On my blog today is a guest post from S.R Summers where she talks about her views on social media and how damaging it can be. But first I will tell you what her book is about.
About the book
Don’t think. Just run. When what lies ahead is less fearful than what lies behind, and west-coast unknowns less terrifying than east-side tragedies, there is no choice other than the one through the window at the end of a third-floor police station corridor. Without another thought, the girl runs. Her jump will take her to the street below, to encounters with humanity that will both shock and save her, to the girl she becomes the one who knows how to fight, but also survive, even shine, in the darkest places. She does not go unnoticed. The mob boss, the ruler of Vegas, has seen her. But she is not ready to be seen. And this time there is no corridor, and no window.
As someone who grew up with the launch of social media, and witnessed the welcome it received as the new golden era of human communication, I find it sad now to be writing a piece on how damaging it can be.
The contrast could not be stronger between a decade ago, when we were told it would bring us all closer together, and now, when in the unsettled social-political climate we see Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, testifying about data breaches to the US Senate, with millions of users’ personal data having been misused – ironically including that of the founder himself. Add to this the fact that even an ex-executive of Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya, admitted feeling intense guilt from having helped create ‘tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works’, it is fair to say we are living through a challenging dimension on our ball of rock in the big sea of space. And it is something we all need to face up to, because we know, despite the negative press, that we have all the apps on our phones, tablets and laptops, and we keep using them like addicts that just can’t give up the habit.
One of social media’s most lauded assets – and now it’s greatest danger – is that it can reach almost everyone – and age limits are irrelevant when no proof is needed to create accounts. There is no age test, no ‘how-to’ guide: we are all guinea-pigs in a huge social experiment. But like all human constructs, however well intentioned, they are open to corruption and abuse when people devise ways to manipulate them to their advantage – which is how we started with algorithms that show us ‘friends’ we might have in common, and ended up with headlines telling us Russia might have influenced the US 2017 Presidential Election, and possibly the Brexit result. People express concern about the volume of misinformation online now, that no one knows what the truth is anymore. Even established news outlets like the BBC are no longer seen as the bastions of truth that they once were, so intertwined has the media become with social media, constantly vying for our attention. Can anyone quantify the impact this increasing lack of trust will have on society? How can we achieve integrity in our mass-communications?
From political super-powers, all the way down to individuals, I know from first-hand experience how complicated social media can make life – I have a large number of people on my ‘blocked’ list because of abusive behaviour. ‘Trolling’ no longer raises eyebrows when it’s mentioned on the news, and though widely condemned, the volume of inflammatory comments per hour, let alone in a day, makes social media a very hard entity to police. I employ a number of teenagers, and have witnessed their distress because of vicious comments, unwanted friend requests, badly chosen photos, being unfriended . . . the list goes on and on. And on another list, we could write words like, ‘depression’ and ‘low self-esteem’. I gave a talk at a careers event at a school a few months ago and touched on how, when we put something out there for the world, we have to be prepared for people’s opinions, and how imperative it is to learn to ignore the negative and only give credence to constructive criticism. Many parents approached me to thank me for attempting to create some sort of perspective on the social media issue. (It is worth noting that in the last three years there has been an 87% increase in the number of Childline’s counselling sessions for online bullying. And according to some sources, Facebook is a key reason for about one third of divorces! So, it’s not just young people who are being affected.)
So, is there any good news? Something we could give a big thumbs-up to, despite this murky, insidiously easy-to-use algorithm-based online world we use every day? Despite the flaws, some say social media has helped raise awareness for charities, and raise money that has changed lives for the better. But is that enough of a reason to keep feeding the social media machine?
One rather inconceivable concept, and something I’m tremendously interested in, is whether we’ll one day learn a huge lesson from social media, and choose to go back to living without it; that we’ll decide that the price we pay for devoting so much time to our online life is just not worth it. Surely, sincere, real-world social interaction is always going to be better? That dinner with friends without constantly checking (and updating!) our Instagram accounts will be a far closer and connective experience? We have already seen numerous people shut down their Facebook accounts: Elon Tusk took SpaceX and Tesla off their platform; pub chain JD Wetherspoons deleted all social media accounts because of the level of trolling taking place. What if we, as individuals, also chose to remove ourselves from social media, not for business reasons, but for the sake of morality and respect? For truly, it is morality and respect (and self-respect) that dictate how ‘civilised’ a species we are, not how many followers or ‘likes’ we have.
I once said to someone, ‘Sometimes you have to do something once, to know you don’t want to do it again.’ Could this be true with respect to social media? Do we need to keep ‘doing it’ again and again until morality and respect are annihilated entirely? I hope the damage done by social media will one day be mitigated by a resurgence of integrity and unity. I plan to be a part of that. Do you?
About the Author
Living in Leamington Spa, West Midlands, S.R. Summers owns and runs the popular ZouBisou cafe. Previously, she has enjoyed a career working within broadcast media whilst living in Belgium and within the field of e-commerce. She also holds a degree in History from the University of Cambridge. When not managing her cafe, you’ll find her busy writing and working on the final book in her Infinity Squared eight-part series. The first in the series, Indigo Lost by S.R, Summers (published by ShieldCrest Publishing April 2018 RRP £20 hardback, £12 paperback and £5.99 e-book) is available to purchase from online retailers, including Amazon, and to order from all good bookstores. For more information you can follow the author @indigolost.
Amazon Buy Links: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Indigo-Lost-1-Infinity-Squared/dp/1911090917/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524828634&sr=8-1&keywords=Indigo+Lost