Social media has become an intrinsic part of our daily life. Social networking is the newest – and most widely used – form of communication: we share likes, hearts, comments, memes, stickers and frowns on Facebook and Instagram, and we use Snapchat to send quick photos and short-lived messages. We use Tinder and Badoo to find our soul mate and we chat with strangers on blogs and public pages. When we wake up we check our various accounts and we rely on likes and followers to increase our popularity. But is all of this true? In the era of post-globalization and massive interconnection – are we really one large social community? In most cases, the answer to these questions is no. Social media brings us closer, but it also creates a deep sense of isolation and loneliness, in particular among teenagers and young people.
Social media creates isolation in various ways:
- It creates illusions: social media creates the illusion of having friends. People spend more and more time chatting with stranger online and sharing their thoughts and feelings with unidentified “users” rather than having real conversations with “real” people. Furthermore, in most cases, our “friends” on Facebook are not more than simple acquaintances and we are losing the social skills necessary to make friends and to get to know people in real life;
- It distracts from real life and real problems: when we spend our afternoons or evenings in our apartments chatting online or posting pictures on social media, we are losing the opportunity to interact with friends and family;
- It amplifies insecurities: on social media, people tend to share the best parts of their lives (luxurious cars, fancy clothes, stunning holiday locations, fit bodies, etc.) which are not relatable for most users. Seeing images of “perfect lives” and “glorified, ego-centric individuals,” often leads “regular” people to feel insecure, incomplete and inadequate; and
- It exposes to hatred and judgment: whenever we post a photo online or we share our thoughts on any social media platform, we are exposed to the judgement and possible negative comments of millions of people. Furthermore, users often feel protected by the screen and tend to leave negative or hateful comments that – even if posted with superficiality – might seriously affect one’s self-esteem. In some tragic instances, racist, hateful and negative comments have led people to commit suicide.
Social media and all social networking platforms represent a unique opportunities to keep in touch with friends all over the world, to meet people that share our same interests and passions, to have constructive discussions, to promote just causes and to have access to quick and reliable sources of information. However, the sparkling world of Instagram and Facebook has a dark side. Sitting behind our laptops and spending most of our days scrolling through our Facebook home has alienated and isolated us. People are losing their social skills; they are basing their lives on the response and support of their followers, and are seeking solace and shelter in a virtual world – where they might end up getting lost.