With the rise of new social media platforms and the recent COVID-19 quarantine measures, everyone has turned to social media as a new form of escape and entertainment. The Gen X and the Baby Boomers are finally starting to catch on and are opening Instagram and Tik Tok accounts while the Gen Z and Millennials now have acceptable excuses to visit and post more regularly on their existing accounts, if we are to be honest, never before has the world needed social media to stay connected as it does now, during this pandemic.
The only issue is that our new found dependence on social media, for entertainment, a way to pass time and an escape from the dismal reality of our isolation, has blossomed into what one could easily identify as a form of social dysfunction. In 2020 alone we have recorded 35 challenge related deaths in the US as opposed to the 6 in 2019 (Innov8tive,2020) Needless to say, there are quite a few more that have not been reported or recorded outside of the US. More specifically, in the Caribbean.
To encourage responsible social media habits, we spoke to Krishane Thompson, a 21-year-old customer service representative who manages to stay grounded in his own beliefs despite being an avid social media user.
Krishane is a lot like most of us. He enjoys playing football, watching movies, surfing the web and learning new things. With the recent COVID-19 restrictions, again, like most of us, he has found himself becoming more and more reliant on social media for entertainment and to stay connected with friends. As a result, when he is not at work, he can be found scrolling through his feed, looking at memes, gifs, and short Tik Tok videos.
Being an introvert, Krishane says that to a large extent, social media has assisted him in overcoming his introversion because it allows him to more openly express his thoughts on various topics. Interestingly, regardless of this, Krishane values his privacy and as such has never really been motivated to share personal posts about himself on social media. In his words, “I prefer to see things alone sometimes and I might share it with friends virtually but laughing alone is sometimes better than laughing with others.
He believes that a part of the reason people are so taken with posting personal things online and participating in challenges is that it brings them the attention they desire and crave. In addition, he feels it may also offer them clout in other spaces. He points out that in many cases, persons get paid per likes, shares, and followers and so oftentimes the pervasiveness of a challenge can be fueled by the desire for monetary gain. What is really unfortunate is that as these challenges trickle down to the general public, their popularity becomes fuel for peer pressure among young persons, particularly, teens.
We noticed also, that in addition to being a home to challenges, social media is also a hub where unique ideas thrive. While this is excellent for the sake of exposing viewers to different perspectives and making us more inclusive, the plethora of information shared on social media is not always factual and we find that this information is often accepted without research or verification of sources.
When asked how he felt about the many voices and varying perspectives that are always present on social media and if they affect the way he views things, Krishane says that he feels as though each person has a right to post their views on social media and because he is grounded in his own beliefs the perspectives of others do not necessarily affect him. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that this may not be the case for a number of other individuals as various factors such as their upbringing and maybe even their mental fortitude can play a part in how easily they are influenced by social media.
It makes us wonder then, where does he find this strong sense of self and solidarity? How does he avoid the lure of social media? When asked if the way he was raised contributed to his decision to post less on social media than other person’s his age?
Krishane says, “My mom was very strict but my father was not. As a result I got both sides of reality and so certain things don’t really phase me because I was grown in such a way to be humble and not easily influenced.”
What bothers Krishane the most are posts that are made on social media that include the location of the poster. This, like the challenges they participate in, shows a level of irresponsibility that irritates Krishane. He believes in the freedom to post yourself as you see fit, but his advice to those of us who are interested in posting regularly on social media, is to simply do it responsibly, nuh mek dem style yuh, and don’t take it as gospel.