Close your eyes and return to the summer days filled with tag, tree climbing and uninhibited exploration. Those blissful summers didn’t involve perpetually scrolling through your Instagram explore page or feeling the need to uphold your dazzling social media presence. Keep them closed as you feel the freedom you once attained as you perused nature and traveled to new and fascinating places. That time is now far, far away.
Your time with friends and family is now infected by blue light and beaming screens, as you fight to have intimate conversation or share a beautiful moment in a new destination. Your connection with others often loses out to the connection they have to their devices. Social media has groomed us to feel like we need to spend a designated amount of time “catching up” on our feeds to not feel “left out.” In reality, though, you are missing out — on reality.
While you may claim to enjoy keeping up with your friends, you are really comparing your life with theirs in a grotesque example of jealousy, materialism and superficiality. The joy that was once associated with summer ー disconnecting from the stress of routine and the burden of responsibility ー is now lost. It has been replaced by your phone: a looming and nagging cloud of notifications that follows you to dinner, the park and your best friend’s birthday party.
The relaxation you crave after a long and busy school year will go unfulfilled, as everyone back home will be glued to their devices. Your phone will buzz, vibrate, flash and scream at you while you try to share a meal with your loved ones, hike a new trail with your siblings or engage in your summer job. There will be no repose from the black hole that keeps you up at night and distracted during the day. Your long summer days will shrink, and the amazing trip you are supposed to go on will soon become a series of choices surrounding which “pics to post.”
In fact, using your cell phone is similar to smoking: social media has perverse effects on your physical, social and mental health. Young children are now more commonly found scrolling mindlessly through thousands of pointless images, which means they are not playing outside, enjoying nature and participating in the many formative experiences that help them grow and learn. Summer is not just a break; it is a crucial time during the year where young people can separate from their parents, make mistakes and learn how to exist in the world outside of the classroom.
Yes, social media provides infinite space for people to express themselves and share ideas on everything from fashion trends to social activism. That can be empowering, but it also comes at a cost. Social media users can potentially lose connections with others and depreciate their attention span. Something much more significant is at stake, too: authenticity of character. Look around and observe the clothes, expressions and ideas people are spewing. The homogenization of thought and identity is beginning to spread through individuals like wildfire, especially at ages where character development is crucial. Sadly, social media has cultivated homogenization, and with that comes a decline in creativity. When all your friends are listening to the same music, wearing the same white clunky shoes and distressed clothing and “expressing” themselves by copying the same Instagram influencer, you can’t develop your own tastes and opinions about the world.
This past January, I realized that social media distanced me from the people I cared about — plus, I became aware that the very creators of massive media giants like Facebook don’t even let their own children use social media for the same reasons I’ve discussed. So I deleted my accounts on all platforms. Initially, I struggled not to pick up my phone in search of that familiar logo that brought me instant gratification. But I soon adapted, and oh, did it feel so, so good. Now, when I’m talking to my family and friends, I try and convince them of how poisonous social media is and how it is slowly lessening our ability to live happy lives.
I urge you to reconnect and establish intimacy with others this summer. Go for a hike in the wilderness, have an engaging conversation with the extended family member you haven’t seen in years and take the time to notice and appreciate all the simple beauties in life. Join me, and the creators of all the addictive platforms, and free yourself from the burden of your social media presence.
Sam Berger is a first year Comparative Studies in Literature & Culture major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.