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Our Communal Duty to Social Media

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

By Allyson McMillan for The Due Influence

As a child, my parents told me I couldn’t have a Facebook until I was 16. As soon as Snapchat and Instagram came about in the sixth grade, I couldn’t help but become involved in what was another way to communicate with my friends. As the years went on, I watched the amount of followers creep up, my feed slowly expand to celebrities, influencers, and even people I had no connection with. What started as a platform to connect with friends expanded to a platform for news, meeting people, conversing with our community, a view of reality for the world, and so much more. I found myself intrigued by the effects that such a prominent platform in our society had on all of us, and began to study its role in our culture and communities. My mind has been opened to a new perspective of the role we play for ourselves, community, and future generations on social media. Because there are no rules to the new era of social media, we all have a duty to our community and to ourselves to create the ‘rules’ of this platform. In order for us to thrive in social media, we have to maintain it as a positive, purposeful place.

The Evolution of Social Media

Social media has evolved from a place of sharing and conversing with friends to a stream of content we use to determine and validate our experiences of the world. When social media first emerged, it was fun to post silly pictures, converse with my friends about funny things they posted, and more casually communicate with old friends that I didn’t see too often. However, as time went on, I noticed a shift in how I was using these apps. I allowed myself to cry, laugh, smile, worry, and become consumed by what I was seeing on social media. Were my friends leaving me out? Did someone not respond to my message? Did I get to see an amazing accomplishment a family member made? My impressionable adolescent mind would constantly compare myself to what I was seeing on my phone.

Social media was becoming a place where I began to be largely influenced by. The comparisons of what we saw our friends, influencers, and overall culture determining as normal, relevant, or trendy to our own lives. This was further pushed by the increasing dedication of time myself and everyone was giving to scrolling. The free time I used to spend reading a book or painting dwindled down as I allowed myself to be consumed in my phone between activities. There was always something new to look at, something interesting to delve into, or something that could consume my mind much longer than it should. More and more of my mental energy was spent on looking into other’s lives, what I didn’t have, what I wish I looked like, and determining my life based on what I saw online.

The Effect of Social Media on Our Community

The influence of social media affects how we take in the world, how younger generations are coming to an understanding of the world, and how we have important conversations within our community. As a babysitter, it saddens me to see the young girls I care for being drawn into comparing their life to what they see on social media. I witness girls not even in middle school develop eating disorders because they don’t fit the standards of influencers decades older than them on social media. I have also witnessed breakdowns after seeing their friends hanging out without them, or determine what they should do with friends based on what would look ‘cooler’ on social media. There’s no stopping our younger generations from becoming immersed in these platforms because of how ingrained they have become within our society. Young, growing minds are bound to become immersed in a platform of information they can’t fully comprehend. Of course, this influences their understanding of the world, which affects their beliefs, mindsets, values, and attitudes before they’ve had the opportunity to come to an understanding of the world.

Social media is the major platform for having important conversations within our community, as it allows for everyone to have a voice, and use their influence to spread their personal thoughts and beliefs. With more time at home distanced from our peers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an ever expanded role social media took on as the platform for new conversations, news, and a sense of connection. However, the impersonal experience of having these conversations on social media has led to conflict, drama, and a negative environment in some cases without any sense of authority in moderating the discourse. This was blatantly apparent to me this year as I witnessed the political conversations surrounding the presidential election. What started as people expressing their political views turned into storms of drama online. Being the first presidential election I could vote in, I couldn’t help but take influence from what my friends, family, and everyone on social media was posting about the election. I felt pushed to validate my personal beliefs with what everyone else was posting online. There was a greater push of guilt to vote one way, or empowerment to vote another, at some points seeming to take a greater sway on my beliefs than my own research, knowledge, and opinions.

The Duty We Have As Participants in These Platforms

Because of the current climate of social media, we have an inherent duty to ourselves and the community to be mindful of how we’re using it. Social media is our world, our connection, our relationships, and our view of reality. Without rules, mediators in conversations, or authority in discussion, we must take it upon ourselves to ensure that we curate an atmosphere that is empowering, positive, and promotes our individuality as human beings.

Being mindful of your use in social media as it affects the content you are taking in and spreading to others is important. We can do this by building our own feeds in a way that inspires and motivates ourselves, and reflects information that furthers our personal interests rather than causing us to question our individuality. Take a look at the time you spend on social media, and what you are looking at. Ask yourself if it is beneficial to your mental health, stimulating to your mind, or if you’re spending too much time caught up in discussions that don’t promote your peace. Be sure what you post encourages positive conversation rather than oppressing opposite beliefs, and make an attempt to understand different perspectives. Take the responsibility upon yourself to spread positivity and empowerment online.

The influence of social media affects how we view the world, and how younger people especially come to view the world. With no rules, moderators of conversation, or authority in these platforms, I hope that you will continue to be mindful in your use of social media and remember your duty to help curate a positive and purposeful environment on social media.

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