Where to start with this wormhole? Good old social media. If you can call it good? And, being honest, it’s not really that old. Either way, social media has its pros, but it also has its cons. Some could say it’s like Marmite.
Let’s face it: social media is a rife world that has managed to seep into everyone’s world. Well, maybe not everyone. But for my generation, it’s become a way of life. It’s also one that I honestly am growing to dislike.
What are the facts?
I’m going to start off with some facts. Twitter was founded in 2006, and has almost 700 million registered users. While they may not all be active, there is still an average of 58 million tweets published every day. That’s 9,100 every second. Facebook, on the other hand, has just surpassed 2000 million users (or 2 billion in US standards). I’ve always considered those two the main forms of social media, but the growth of other platforms over the last couple of years have really widened the world of online internet and immediate contact.
Social media is no longer limited to Twitter and Facebook, but extends to Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and many more. For many, myself included, it is often one of the first things we check in the morning, and the same at night. This is something I really want to change, and challenge myself to reduce absent-mindedly scrolling just for the sake of it. There are so much more fulfilling ways to spend time, yet social media has almost, in a way, become a safety blanket for many.
There are definitely some advantages to the world of online messaging and contact: especially in such a global society. I love the fact that it is easy to reconnect with old friends, and be in contact with people who may live the other side of the country, or even on the other side of the world. As a keen photographer, I also love being able to share photos, both on Facebook and Instagram. My private Instagram account has become somewhere I want to store memories – and it’s a really good place to look back over when things get tough, as I’ve filled it with pictures of the people I love.
I can sense a but?
BUT. And there is a big but. It is so dangerous. It seems innocent. Twitter is a great way to give a snap reaction, Instagram a perfect way to share photos, and Snapchat combines photos and messaging in a way that distinctly appeals to teens. But, it’s almost like these sites hide so many truths. It is so easy for bullies to hide behind a screen, and use their words to hurt others, but it’s all for a ‘laugh’. Or how social media can so often just represent the ‘highlights’.
I mean, I get it. It’s often the highlights that we want to share with others: the best times, the ones where we laughed, and were the memories we want to remember. But for others looking in, a highlight reel can be less than helpful. That’s one of my personal challenges with this blog. I want it to be honest – and not just the highlights. Because that’s not what life is.
Interestingly, I’ve had this on my mind for a while to talk about. While I’ve been planning it in my head, and then actually writing this post, I’ve come across various other articles and references to the power of social media.
Open Doors Youth – Blackout
Firstly, I came across an article published by Open Doors Youth. If you’re unaware of who they are, Open Doors are an organisation who seek to improve the lives of Christians who face persecution for their faith. They do this through smuggling hope and providing Bibles, training, literacy and livelihood programmes and advocacy support. They’ve been working since 1955, and the work they do is inspiring, and well worth finding out more and supporting them in prayer.
The youth strand of the organisation seeks to target young people and get us thinking about our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. One of the main ways they do this is through ‘Blackout’. This is a weekend of ‘digital silence’ – fasting from the online world to take time to pray for the persecuted world, and it’s suggested that these events are sponsored, with the money going to the work of Open Doors. Last year I took part in a Blackout event with my youth group. Honestly, being disconnected was one of the nicest things. We got to spend time as a family, without the constant need to check our phones, or without things being documented to plaster over Snapchat. It was proper fellowship – where communication was done face-to-face, without a screen barrier.
The article they published focuses on a very important point. It’s titled ‘Is your Social Networking not working?’ and looks directly at the influence that we can have online. Often, these influences can happen without being aware of it. The article goes on to tell Fatima’s story, and I really suggest you read it for yourself. Often, social media can be seen as ‘Giving a Voice to the Voiceless’. For those who live in oppression, social media can be used to gain access to the outside world; a place where new ideas are found and the possibility of a support network. Yet, there’s also a flip side. Social media is often closely monitored, and unpopular views and opinions can often be punished severely. For Fatima, this meant she was isolated by her own family for having a relationship with Jesus, and sharing that online. Not only isolated, but also killed.
Fatima used her voice to speak truth. She wrote of hope, love and compassion. She explained who Jesus is, and as a result, was killed by her own family.
Educating Greater Manchester
Secondly, this week’s episode of ‘Educating Greater Manchester’ was all about social media, and the impact it has on this school. Interestingly, while watching, I had the #EducatingGreaterManchester stream open on Twitter, and was following the comments throughout the episode. I think it just hit me how much social media has invaded the lives of students, and how the online world has grown massively in the last decade. If you haven’t seen it – you can catch up on demand on All 4 here.
Phones have become an extension of young people’s hands, and are rarely seen without them. Often, it can be a case of living life through the screen, especially with Snapchat. I think that Snapchat is one of my pet peeves. The obsession with keeping up streaks, or updating their story. (I’ve probably got the terminology wrong, I’m so not up-to-date with Snapchat). I guess my fear is that the internet can just be deceptive, and sometimes people are unaware of it. It’s the idea that not only are young people sharing their lives online, but often that comes without the security and privacy that should be in place.
I’ve realised that I’ve rambled a lot, and I’m going to finish here, but I want to leave you with one main thought. If you’ve got thoughts of your own, I’d love to hear them.
Social media definitely has its benefits. But lurking beneath its façade are a number of dangers – be aware, be watchful, and remember what you say and share online can impact in ways you may never imagine.