming our ability to connect in person? It comes as no surprise anymore that social media can be our lifelines. Any number of feeds keep us connected, through selfies and Snapchats, from Instagram to Facebook. Research is increasingly showing that social media is altering our brains, making us addicted to the dopamine hits .Meanwhile, international researchers have found that going off of social media for as little as one week can significantly boost our happiness levels.
We know social media is stressing us out. We know about Facebook depression. But we can’t stop scrolling! What is going on with us? It is called a silent epidemic that can be as impactful on our health as our physical well-being—loneliness. It seems counterintuitive that with 1,000 friends, we feel utterly disconnected. How can it be? In an age where we are becoming more connected through social media every day, it sometimes feels like we are also becoming less social. Why go through all of the inconvenience of meeting up in person when you can simply catch up online? Within the last decade, technology has profoundly shifted the nature of human communication. Some say we are “hyper-social,” always connected and communicating with multiple people at the same time. Others would say we have become “anti-social,” glued to our devices, and lacking interpersonal skills. So which is it? Is social media making us less social? Social Media is making us less social when used to compare oneself to others, contributing to higher levels of loneliness and lower levels of well-being among frequent users. It can be social when used to connect with others. The reality is that social media is not a necessary evil. We can choose a life without it, or at least one where we better manage our time and are more mindful of what messages we put out there. Maybe you take a social media sabbatical or do a tech-free weekend .Taking a step back and really assessing your relationship with social media and social acquaintances at large can be transformational. It is easy to sit behind the safety of our screens and pat ourselves on the back that we are being “social” when we leave a comment on a photo. But that takes minimal effort and does not force us to really put ourselves out there. Invite a friend for coffee, Engage in physical activities and stop scrolling. You’ll be amazed at the rich and vibrant life that is out there when you lift your eyes up from your screen. While technology offers greater connectivity among people and things than ever before, it is really making people less sociable or even anti-social. We are forgetting the value of face-to-face interactions to create more important and sustainable relationships. If we continue to be constantly plugged into the virtual world, then we will miss out all the wonderful things happening right before our eyes. We have to realize that we live among living, breathing people with emotions and needs, not strangers who look good posing online. While travelling, do we still look at the passing green fields, the flowers at the roadside, the sky, take notice of the child on his way to school holding his mother’s hand? How can we if we cannot take our eyes away from our smartphones? One of the most destructive illusions presented by social networking platforms is that they make people feel as though they are becoming more social even though they are not. People define their social status based on how many Facebook friends they have or how many followers they have on Twitter. It does not matter if they even know these “friends” or followers in real life. Are they truly strengthening bonds with others or losing them? Let us not waste so many precious hours glued to our phone screens and forget the people who need our attention and listening ears right by our side.
(The author a teacher@School Education Department is presently posted at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own)

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