Social media is a contentious issue at times. Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest can be harnessed to bring¬†attention to events or topics that might go unnoticed in other ways. The #BringBackOurGirls movement, for example, forced the international media to (belatedly) report on the¬†276 school girls abducted by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014, and caused international outcry over the abduction, pressing for the Nigerian government to take action. And though the campaign was successful in that the world became aware of Boko Haram and the 276 missing school girls, most of the girls are still missing, and there are more kidnappings of girls every day (most of the girls will be forced into marriage or sexually assaulted). Over a year after the kidnappings, #BringBackOurGirls has mostly lapsed into silence (with a brief burst of activity on the 1 year anniversary), which raises the question of whether or not this sort of social media campaign is activism or clicktivism.
On a less international scale, social media is¬†often used as a tool for bullying, and cyberbullying is¬†more indsidious than bullying was before the advent of social media. With the vast majority of teens using social media as their primary form of communication, there’s no longer a way to escape to a safe place, and the perceived anonymity of the web makes it easier for kids to “mob” a¬†target, as well as harass them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Despite the negatives, there are also a lot of positives to social media: there’s always something to cheer you up, it can (surprisingly) improve communication skills, it allows you to keep in touch with friends and family near and far (and make new friends), and you can ask for advice (anonymously or not).¬†It can even increase self-esteem: how often do friends¬†really say bad things about your¬†selfies, after all?!
One teen, however, has weighed the pros and cons of social media, and has decided she’s not interested. Fifteen year-old¬†Keira Baker writes
I’m not avoiding it to be cool. I’m not making a stand against conformity or trying to be “alt-y” (alternative) and fashionable. I don’t have any social media because… I just don’t want it.
Not having Facebook or Instagram doesn’t have a huge impact on my social life. It does mean, however, that my friends really are just that – friends.
I don’t interact with anyone unless I’m comfortable with inviting them over for a swim or going out to the movies.
Personally, I think that’s a very healthy approach (possibly because it’s why I have a limited social media presence). I’ve met some amazing people over the Internet‚Äìeveryone who works with Girl Museum, for example!‚Äìand I consider some of them friends, but I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be if they just dropped by my house unannounced.
Keira goes on to say
Probably the best thing about not being a “screenager” is that I don’t have an online persona to keep up. I don’t have to worry about which photo is pretty or cool or beachy or alt-y enough for my profile picture. I don’t have to build up a social media identity and showcase the things I want other people to see in me. I can be whoever I want to be without worrying about how many “likes” that photo gets.
And perhaps that’s the reason I don’t have social media. Simply put, I don’t want to have that pressure to be fake.
Though I wouldn’t say that all people are “fake” in their online personas, there is a pressure to put your best self forward at all times, whether it’s an artfully-posed¬†selfie posted or a carefully phrased status update. And while it’s healthy to want to look your best, Keira is right in the sense that it doesn’t matter how many “likes” a photo or a status update gets, but whether or not you like who you are and where you’re at in life.
Read Keira’s full piece, “Girl unplugged: Why I don’t use social media,” for her complete take on social media and being a teenager.
Social Media Manager
Girl Museum Inc.