As author/philosopher Aldous Huxley once stated, "Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards," and the rise of social media is no exception when it comes to altering the development of today's youth. The superficiality of social media is a commonly known fact, but its harmful effects on the growing generation is too-often ignored.
Human innovation has led to an entire market of technology with the intent of appealing to the youth. As a result, technological devices have birthed a generation of children that are accustomed to the presence of technology and even rely on it. Technology allows people of all ages to access the endless space of knowledge we call the Internet, which is known to introduce kids to a universe of heavy, controversial topics prematurely. With such expansive knowledge condensed into a smartphone at any kid's fingertips, it's important that we consider the considerable damage it's doing on the development of our next generation.
Carrying such advanced technology on our persons has made us more connected now than we've ever been before, yet it's hard to deny that people have ever felt lonelier.
Social media was created as a means to connect familiar people in an entirely unfamiliar way, yet over the years sites like Facebook and Instagram have become perverted by superficial portrayals of people's own lives. Within the Instagram subculture, a person's profile is supposedly supposed to represent their life and personality, yet it's incredibly rare to find any flaw or nuance in anyone's self-portrayal. Every account is set-up to act as the supreme, perfect version of the user.
In the end, that's what social media is: really dedicated acting. Some performances are more captivating than others, with follower counts serving as the de facto award system.
It shouldn't be a surprise to hear that people aren't "real" on social media: not only is it old news, but it does sound relatively harmless in theory. It certainly would be, until you consider how young children might interpret this "acting" as entirely genuine. It's become ongoing amusement for millennials to ridicule young kids acting stupid on the Internet, with the recent Musical.ly and Tik Tok cringe compilations serving as even more examples. How can we blame these kids for simply emulating the behavior they see on a daily basis on their screens?
The simple answer is that we can't. These children watch makeup tutorials and dramatic "STORYTIME!" videos in their free time, yet we seem to be surprised when kids act dramatic, or worse, try to act our age. There's an overwhelming pressure the Internet places on young kids to be exactly like the older figures and "influencers" they see online, which in normal child development steals several years of innocence from their lives.
From that tremendous pressure arises yet another important side effect of social media on the new generation of kids: if kids are acting all the time, some are bound to get debilitating stage fright, and that, in truth, is what anxiety is. It's an unfortunate consequence of the new age of media that kids and teens are more anxious now than ever. According to the National Institutes of Health, a third of all adolescents ages thirteen to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.
I don't mean to claim social media is solely a force for evil. It's simply the latest major technological advancement throwing a wrench into the status quo. With that said, with every bit of enjoyment we find in connecting with others, it's imperative that we stop examine the masses of people feeling disconnected for the same reason.