The internet provides us with many opportunities that seemed impossible only 15 years ago. The fast development of new technologies has changed the ways in which we see human interaction. It seems that today it is easier to communicate, build relationships, exchange information, and share our personal feelings and thoughts. But in order to have it all, we pay a very high price, often without realizing it.
What is Social Media?
By social media we mean all forms of Internet communication that allow for exchange of information between the users themselves. Usually, it is not restricted, or the required standards for exchanging are very low. Every user can disseminate information, edit it, provide suggestions, comment, etc. Wikipedia, Facebook, Youtube, and blogging all relate to social media.
They are based on the assumption that information should be disseminated without limitations, and it may be edited by any member of the virtual community. For some people, it is a democratic process, which removes barriers to user’s self-expression and thinking. Users feel free to interact with other people. There is no chance that the main ideas and principles of the so-called Arab spring in 2011 would have been disseminated namely through Facebook. Nevertheless, there are some hidden negative dimensions related to young people, and especially students. Let’s briefly analyze them below.
Knowledge or Information Chaos?
The sources of the information disseminated through social media are often unreliable , which is a fact students do not realize. In most cases, that kind of information is wrong or at least not accurate. On the one hand, a person’s desire for sharing information (for example, statuses on Facebook), and on the other hand, the instantaneous and unobstructed access to it (i.e. Wikipedia) significantly reduces its quality. In order to become knowledgeable, any piece of information has to meet two basic conditions: (1) to have reliable resources (well-proved), and (2) to be subjected to critical thinking by people (with regards to its possible falsity).
Young people frequently disseminate someone else’s personal opinion or comments as if it were certain knowledge that puts youngsters in a state of delusion, because most of them do not have serious real-life experience. In order not to confuse easy accessible information with knowledge, young people should be more critical and look for diverse sources of information.
Integration in any virtual community requires the creation of a new personal identity. It often reflects the distorted self-image of the young people, their longings and their need of social recognition. Their desire to attract the attention of other people makes them create completely new personality. In such case people tend to hide their real needs, fears, dreams, and feelings, merely to gain the sympathy of others. It becomes important to have many likes on your Facebook status or photos. Thus, the false personal identity becomes more stable and sustainable, which results in another negative phenomenon.
Young people prefer to present themselves with the aforementioned false personal identity because they get all needed attention. False personalities communicate with other false personalities. As a result, many delusions are reinforced, various psychical compensatory mechanisms are put into action, thus leading to addiction. How non-authentic communication differs from the real one? First, the real thoughts, feelings and experiences of the subject are not reflected in it.
Second, communication is impossible without body language, without shared common experience (one trip to another city, or merely going to disco). In the field of the social media, you never know what exactly someone wants to say or ask, because you cannot see his/her face, observe his/her body language, or hear his/her voice. It often leads to miscomprehension and even conflicts (even though they are virtual).
The third thing is that Internet friendship is not unique: you can always remove your friends from the list and replace them with other people. In that way, people are protected from anxiety, various problems and all other negative aspects of a normal relationship between human beings. Isolated within his/her virtual world, an individual loses touch with reality and is vulnerable to further isolation and even alienation. The extreme cases of this detachment could be treated only by specialists in Psychiatry or Psychology. Students shouldn’t underestimate such situations and have to look for special help if their friends seem addicted to their own virtual life. Non-authentic communication can actually destroy everyone’s life.
Find the Balance
But it doesn’t mean that we should ignore social media. Man is endowed with reason and he must find the balance between both extremes. Young people should take advantage of the opportunities provided by the social media, but always keep in mind that the so-called virtual reality is merely a small world in our endless universe.