The world is crazy. Acts of hate have been normalized, there are protests held seemingly every week and we have an orange in the White House.
Despite all the craziness, there’s a platform that brings everyone together. A place where you can connect with your best friend from kindergarten, find that cute barista who works at your favorite coffee shop, and congratulate that cousin who lives miles away from you on her pregnancy. This magical place is called social media — or it’s what social media should be.
Social media, however, has a dangerous way of always becoming a breeding ground for negativity and hate. This is largely because anything a person says on Twitter or other platforms is said through a screen. What better place to confront or insult someone than from the safety of your bed, phone in hand?
Cyber bullying has also gotten out of control because social media makes it tough to prove who said what to whom and when. Kids as young as middle schoolers are being bullied online, and there’s no escape. With face-to-face bullying, as terrible as it is, at least the kids can get away from it when they leave school. With online bullying, there’s no running from the torture.
That kind of constant abuse leads many teens to develop depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts. I once made a positive comment about the animal rights group PETA for getting a huge fashion company to stop using animal fur for their pieces. Almost instantly I was bombarded with comments by people who find fur pieces appealing, calling me almost every name in the book. That small, maybe 10-minute confrontation with people I’ve never met before made me feel horrible and helpless.
Social media apps can also cause users’ self-esteem to take a hit. Social media, Instagram in particular, is full of perfectly edited and Photoshopped selfies that are viewed by impressionable teenagers. Instagram users begin to have unrealistic beauty standards, leaving many to think they aren’t good enough or need to change the way they look.
With the constant hate and negativity that infiltrates social media, it leaves a good chunk of my peers and me feeling worried about the impact social media will make in the future. If it’s out of hand now, what will it be like as technology advances?
Social media has tremendous power when you take out the antagonism and hatred. It should be a space where we all spread love, not hate. Where we see humorous memes, not someone’s nudes being leaked. Where raw, natural selfies are shown as much love as the airbrushed ones, because they are both beautiful.
These are my hopes for the new year. A new meaning for social media sounds like the perfect aspiration.
Tess Lyons is a Motif intern and student at The Met School.