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Over the last decade, technology's rapid progression has proven to be inescapable

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Samantha MonelloOver the last decade, technology's rapid progression has proven to be inescapable. Everything and everyone is somehow connected to a machine. We rely on them for directions, instant access to information, photography, work, entertainment, and communication. Technology has advanced our world in more ways than we could have ever imagined, and it only continues to grow. Its systems are shaping up to be the most profoundly disruptive, beneficial, and dangerous technological shift since the industrial revolution. As a society, we are preparing to take this shift in stride, but I do not believe we are putting enough focus on one of technology's biggest creations: social media.

Social media has become a very prominent part of our lives. Social media allows us to advertise, connect and share. At times, it can be used beneficially, but sometimes, its use can be damaging. Since owning a smartphone has become a norm over the last several years, children are beginning to receive phones at much younger ages. With this, they are given access to the internet and all social media websites before they reach a mature enough age. I personally know many elementary school children who have Snapchat and Instagram. The exposure on these accounts is almost entirely unregulated, and this is something that should concern society.

The applications that are so integral to teenage life can be dangerously destabilizing. I have seen peers live and die according to their likes on social media. In the best of times, the hunger for recognition, attention and acceptance can be satiated. But dependency on a social group for validation creates a precarious balance. The flow of positive comments that fuel self-esteem can quickly turn negative and crush confidence. I have witnessed this juxtaposition of kindness and cruelty. The transition from popular to pariah can be brutally swift.

Social media applications can have extremely detrimental effects on children. They have been ridiculed, bullied and embarrassed on social media. Many have also been exposed to alcohol and drug use, profanity and pornography. Society has been aware of these effects and has been watching it happen for quite some time now, but no solutions have been instituted. Why is this? Why is it that a parent must be present to buy a ticket to an R-rated movie but a child can open a social media account where they are subjected to the same amount of, if not more, exposure, at any age they want?

Society has struggled to resolve these problems because of obvious limitations, such as freedom of speech and economic value, but I believe restrictions are necessary. Unfettered access to social media is not an unalienable right that needs be granted to minors. Although I do not claim to have the answer to this question, I think there is one idea that is important to think about when addressing the problem: transparency. If we somehow create a perfect storm of transparency, detrimental effects could be greatly reduced. If responsible adults were given information about every account then negative behavior might begin to dissipate, hostile parties may even leave the network, and overall moods could improve. The only way to drive out the darkness is to shine very bright lights.

A more obvious, yet challenging idea about social media and its effects is reduction of usage. As adults, we find it hard to give up because we have this desire to be in constant communication with everyone we know. Although we find it hard to admit, our addiction to technology is adding to the problem. The scarier thing, is that if we struggle to detach from the social media, how are younger generations going to do it?

They have grown up with a screen attached to their faces at younger ages than current adults and they really have no idea what life is like without it. I believe that taking a step away from social media, even if it is just for a few days at a time, could solve some of the problems it creates, and even make us into better people.

I am one to advocate for this. I deleted all but one of my social media accounts a few months ago and have felt completely relieved. The one I kept, Snapchat, is used as a form of communication rather than sharing or watching the events happening in peoples' lives. I no longer spend my time watching what other people do or worry what others are thinking of my posts. I feel less excluded and provide people with less opportunities to embarrass me, forcing them to face their problems in person. Although this is a small step in a much larger problem, I believe it's one we should all take. Removing yourself from the equation may help society form solutions for generations to come.

Samantha Monello is a senior at Wilsonville High School.

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