Speaking Out: Social media, good and bad

By  Bernadette Timson, Youth Speak News
  • March 24, 2021

The advent of social media has been positively embraced as a means of connecting people across long distances. It has also revolutionized marketing and public relations in unprecedented ways.

Short of entering the cloistered life, anyone born after 2000 is likely to have some form of social media account, and many are required to have a social media account for work purposes.

Yet increasingly social media sites and “Big Tech’’ have come under attack due to ethical concerns. And not just from Catholics but the mainstream culture at large. In the past year, Netflix has released  a number of documentaries concerning the sketchy to scandalous activity of different organizations such as Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Google.

Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding social media activity recently has been regarding privacy issues, or rather trust violations, especially from those whose accounts have been hacked. Adding to this, nefarious activities from the dark web, connections to pornography and human trafficking all contribute to the dangerous reality of what happens online daily.

This is not to say this medium as a whole is bad. There is so much good that accompanies — overwhelmingly — the bad. Families have reunited, job networking has expanded, volunteer opportunities have emerged, fundraising projects achieved and social justice activism flourished thanks to social media.

But the reality is social media has become so integrated into our daily lives, it is too often characterized by an improper overuse of the technology, as opposed to a proper use.

Studies have shown that on average a person only needs five close personal connections in their lives. For young people who are still figuring out social relationships, and feel pressured to have hundreds of connections, this can often lead to unnecessary anxiety and stress in an attempt to fit in. In an age of social distancing, when communications technology is aiding efforts to continue activities, this seems to  have created a new landscape for younger children who will grow up in a “new normal.”

Unfortunately,  many people are oblivious that all Internet activity is considered a matter of public record. This is not just a privacy issue — safety is at risk too.

One does not need to be on social platforms all the time, and should also not be pressured into setting up accounts if it serves no usefulness to life or even detracts from it. The following questions can help you discern your presence and activity (or inactivity) on social media:

• Do you have a legitimate need or purpose for social media in your life? Consider the origins of your preferred platform and how has it evolved since its inception? Are you feeling pressured to join simply to fit in? Do you choose to log on because of the fear of missing out?

• How do you plan to “market your brand”? Do you have a cybersecurity plan in place in the event that you get hacked? When sharing something online, are you aware of the origin of the content? Do you conduct your online activity in a manner that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have your future boss one day see?

• Overall, would you say you use this tool for good or bad? Are you aware of who your real friends are when you’re online and who is simply a connection?

• On the flip side, if you are considering a boycott, how effective is the strategy you’re using? If you’re choosing to “unplug” during Lent, are you being clear whether you are doing it to quit or just to take a retreat? Which one is more effective for your life?

(Timson, 22, is a Communications Media student at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, Calif.)

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