By Andrew Schau – The Collegiate
A few days ago, I walked into Bagel Beanery for some breakfast. I got in line, and there was an awkward silence in the atmosphere. I stopped to look around at the customers seated, most of them couples, and the majority of them were looking down at their phones, as if their date wasn’t even there. Social interaction will never be the same again. Since everybody is so connected to their devices, so much of the communicating we do throughout the day is through a screen. Not too long ago, all the cell phone could do was call and text, and we were initially fine with that. From the flip phone, to the sliding keyboard, the cell phone hasn’t stopped advancing. Only a few years later, the cell phone has been completely revamped into a smart phone. Wherever we go, we have access to the whole world in the palm of our hand.
This can have a positive, and a negative impact. In a sense, it really is a completely different world than the one we are personally living. The social media platforms are bigger and more advanced than ever before. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the list goes on. With all this in our pocket, the world around us gets muted, and we get completely distracted by the cell phone.Yes, there are many positives of social media, and having these advanced apps can be convenient, but it is becoming a problem in today’s society, especially the youth. When you’re always looking down, you’re missing what’s going on around you.
However, Elizabeth VanPortfliet, a Disability Supporter and Counselor at Grand Rapids Community College, had some things to say about social media.
“Social media is holding back a lot of our students,” VanPortfliet said. “It is a huge distraction and it makes the kids loose focus on their studies. It is also used for kids who are insecure about themselves. Posting lots of selfies and other pictures is more time consuming than people realize. People put so much effort into their social media accounts, and it holds them back from being productive.”
Students and their peers, especially in middle/high school, have a problem with trying to fit in. Some kids will do whatever it takes to be popular, and this leads to cyberbullying. Saying hurtful things on social media can scare someone deeper than you think. The devastation of these online attacks can leave deep mental scars. In several well-publicized cases, victims have been driven to suicide. Cyber-bullying has spread widely among youth, with 42 percent reporting that they have been victims, according to a 2010 CBS News report. What is said and posted on social media is there for the whole world to see, and it’s there forever.
VanPortfliet stressed the dangers of bullying through social media in young people as well.
“When people post something on their social media page, they don’t censor their words,” she said. “When you are face-to-face with somebody, you watch your tone and words a lot more. Reading something on social media can give someone the wrong idea of what they are trying to say. It makes it easier to say hurtful things to others, and the entire world can see what was said.”
It seems to be that young people, such as college students, are the main users of social media. Teens and young adults use social media in a variety of ways. Collin Rosendall, a fellow GRCC student, explained to me how he uses social media.
“Mainly snapchat and Instagram is all I do on social media,” Rosendall said. “I can make plans with my friends, and contact a large group of people at once. That is my favorite part of these social networks. Getting to know people a little bit before meeting them is also nice. If you check somebody’s Facebook page, you can get an idea of who that person is.”
Rosendall has a great point. Being able to contact a large audience at once is so easy to do. For example, on Snapchat, if you post the address of a birthday party on your story, all of your friends can see it. This makes it so there is no confusion, and it makes planning everyday life efficient.
A false sense of connection is another problem that social media causes. By focusing so much time on our less meaningful relationships on these sites, the truly important relationships in the real world weaken. These sites make it hard to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we have in the real world, and the numerous laid-back relationships formed through social media.
Getting the opinion of a current GRCC professor, I believe, is great input. Professor of Communications, Dennis Sutton, believes that social media is overrated.
“To be honest, I don’t use social media at all,” Sutton said. “I would much rather just speak to the person face-to-face, because there are no misinterpretations. Sometimes when a person is communicating through social media, the person at the receiving end of the message could get the wrong idea of what the sender is saying. This can cause unnecessary drama.”
Sutton also explained how the social media world can be a waste of time to its users.
“Social media has to be one of the biggest time-consumers in today’s society,” Sutton said. “People, especially kids, that I’ve had in class tend to spend an entire class period on their phones. Those students are the ones who get the worse test scores, because they miss important notes and due dates.”
People being addicted to social media is a problem, too. It is something that we are very naive about. We as humans, especially my generation, don’t like admitting they are wrong, or admitting they have a problem. According to Qualtrics.com, 79 percent of millenials sleep with their phone next to them in bed, while 53 percent of these people admit to waking up at least once a night to check their phone.
Another main problem of social media is a very serious one, cyberbullying. The convenience of reaching large crowds is available for the wrong crowd. Students and their peers, especially in middle/high school, have a problem with trying to fit in. Some kids will do whatever they have to do to be popular, and that means hurtful actions for everyone to see. Saying painful things on social media is how this is done. The devastation of these online attacks can leave deep mental scars. In several well-publicized cases, victims have even been driven to suicide. Cyber-bullying has spread widely among youth, with 42 percent reporting that they have been victims, according to a 2010 CBS News report.
Social media can also be harmful by decreasing productivity in a person’s life. At school, watching a friends Snapchat story happens way too much throughout the day. Depending on the teacher and that particular student, a kid can end up getting dismissed from class or have a chit-chat with a professor. Playing with the phone leads to laziness, and the student is missing what he/she needs to learn for that class. Consequently, the grades and test scores begin to drop. This is happening in every school, so keeping the phone tucked away makes it much easier to succeed in the classroom.
Communication habits have been changed negatively due to social media, also. In today’s society, it is completely normal to be in the car and have both earbuds in with the family riding with you. Being able to stream music, and have our digital worlds on the phone, cancel out the communication between the family. Very little words are spoken in the car, isolating us from our loved ones. Another example would be in the elevator, here at GRCC, even. There is little to zero communication between students and faculty during the elevator ride. Even an easy, “Hello,” or “How’s your day going?,” can make someone’s day. Not enough of that is going on anymore.
I personally have a lot of improving to do when it comes to using social media only for good. During classes, I often catch myself looking at Instagram and think to myself, “I can look at Instagram when I get home. I need to pay attention.”
In today’s society, social media has been blown out of proportion. The conveniences and applications used in life have distracted us long enough. Putting away the phone will get us back to a united generation. Increased communication habits, dedication in the classroom, and fostering our real life relationships are more important than checking Instagram for hours on end. When you’re always looking down, you’re missing what’s around