Web-obsessed: can we live without social media?

Many of us spend so much time on social media, it is getting scary! Read Alexandra Ivanova’s thoughts on how different social media channels influence us – and how we can escape from them. Alexandra is a student at the Atanas Radev Mathematics High School in Yambol. 


How would you feel if suddenly all of the social media platforms we know and adore disappear without any explanation? Boom! Just gone. Would you be able to move on with life and forget that they ever existed?


Just think about how you would not be able to get obsessed with, and eventually compare yourself to, all the “natural and realistic” influencers and models you follow on Instagram. Or go to YouTube and watch funny but extremely meaningless videos for hours instead of going out for a walk with your parents who, by the way, you ignore all the time because you just have to check how many likes and comments your new Facebook photo got in the last five minutes.


Radio? Vinyl record players? Have you ever heard about any of these stuff? Well, you might have to learn how to use them if YouTube and Spotify disappear. And that cute Snapchat filter with the dog face! How would you survive without it?!


Today there are 3.397 billion active social media users according to the Global Digital Statshot made by the We Are Social Foundation. In 2018 only, people spent on average just over two hours per day on social networks alone.


But what makes Social Media such a tempting experience? And why so many of us waste their time scrolling and scrolling ignoring important career opportunities and losing the chance to create real life connections? A lot of people have tried to answer these questions and most of them come to the realisation that many of us tend to replace real world interactions with being active on social media because it is simply… easier. It keeps us safe in our comfort zone.


Some medical professionals claim that social media platforms affect mental health. “Some teenager lose interest in daily activities and become more anxious. If you use less social media, you actually feel less depressed and lonely”, says Dr. Stanislav Slavov, a general practitioner. In the end, posting on social media channels and anticipating others’ positive response feeds into a young person’s sense of self-worth. Looking at new posts all the time is also addictive.


“I cannot imagine my life without social media. I know I spend way too much time on it but in the end I always fail to avoid it”, says the 10th grader Martina Hristova. ’’For me Social Media is just like caffeine’’, she adds.


Parents start realising the risks of their children’s web obsession – real or imaginary. ”I am very worried for my son because nowadays there are dangerous online games and challenges such as the Blue Whale”, says Yoana Ivanova, mother of a ten-year-old Petar, referring to an internet hoax about a deadly children’s game that worried parents last year.


Some teachers, however, do not share these concerns. ”The opportunities that the Internet provides help my young students broaden their knowledge in foreign languages”, says English language teacher Petya Doycheva.


Yet, obsessing with social media stars can still cause problems. While they might look perfect in their posts, reality is usually less flattering. Youngsters are too busy striving to be like them to consider that. One way of coping with this constant comparison to perfect internet personalities is going out and meeting normal, real human beings. They are not so glamorous and perfect but they are real.


And what happens when Facebook and Instagram actually disappear, as it has already happened on a number of occasions? People panic! What are we supposed to do in the next few hours while nervously waiting for our favourite apps to come back online? They will be back and we will message all of our friends how scared we were that our Internet world was undergoing an apocalypse. But it is not an apocalypse – the world is still there.


It is as if people – including the creator of the largest social media himself, Mark Zuckerberg – have forgotten what was the initial purpose of Facebook.


“On the Internet you could find music; you could find news; you could find information, but you couldn’t find and connect with the people that you cared about, which as people is actually the most important thing. So that seemed like a pretty big hole that needed to get filled”, he said when talking about his motivation for creating Facebook. Has his creation turned against its initial purpose?


There has been a momentum building up against these developments. While people spend a large amount of time on the Internet, some cafes in England and USA have found a way to encourage face-to-face conversation – by banning Wi-fi on their premises. This makes the customers focus on the actual person in front of them instead of looking at their laptop or phone screen completely forgetting about the meeting they arranged.


It is important to realise that it is better for our own health and self-confidence to try spending less time on the Internet. It is true that the world would not be the same without social media because of all the interactions it creates and the Internet friends that we find there. However, we should never forget about our real life – with all if its discomfort and hardships – and all of the possibilities it holds for us.