Dubai – By throwing our hands on the toxicity of social media, we forgot to have a more nuanced conversation about it.
Photo / AFP
I start my morning with a cup of tea and a 20 minute YouTube video about a day in the life of an influencer. Somewhere between celery juice and meditation, there’s a sprinkle of gratitude journaling, Marie Kondo-inspired clutter cleanups, and healthy Buddha bowls.
Videos are far from being a description of my life, but I like to consume the content on the pretext that I might someday do these things. Someday I will learn to whip my own matcha latte – with almond milk because I will finally realize that I should be eating for the environment. Someday I’ll write down my anxieties, cook my frustrations in a loaf of banana bread, and relax with a bergamot candle that I, of course, made myself. One day, I will become the best version of myself, the most inaccessible.
May a day never come. Last week’s social media outage sparked many conversations about the effects of Facebook, Instagram and other platforms on young people. Many studies and articles already exist, and many others have come to fruition with renewed fervor. But maybe by throwing our hands on the toxicity of social media, we forgot to have a more nuanced conversation about it, especially when it comes to young people.
Privacy and security concerns aside, it’s true that social media hasn’t made it easy. There was a time when Facetuned photos were ubiquitous, forcing us to strive for unrealistic levels of perfection and thinness. Even now we open the apps to see photos of the friend who took a soul-searching trip to Thailand, the one who got married and the one who entered Harvard, to inevitably measure our failures against their successes. .
But weren’t there any insecurities even before these apps appeared? Social media was just a worm that baited our loopholes. In Rainesford Stauffer’s book An ordinary age, she interviews young adults who offer superimposed perspectives on social media. The surprising revelation is that they don’t blame social media for their mental health or self-esteem issues.
In fact, almost all of them said they found themselves represented on social media and expressed a desire to present themselves as authentic on these platforms, debunking the idea that nothing on social media is real.
They even knew when to step back when the media they were consuming seemed damaging to them. Influencers are an important part of this conversation. We want to end them, but we cannot escape them. On one end of the spectrum, you have the ones that flaunt their designer bags and mansions, the ones that you absolutely cannot identify with but still watch.
But on the other hand, you have creators with some 300,000 subscribers, who produce content with the caveat that they’re only showing a tiny part of their lives. These that you consume just because the person seems to identify with. Many of us have come out of the 6-hour digital blackout after rediscovering our hatred of social media. A few minutes later, we were back online.
So how can young people embrace digital detox when our lives have long been interwoven with applications? Maybe the solution is to discover our sense of worth inside and outside of social media. And when the going gets tough, we can only hope the tech gods give us another breather.