94% of teens (12-‐17) have a Facebook account and use them for an average of 3.5 hours a day. Teens also spend over 2 hours a day on the Internet doing things such as watching videos. Never in human history has a product been so widely adopted as Facebook, especially by teenagers who are among the hardest people to market to. What is the appeal? What kind of a mad world have we created where so many of our children spend more time on a screen than they do sleeping? Who is the culprit?
In February 2004, Marc Zuckerberg released Facebook to the world. It was a product that he had been working on in his Harvard dorm room although he probably had no idea how hugely popular it would become. 1.5 billion people use Facebook and the majority of these are youth. Why is Facebook so hugely popular? No product in history has approached the number of users Facebook has.
Osho, the famous Oregon mystic in his book “Awareness” states that there are 2 types of action-‐ authentic action and activity. Authentic action is done with a purpose. If you are hungry, you eat and if thirsty, you drink. It is serving your needs. Authentic action is creative action. It is done in intense awareness and happens when you allow your being to flow through you. Authentic action is in essence a fulfillment of your being and its needs. Authentic action is a completely natural and necessary thing in survival and creativity.
On the other hand, activity is the ultimate disease of humanity and its most potent drug. In fact taking drugs is an activity. Activity is action done without a purpose. If you are hungry and you eat, it is an action but if you eat without being hungry, it is activity. Activity is just a senseless release of your energy. Smokers go on smoking, blowing out their worries through the cigarette. Relentless gum chewing is also an activity. In fact this is why gum actually improves test scores. It is a release of your nervous and repressed energy through your mouth, which allows your mind to work easier. People who chew a lot of gum can in fact be seen chewing even without gum. There is no awareness in activity. It is just a compulsive release.
Facebook takes advantage of people’s unnecessary need for activity and takes it to a whole new level. Over a whole day, Canadians regularly spend 2 hours or more on Social Media with youth regularly exceeding these numbers. This does not seem like much but it is when you consider that people use social media in short bursts several times a day at seemingly random times. People just check their phones whenever they get the slightest urge to do so. It is like a smoker stepping out in the middle of a conversation to go and light up. This addiction leads people to incredible amounts of time wasting and productivity. The saddest part is, as with any drug, social media dulls intelligence.
Drugs act as a release for your repressed energy, but they also cause all kinds of mental and physical side effects. Social Media is also a drug and has physical and mental effects. It has been noted in several studies that regular Social Media use destroys and inhibits the social part of the brain, the part that connects with people. Also, the ridiculous amount of time people use social media causes their intelligence to deteriorate. If the social aspect of the brain is destroyed, your capacity for joy is destroyed. Social media also destroys your power to control yourself as you are gradually turned into slave for it. One cannot forge a real connection with a Facebook friend. Friendship is one of the most rewarding experiences in life and a necessary part of development. However, social media is destroying the ability to make connections with people and our ability to control ourselves. This leads to destruction of real friendships. People will feel emptiness within themselves because of their lack of real connection and descend further into the social media spiral.
Friendship is great but social media is gradually ruining it. 25 years ago, the average American had 3 close friends. Now that figure has dropped to 2 and the trend seems to be continuing as social media becomes a larger part of people lives. Compare this statistic to the fact that the average teen has about 300 Facebook friends. None of these so called friends are anywhere close to real friendship. People are being fooled into thinking that your friend number is a sign of your sociability. In fact, the inverse is true, the more Facebook friends you have, the more likely you are not truly sociable because you are spending more time with your online friends than with real friends.
The only way to stop this trend is awareness. Be aware while you are using social media and you will quickly realize how stupid and addictive it is. When you are aware of the hold social media has on you, your phone will just drop from your hand.
The Internet has been called the greatest invention of mankind as well as the haven of stupidity. There are so many social media fads these days, but all of them are stupid and many are dangerous and life threatening. One popular game is the Cinnamon Challenge where you eat a spoonful of cinnamon without water in 60 seconds. It has been discouraged by doctors due to the fact that it can cause collapsed lungs, because the cellulose in the cinnamon can accumulate in the lungs. These and so many other fads are all caused by repression and the compulsion to get famous.
People think doing stupid and “funny” things is going to make them famous. However as with anything there is a destructive path and a constructive path. Doing stupid things is just activity caused by compulsion for fame, which arises from repression in a teen’s life. The constructive way to become famous is to use your abilities for something greater than yourself. The destructive path to fame can include life threatening activities, and it dulls your intelligence. On the other hand, the constructive path increases your intelligence and changes the world. The choice is yours.
The recent rise of sexting and cyber bullying is all due to repression and the compulsion of fame. There is a saying touted in schools-‐ “Don’t say it online if you wouldn’t say it in real life.” However this is not the reality. Social media apps such as Yik Yak and Snapchat are the biggest culprits in the sexting craze. They “guarantee anonymity and this makes teens think they have permission to say whatever they want. In an app like Facebook, there is great risk because everyone can see your name. However with these “private” apps, there is “no risk of being found out.
Snapchat is a social media site where users can send photos, videos and texts to other users that only last between 1-‐10 students, after which the message is deleted out of the phone and on Snapchat’s servers. This social media has become the hotbed for sexting in recent years. People think that the photos being deleted guarantee them anonymity. This leads to them sending naked pictures and videos of themselves to their friends. This in turn leads to bullying and “slut-‐shaming” because the people who are sent the pictures share it among their friends and very soon, the picture is completely public. You do not need to send naked pictures of yourself to show love. Sexting among teens can lead to child pornography charges and can destroy a teen’s whole future. It is completely unnecessary to do so and is more trouble than it is worth.
Yik Yak is a social media site where users are “anonymous and posts are only shared within a 2.5 kilometer proximity. This “anonymity” makes teens think they are safe and can say whatever they want. In fact, there is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet, but teens don’t have a clue about this fact. On Yik Yak, teens routinely talk about raping teachers, put on threats and dare people to do stupid things such as pulling fire alarms. This kind of talk is a release of the repressed instincts and energy within the student. They release their repression through the horrendous things they say on these sites. This is indeed a disturbing trend.
These social media sites destroy intelligence and can lead to disturbing consequences. They are unnecessary and in an ideal world would not even exist. There are better ways to put yourself out to the world. The only way to stop this downward spiral is awareness, awareness and more awareness. The best way to do this is meditation. Meditation is the art of being fully present and this can include arts and sports as well as traditional meditation because they all require total involvement. A youth playing sports or doing art or meditating has no time for social media
Meditation makes you a witness to your thoughts, so you can understand what a madhouse your mind is. Social media is an exploitation of the mind’s need for activity. This need can be quickly extinguished through awareness because you will realize how stupid this useless addiction is. Meditation is the need of NOW, not the future. Social media destroys a youth’s capacity for consciousness which can only be regained through awareness. The world needs to improve the consciousness of its youth to ensure a better future for all and this starts with awareness which will destroy all the nonsense seen among youth today and allow them to flower unto themselves. We are currently experiencing a gigantic change in the external world, but unless a similar change takes place in the internal world, it is all absolutely useless.
Anand Satheesh is a grade 8 student at Long Fields Davidson Heights secondary school in Ottawa, Canada. Anand is on a mission to shift the consciousness of youth. He believes, if an individual can work on Consciousness (your being), Compassion (your feeling), and Creativity (your actions) at a young age, the rest of his or her life will be filled with joy. Anand loves to express his thoughts through writing. His first book “Emerson For the Digital Generation” is ready for publishing.