The Real Face of Social Media by Alex Feng

Throughout the early 2000s to present day, this particular digital technology, social media, has evolve and made a huge impact on the average teenager and young adult life. Websites and applications such as Myspace, Aim, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and many more have made sharing and creating content easier than never before. All it takes is a few clicks with a mouse cursor and anybody will receive an update with the latest news about¬†their friends or updating their profile for friends and the public to see what has been happening in their life. However, despite how social media makes communicating with others extremely easier, it obstructs people’s empathy for others and themselves. Social media is literally a source for anybody to cyber bully others, it negatively affects some individuals’ self-empathy, and creates a false sense of connection with others. I will first discuss how¬†social media has affect individual’s self-empathy. Then I will discuss how¬†cyber bullying that is form by social media, not only obstructs people’s empathy for others, but worsen it, too. Afterwards, I will mention how social media creates a false sense of connection that cripples empathy between individuals.¬†Lastly, I will bring up possible counter arguments of how social media may improve empathy between individuals.

Social media has redefined communicating with others, but most importantly drastically alter our view on¬†ourselves. Some people may find themselves comparing themselves with their friends who are very popular. As they look at the comparison between themselves and their popular friend, they will notice what sets them apart from each other and it will hurt their self-esteem. According to this article from Reader’s Digest called, “5 Weird Negative Effects of Social Media on Your Brain”, researchers discovered that one in three people felt lonely and frustrated after spending time on Facebook due to comparing themselves with friends. This decreases their empathy in general because these angry individuals will not want to understand how others feel and share only their jealousy and hatred since they are lonely. Another method of how social media obstructs individual’s empathy for others is by hurting the brain’s ability to think independently. The peer pressure that is born from social media affect’s people decision to fit in with the majority instead of the minority. How can empathy be increase from social media if someone relies on another person’s opinion to make a decision? Empathy is suppose to come from the understanding and ability to share feelings, but it cannot be understood properly if there is a third party interference. Therefore social media obstruct’s people’s empathy for others.¬†

An additional way of how social media not only obstructs, but worsen people’s empathy for others is cyberbullying. Take a second to stop and think about this question. Does cyberbullying actually increase empathy or decrease and obstruct empathy? According to this article on nobullying.com, a student shared his embarrassing personal story and material, but it was leaked onto social media. Due to bullies toying with him and not being able to handle the embarrassment, the student committed suicide. This is what the misuse of social media can do and it will not increase the empathy between people. Instead it will only wither away the temporarily empathy people have for each other and lead to others hurting others mentally.¬†

When has socializing¬†from person to person become so quiet and awkward? Before social media has made a serious impact on the daily lives of the average teenager and adult, conversations were rich with emotion and passion. Friends were able to understand each other easily through empathy, but all that came to a halt since the creation of websites and applications such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Nowadays when a group of friends hang out with each other everybody takes out their phone and goes on Facebook or takes selfies and post them on Snapchat and Instagram. Where is the empathy? It is simply gone because this digital technology, social media, is emotionless and does not provide the rich emotion and passion that conversations have. Instead social media has instead of connecting individuals together is actually pushing them farther away from each other. According to this article, social media sites makes it more difficult to distinguish between sincere relationships that can only be establish in the real world to the casual relationships that are formed through social media. My colleague, Karen, said,”Every couple of days I receive¬†a new friend request on Facebook, but the thing is half the time I don’t even know who these people are that are adding me. If I eventually meet them in person, I will probably only think of them as a stranger or an acquaintance, but definitely not a friend. I feel kind of bad through because some of the people that have added me actually think I am their friend when I know nothing about them.” This shows how a misunderstanding between two parties due to social media can lead to a decrease in empathy for each other.¬†

Despite how I portrayed social media to obstruct and worsen empathy between individuals there are plenty of counter arguments that would lead to the possibility of social media increasing the empathy between people. My mother, Lily, who is now 56 years old is working hard to support me and my sister. She left behind her friends in Guangzhou, China, but thanks to the advances in social media she has been able to reconnect with her old friends through applications and websites such as Wechat and Facebook. “I don’t like technology in general because I see you playing games all the time, but I am thankful for it at the same time to reunite me with my friends,” said Lily. Due to social media, it has given my mother the opportunity to communicate with her friends and reminiscent over the past thus increasing empathy between both parties. Also social media has¬†saved lives by being an extremely versatile and useful tool during the recent Paris terrorist attack. According to this article from Academic¬†Search Complete database City Tech, social media has saved lives and brought people closer together. Through Facebook, people offered to shelter the injured, wounded, and anybody caught up in the attack. Also there was a trend where Facebook users and countries around the world switched their profile picture and important monument to the colors of France’s flag. This is a perfect example of how social media can increase empathy between people in times of need.

Social media obstructs empathy between individuals through first affecting ourselves. Before anybody can learn to understand how others feel and share their own feelings, they must be able to understand themselves otherwise they will never truly understand how other people feel. As social media messes with our empathy for ourselves, it will also affect our self-esteem which makes individuals an easier target to become a victim of cyberbullying. It not only obstructs any empathy between people, but also worsens it since both the bully and victim are not bothering to understand each other or how anybody else feels. Also social media corrodes away at the few sincere relationships that people have with each other as individuals get more distant from each other and conversations become silent and awkward. This will only worsen as time goes by due to technology always evolving and eventually the part of our brain that is used to vocally communicate our thoughts will be rendered useless. To avoid this from happening, everybody should start throwing away their desire to constantly check social media and plan more indepth friendly activities to understand each other better. This will lead to empathy increasing. 

Works Cited

“5 Weird Negative Effects of Social Media on Your Brain.” Reader’s digest. Web. 1 Dec 2015

Jung, Brian. “The Negative Effect of Social Media on Society and Individuals.” Chron. Web. 30 Nov 2015

Karen. Personal Interview, 1 Dec 2015

Lily. Personal Interview, 2 Dec 2015

Rash, Wayne. “Social Media Save Lives, Brought People Closer During Paris Attacks.” Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Dec 2015.

“The Top Six Unforgettable Cyberbullying Cases Ever.” NoBullying.com. Web. 2 Dec 2015.

 

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