Have you ever gotten a sudden urge to delete all your social media accounts and vanish from the virtual world? I’m pretty sure majority of the world’s population have had this thought cross their mind at one point. Social media has its pros and cons, like any other human resource, and how it affects us depends on how we use it. Most social media apps prey on our body’s dependence to dopamine, which is a reward hormone. You know, that feeling of elation that comes over us when we indulge in alcohol, delicious food, sex or any object that makes us feel good. In an evolutionary context, the release of dopamine rewards us for ‘beneficial’ behaviors and motivates us to repeat them. Think about that feeling, and then reminisce the feeling you get when you get a notification from Instagram, a like or a comment. When your phone vibrates in your pocket or when you hear that Whatsapp ding. Social media was invented on the basis of short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops and we are literally in its loop. Statistics have shown that we unlock our phones on an average of 110 times per day. We are, in every sense of the word, addicted to social media. Whenever something happens, the first thing we think about is recording and posting it. Our lives are intertwined with our social media, and our relationships, friendships, daily lives and special events are aired out via these platforms. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, only if it is controlled, as there’s beauty in sharing experiences that made us happy and celebrating our friends and lovers. However, when we take it too far, it brings out certain neuroticism. We’ve had countless situations where people have faked travelling to certain countries, faked visiting certain places, even faked their physical appearances (cat fishing) for the purpose of being seen in better light or for the purpose of gaining likes/followers. The cases of depression continue to increase due to the incredible pressure and unrealistic expectations that are reflected in social media. We drown in sadness because we don’t have a perfect body or a perfect life or a perfect partner or perfect friends, forgetting that social media doesn’t reflect the negative aspects of people’s lives, only the ones they want to show. I mean, would you post a picture of yourself right after you woke up, dried drool on the side of your mouth? No, you’d take fifty selfies and struggle to choose the one that shows your best angles. Would you post a video of your mom lecturing you on poor money management? No, but you WOULD post a video of you on vacation. It’s only human, and we need to understand that this does not define us. The pros of social media, on the other hand, are endless. Businesses have found ways to market their products online, with some businesses being strictly online. You don’t have to go all the way to California to purchase a dress from a designer store, you can order it online and have it delivered. This applies to literally any service you can think of. Lazy and don’t want to cook? There’s online delivery of the KFC sticky wings you love so much. Sick and can’t get out of bed? Online delivery. A myriad of employment opportunities have stemmed from social media platforms, ranging from Instagram models to YouTube vloggers to fashion bloggers. There’s also so much information that we can get on Instagram, from health matters to science information to even make-up tutorials. There’s literally an account for anything. Most importantly, through social media we can connect and communicate with our family and friends regardless of distance. We strengthen our bonds through chatting, sharing pictures and tagging each other in memes we found funny. It’s such a beautiful thing, don’t you think? When it comes down to it, what matters is not the presence of social media as a threat but how we use it.
Hope Chebet

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