The dependency of societies on technology is undebatable. Social media has emerged as a saviour amidst the pandemic which made it very challenging to stay connected in terms of our personal and professional life. However, the recent social media outages have revealed a scary fact: we cannot afford them. They cause damages to as many sectors of society as technology benefits.
Effects on economy
Facebook, home to one of the largest social media networks across the globe, upon recently facing a major outage and disruption in its services like WhatsApp and Instagram, took entrepreneurs by shock as their sales dipped dramatically and they scrambled to cater to the increasingly impatient customers. From beauty and clothing to food delivery, many industries were simultaneously affected. The services were completely stalled for hours which created a lot of stress and panic.
Facebook itself suffered revenue losses of billions and the world economy had to pay the price. The small-scale advertisers, influencers, and content creators were forced into helplessness as their only methods of interacting with the audience and making ends meet suffered a blow. Such financial dependence on social media continues to prove itself a major cause of concern.
Effects on education
Social media has been a boon for the education sector, providing students and educators around the world with ample opportunities to enhance knowledge sharing, despite the uncertainties of a global pandemic. But the outages on educational platforms have proved to be costly. Zoom, for example, suffered major glitches which were very inconvenient and caused communication problems between students and educators, which, in turn, is detrimental for their academic growth.
Moreover, educators also feel the pressure to rush through the materials since these technical issues take much time to be fixed. Many other platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube, which are also used by educators to keep the students updated, upon facing such issues, create a lot of panic and confusion.
Effects on mental health
Social media is constantly used by many as a way of entertainment and recreation. It allows us to relieve stress and cope with day-to-day life. But many people also use it as a form of escapism and eventually become addicted. Outages expose them to periods where they experience extreme withdrawal symptoms. When their mental health and happiness are dependent upon an external source such as social media in the form of validation received through likes and comments, feelings of anxiety, stress and emptiness creep in when those services are stalled for hours.
Not only are they unable to connect with others to reduce loneliness but they also get stuck with their negative thoughts which have a very poor effect on their overall well-being. Research shows that social media is one of the leading causes of depression as it is designed in such a way that people automatically fall into the trap of comparison and information overload.
Is there a way out?
While social media outages are abrupt and often uncontrollable, as individuals, we can educate others and take steps towards reducing our dependence on it in some ways-
- Limiting screen time – Instead of scrolling endlessly for hours, social media can be used mindfully by delegating certain hours of the day to it while engaging in other activities and hobbies during the day. This would ensure that our well-being is not compromised and we can successfully achieve our goals.
- Spending time with others – Be it a family member, friend or even a pet, we must make sure that we have some company so that we do not slip into loneliness or other destructive habits which can worsen social media addiction. Participating in volunteering work or joining local communities that align with our interests is also a great way to be more active physically and mentally.
- Social media detox – Refraining from using technology and social media for a fixed amount of time is also a good method to overcome social media dependency. Taking help from family members and friends, identifying triggers which guide the over-consumption and making a planner to track its effects on daily mood are some helpful ways that can make this process easier.
- Choosing alternatives – In the case of finance, we must make sure that social media is never the only source of making ends meet. We must always be prepared and have enough skills to tackle the challenges of a physical workspace in case our social media business comes to a halt. Multiple courses can be easily found, online or offline, which can aid us in the process.
Social media outages serve as a reminder that although it is a great source of education, entertainment and much more, it has an unpredictable aspect to it which can prove to be damaging if we do not gain control over our online consumption. Hence, we must learn to strike a balance between our online and offline worlds.
“Like all technology, social media is neutral but is best put to work in the service of building a better world.”Simon Mainwaring