Is Sharing Really Caring?

“Stay like that, I’m Boomeranging this.”

“I’m so going to put that on my story.”

“Did I tag you in that?”

Phrases like these have imprinted themselves into the everyday actions of most of us. But whilst we’re all familiar with the phrase “sharing is caring”, this may not ring true when placed in the context of social media.

‘Millennials’ have been exposed to social media from a young age. We are the generation which, for the most part, actively participates in the world of posting, liking, sharing and scrolling. Social media creators such as Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Evan Thomas Spiegel from Snapchat and Kevin Systrom from Instagram might be unaware of the potentially toxic relationship their platforms create with their users and how we perceive our environment. But this doesn’t mean toxicity isn’t present.

Instagram’s Systrom claims his platform seeks to “inspire creativity”. But alongside this is a daily dosage of lowered self-esteem and constant comparison. We often treat social media almost as if we were professional reading our e-mails – secretly obliged to catch up out of FOMO (fear of missing out). Some end up thirsting for this exposure, but simultaneously dreading seeing the lives which seem more glamorous, more successful or more entertaining that our own.

We may become victims and offenders – a juggle between being an active and passive member of our online cultures. Cultures – in plural – because this back and forth creates trends and codes in places, year groups and socioeconomic contexts. The list is endless. A survey referenced in The Guardian, in fact, concluded that while more than 60% of schoolchildren in independent and state schools believe friends showed a ‘fake version’ of themselves on social media, a staggering 85% of pupils denied they were guilty of the ‘offence’ themselves.

Campaigns to raise awareness about the so-called social media epidemic have received a mixed reception. Whilst many appreciate the attempts of celebrities to reveal their unedited photos, we simultaneously offend everytime we place a filter on our photos or use Facetune to make our appearance different. The truth of the matter is – the dialogue has just begun, and it needs to improve.

Between examining the role of the victim and the offender, we may end up forgetting the positive factors of social media. Feeding and furthering our interests, keeping in touch with distant friends and family and even rekindling relationships from the past, would all no doubt be nigh on impossible without social media. The most important issue going forward is to combat the toxicity of the web, before it gets its clutches into the positive aspects we can obtain.

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