Gen-Z, Living and Learning in a World of Social Media

I remember a time when my friends would call me from my apartment every evening to play. “Nikita, come outside and play na. Please send her, Aunty.”

Those were the days when competing with friends was more about winning games than likes or followers on posts. My childhood was filled with innocence, sensibility and a great deal of gratitude. Once the sun went down, the entire atmosphere of the society changed, but those giggles, smiles, and broken window panes are now a thing of the past. Almost every child’s innocence has been stolen by our beloved social media.When I go to supermarkets, I see that the parent’s first line of defense to stop a crying child is always a phone or tablet. But did you know that this short-term relief could result in the worst long-term disasters?

Urie Bronfenbrenner, a well-known American psychologist, developed the ‘Ecological Systems Theory‘, which states that a child’s surroundings are inter-related and significantly impact their development. He mentioned five systems: the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem.

Microsystems comprise a person’s closest relationships in life, such as parents, siblings, friends, and teachers. In mesosystems, children’s microsystems interact with one another, such as relationships between parents, teachers, and siblings. The exosystem has an indirect effect on the child’s growth. Communities, parents’ workplaces, parents’ friends, and the media are all involved. The macrosystem focuses on cultural factors such as ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic status.The final system, the chronosystem, comprises all the environmental changes that occur throughout a person’s life and influence development, such as major life transitions and historical events.

“Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction,” John Bradshaw once said. We had no idea who we were without someone to reflect our emotions.These circumstances fully justify the primary impact of social media on our children’s emotions.Interactions with other people are necessary for children’s mental and emotional development. According to J.S. McQuillen, increased use of electronic media reduces the development of empathy in young people.In real life, interpersonal relationships necessitate a high level of communication, trust, and demand, blocking is not an option. Social media sites were promoted to bring new people closer, but they separated a human from its true self. Loneliness affects children, which is linked to depression. According to the World Children Report 2021, one out of every seven children feels depressed.

Also read: Why I Don’t Use Social Media

One day, a relative sent across a video of a small girl saying “K for Kacha Badam”, with the tag, “Our Next Generation”. The other group members laughed, which scared me the most. Albert Bandura introduced the concept of observational learning, which states that what we see is perceived. Hutton J.S. et al found a positive relationship between increased screen time and lower microstructural integrity of brain white matter tracts that support language, executive functions, and emergent literacy skills of preschoolers aged 3-5 years.

While writing this article, I took a break to water my plants when my phone rang. One of my friends asked what she should tell her 14-year-old niece, who wants to look like an influencer and has been on a strict diet. I was silent for a moment. The issue is that the girls in her class are slim and have a lot of Instagram followers.

As social media queens of schools, many adolescent girls are experiencing an existential crisis. The world of filters has overshadowed the raw and real world. According to researchers, eating disorders are associated with low self-esteem, poor body image and adolescent girls’ use of social media.

Because of my criticism, the curious reader may believe I am not on social media. I am, and have even posted reels. My goal was never to show people the ideal life as approved by these platforms’ influencers. This is my space to show people the real me. Positive quotes and smiles can help to lift someone’s spirits. I don’t seek likes or shares, and it does not diminish my worthiness of living and enjoying my life.

While writing this article, I was reminded of a passage from Thatcher Wine’s book, The Twelve Monotasks: Do One Thing at a Time to Do Everything Better:

“When babies are born, they can typically only focus on objects eight to twelve inches in front of them. Their eye muscles strengthen and improve quickly so that they can see and take in more of the world through their eyes. I find it somewhat ironic that most of the human race now spends so much time staring at objects — phones and tablets — eight to twelve inches in front of our faces. Perhaps we all just want to return to our childhood?”

Nikita Vatsa is a psychology student. She runs her podcast on Spotify – Mending Minds with Nikita – to sensitise and make people aware. She loves binge watching Netflix series in her free time. You can find her on Instagram @nikitvatsa.

Featured image: George Pagan III / Unsplash