To Social Media or Not to Social Media?

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By Mirsa Sanxhaku

While most realize that social media is a powerful tool that is here to stay, others like Allison Graham, a social media historian, argue that social media is causing individuals to become, well… less social. Her worries are better illustrated satirically by the Polish-born Pawel Kuczynski (picture below), who depicts humanity trapped in its own cage, afraid to face the world head-on, instead, molding his experiences through the eyes of social media.

Graham has a point. I recall an instance when I was out with my friends at a local bar playing pool. I turn around and witness a table of about eight young adults and everyone, and I mean, EVERYONE, at that table had their head in a phone. What is happening to the world? Why go out just to be stuck inside your phone? Then I read an article on The New York Times, and now I’m not sure what to think about social media. Perhaps it’s not all that bad? Let me explain.

The article briefly discusses the terrors that Burundi is facing as the country is “veering toward economic collapse.” Among the rubble, many Burundians are taking to social media and sharing their experiences with the world. Now, while it is one thing for a journalist to somewhat objectively describe a situation, it is quite another for an actual citizen of a country that is greatly affected by the situation, and that will further be greatly affected by the outcome of that situation, to describe their experiences. Furthermore, it’s incredible that I, as an individual across the globe, can read such experiences/comments instantaneously and develop an idea of what is happening thousands of miles away, and maybe even connect with this person that I have never met. Thanks to The New York Times, this is where I am now. Social media: good or bad?

Obviously the easy answer that I have heard so far is to use it “responsibly.” But what does that mean? Not engage in social media as much? This answer might be important for newer generations that have grown up with social media and, in a way, are not able to detach it from their identity. But even if the time spent on social media is limited, what does that say about the content? While time on social media could arguably be well spent/beneficial when inquiring about important events around the world, such as the hardships faced by people in Burundi, I couldn’t say the same about inquiries made regarding the Kardashian clan (for example)- because, let’s face it: who cares?

Perhaps then, engaging in social media “responsibly” deals with the capacity to self-limit the amount of time spent on it while also filtering the content. If this is the case, can we please do humanity a favor and share this with our ever-growing mindless adolescence?

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