A World Away from the Real World: Social Media
It has been almost a year since we took adieu from college, hoping that we would be back within a fortnight. But the hope has now turned into despair as we all are in a state of a dilemma if we could even see each other in college again in college life. These daunting times have been marred by online semester as well. Waking up early in the morning only to get ready for a relentless day full of tests and assignments is nothing less than a nightmare.
The unlock procedure proved to be a blessing in disguise for all as we saw a ray of hope of opening of colleges, but the discovery of a new strain has nothing but pushed us into the darkness yet again. Amidst these gloomy times, the common chord which has kept us still connected is social media. Social Media has revolutionized the world and with the rapid and vast adoption of such technologies has led to finding partners, accessing information, or demanding a political change. With people restricted to the four walls of the room, social media has become the new boon of this era “The New Normal”. Its importance has increased in leaps and bounds. It is no longer a hidden fact that the usage of social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp have surged higher than routine. Physical activities such as running, walking, jogging, etc. have now been replaced by social media activities such as virtual fitness classes, continuous news feed browsing, and video chats.
Students are glued to their digital devices, and it isn't easy to imagine a life in lockdown without digital devices. A look below would give an idea about how social media moves our world.
An overview of a day in the shoes of a student within the 4 walls of the house in an online semester can be found in the video “The Semester That Wasn’t”. The link of the video can be found here.
"Students, can you hear me?"
"Is my screen visible?"
“Please unmute yourself.”
These are some sentences that we have become accustomed to in the past months. With Facebook, YouTube, Instagram just a click away, it has become a daily mental battle for students not to get distracted and focus on class. Students dozing off in front of the screen have become the online equivalent of backbenchers who dozed off at the back of the classroom. The only difference is that in online classes, most of the students have become backbenchers. The creativity of students has even found the online equivalent proxy! They just join in for the class and leave. This leads to some interesting instances, like hearing a sudden 'Howzat' from a student who accidentally unmuted himself while playing cricket! The factor called “Network Problem” has increasingly become the most commonly used excuse of the “New Normal”.
With the commencement of the online semester, it's an open truth that the number of tests and assignments has increased. Students have had to face rigorous assignments and tests comparatively they faced during the offline semester. In such times social media handles like Discord, WhatsApp, Telegram has turned into a messiah.
Softwares like MS Teams, Zoom and Google Meet have slowly been the standard meeting point for us. Life without these is a nightmare.
Ever heard of the cliched quote that 'Necessity is the mother of invention?'
Clubs of NIT Rourkela have taken this to heart. It would have been obvious to assume that club activities would come to a standstill. However, the complete opposite has happened. The sheer quality and quantity of content being put out by the clubs are pleasantly surprising. It can be argued that the clubs are putting out more content than when they were on campus! The lack (absence) of funds have not deterred the clubs from holding seminars and conducting a wide array of activities. With the batch of 2020 joining the college, the clubs worked efficiently to conduct the Club Orientations and Inductions online in an exceptionally smooth manner. Sharing or rather spamming posts over various social media handles has become an integral part of club activities.
In this lockdown, with not much to do, these club activities have given the students something to divert their minds from everything going around them.
The whole nation sits up to take notice when a celebrity takes their own life. An entire conversation about mental health stirs up and eventually dies down. Everybody fails to understand that these mental health issues are not a one-off instance; it happens regularly. Students, too, are facing this, especially now that everything has shifted to the online medium. With no clear sight of admissions, exams, placements, their future is in a conundrum. Remembering the good old days doesn't help either. Often students recall those nostalgic memories when social distancing never existed.
It does not help when students are constantly glued to the screens and are on social media throughout the day. It would not be wrong to presume that an average student's online activity has risen in this lockdown as there were few other things to do. Netflix binging and Instagram scrolling has increased considerably. This has affected the sleep cycle, which leads to one feeling sluggish, which leads to unproductivity. This feeling of unproductivity can be very crushing on mental health. Increased time online makes one more prone to cyber-bullying.
Cyberbullying and cyberharassment are also known as online bullying. It has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers, as the digital sphere has expanded and technology has advanced. As confirmed by the United Nations, Millions of children worldwide are at increased risk of online sexual exploitation, violence and cyberbullying as they spend more time on virtual platforms due to the closing of schools amid COVID-19 lockdown.
Spending more time on virtual platforms can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and grooming, as predators look to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. A lack of face-to-face contact with friends and partners may lead to heightened risk-taking such as sending sexualized images, while increased and unstructured time online may expose children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as a greater risk of cyberbullying.
-the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.
Such things can lead to grave consequences and can hamper the golden age of a child. This online semester has not helped them either as most of the time of the kids spend hours on classes in apps like Teams/Zoom.
Maybe it is just people having too much leisure time in this lockdown, but one thing is certain- the amount of fake news circulated is also on a high. We have seen everything from how 'heat will burn Corona' to how 'cold will freeze it.' Now it is not even surprising when something seemingly foolish becomes trending.
When the term "fake news" comes up, people usually think of social media posts with rather fantastic, implausible stories. Fake news is generally dangerous and can cause unnecessary panic among the masses. During the initial stages of lockdown, such fake news spread like forest fire via Whatsapp message. People often forget to verify its authenticity, and hence it causes an unnecessary ruckus. Social media has also been responsible for creating communal rifts and misunderstanding among many individuals in certain instances.
Ex- Rumours of reported decisions taken in the senate meetings regarding various modalities spread like forest fire yielding a lot of panic throughout the college students.
Social Media, like everything else in the world, is sure to evolve in the coming years. It will undoubtedly continue to form, forge and foster friendships with strangers.
So, in short, a social networking site has innumerable pros and cons. It has enriched our lives in many ways, but if anyone is addicted to it, it will develop many problems. What is needed is awareness among people about the cons while enjoying the pros of it. Labelling social media, a bane or a bane is subjective to time, place and action.