I want to get something out of the way first. Yes, I do use social media. I also attend UVU, own “Jaws: The Revenge,” and call up ex-girlfriends on lonely nights. My point is, I do a lot of things that make me hate myself, but that doesn’t make any of them right. So, before anyone starts waving a pitchfork and calling me out for hypocrisy, let’s be clear: Social media is something we’re living with, but that doesn’t mean anybody has to like it.
A recent study by Berlin’s Humboldt University and Darmstadt’s Technical University said Facebook and other social networks can be a cause of depression and negative feelings. The researchers said that using social media can provoke feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction with one’s own life. Clicking through the updates and photos of friends can give a false sense of security and happiness in the lives of others, making one feel isolated and envious.
Another study, this one by Mark Urista, Qingwen Dong, and Kenneth Day, said that social networks were addictive. The gratification that comes from likes and re-tweets can cause people to check these sites frequently looking for those responses to “serve as approval and support from mediated relationships.” That’s something people not only look for, but crave, so they sign in repeatedly, hoping for that online comfort.
And then there are people like Edward De Bono who say that social networking makes people “lazy and stupid.” Research shows that Facebook users average 40 visits a month, spending about 23 minutes each time. That’s over 15 hours a month.
And then there are the scholars, like Mark Bauerlein, who are afraid that social networking sites are degrading people’s ability to converse in a natural, organic way. People are becoming complacent in their armchair relationships, neglecting the nurture of human contact because they can just catch up online.
That’s great. So science has proven that social media can be bad. But in all fairness, that isn’t the real problem with social media. People will always find something to be addicted to or depressed about, and there were plenty of lazy, stupid people long before the advent of social media. So those aren’t the real problem. No, the real problem with social media is Jared and Savannah.
Who are Jared and Savannah, or “Javannah” for anybody who doesn’t like syllables? Jared and Savannah are, or were, it can be hard to keep track sometimes, a teen couple with accounts on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube. And why has anybody heard of them? Because they have accounts on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube.
They posted gratuitous detail about their relationship from beginning to end to beginning to end to beginning to end on all of those sites, all written in high school vernacular, and amassed a huge following. Their Facebook page has more than 240,000 likes. That’s about 50,000 more than the Smithsonian. They are the Internet equivalent of the cutest couple in high school yearbooks.
And that’s the evil of social media; It has become a digitized high school from which no one can graduate, only log off. But Online High is always there, and we’re always enrolled. Twitter is passing notes in the hallway, Pinterest is just decorating the locker, Mr. Zuckerberg is the principal, and Jared and Savannah, they’re the cool kids.
Social media is the distillation and digitization of everything wrong in every after-school special. People can herald it as this great, liberating thing that’s connected the world, but it boils down to nothing more than those awkward teenage years that most people couldn’t wait to leave behind.