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Youth Day: Social media engagement has its benefits but...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

Youth Day: Social media engagement has its benefits but it’s no substitute for real-world interaction

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Siyazamkela Maqungo is a second-year Journalism student from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). She is a blogger and writer from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

Young people use social media platforms to find and connect with one another — but while media like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have their advantages, they can never replace healthy face to face human connection.

The rapid growth of social media platforms has created an entirely new medium of human interaction — platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have connected people from around the world. 

While many of us enjoy using social media to stay connected, excessive use can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, and the ‘fear of missing out (Fomo). Youth in South Africa face many problems, including anxiety brought on by social media comments. The pressure of keeping up with visuals on social media platforms, which then creates anxiety, is far too great and it has the potential to drive a person insane. An individual’s self-esteem can suffer as a result of the posts they see on these social media platforms. 

With social media being so popular, most people regard things posted on social media as being the truth — not forgetting that some people are faking these moments in order to fit in with society and their peers. 

Spending too much time on social media, despite the fact that it is intended to bring people closer together, can actually make you feel lonelier and more isolated as well as exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety, narcissism and depression, it has been widely reported (see , for example, IOL and  NPR and The Conversation).

People’s self-esteem can suffer as a result of the posts they see on these social media platforms. For example, constantly seeing posts about peers who make progress in their careers while you are unemployed, could put additional pressure on you and cause frustration, which could lead to a spiral of mental health problems. 

The way I see it, social media anxiety that is facing the youth is a psychological issue that may manifest to physical actions such as suicide and substance abuse if not dealt with. For example, because of the pressure, one may resort to substance abuse just to escape the carefully curated ‘reality’ of social media postings.

Are there solutions to this problem? 

In order to solve problems associated with social media-related anxiety, South Africa must start encouraging young people to engage in extracurricular activities, such as sports and hobbies. If young people are involved in extracurricular activities, they would be less likely to spend time on their phones.  

Young people must be encouraged to read books for leisure. Volunteering and community shelters should also be encouraged as young people would spend less time on their phones and interacting more with others. Young people should be taught and encouraged that there is more to life than social media, they should be encouraged to find purpose in life and restore human nature, which had been lost in the millennial era. DM.

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