Monica Okello

Monica is the winner of our Youth open call text submission. She is interested in video-making, photography, sport (tennis, hockey), and art. She will be attending St Martins in September so she can broaden her interests in this also.

Social media is perceived by some to be a harmful platform that does a good job in facilitating the promotion of negative ideas, notably surrounding body image. It is often thought to dictate the lives of young people, manipulating and distorting our views on how to be the perfect person through adopting the ‘preferred’ appearance or personality. Truth be told, this is unattainable, and there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ person by definition. The reality is that, despite what social media may project, each and every person’s likes and dislikes is entirely subjective.

I believe that social media is a recurring cycle of processed information – some of which is beneficial, others not so – which we don’t even realise we are a part of or even slightly influencing. For some, it may be the ‘be all, end all’ of life, meaning that it very much rules the way people live. Regardless of the degree by which social media influences us, it can be said that we are all affected by what we see.

Over time, it has been astounding to watch the changes that digital culture has gone through and continues to go through. There are now countless ways to archive your memories and track back in time. I find as a teen and young adult, that I’m constantly thinking about whether a lifetime is enough time to achieve all of my goals or achieve my dreams of simply experiencing the world. The way the digital world is evolving, it can sometimes feel like there isn’t much time. My peers worry about future finances, mortgages, even debt, and all of these worries are introduced and fuelled by the images and information that we see on our screens on a daily basis.

In recent months, we’ve seen activists use their platform to communicate and promote positive, meaningful messages. Their platform allows for the creation of online movements, and through the use of a visual poster or a simple hashtag such as #SchoolStrike4Climate, it has become easier for people to show their support for protests without being physically present. Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old Swedish political activist and creator of the hashtag has proved this, bringing together large amounts of young people all over globe to spark new discussions and evoke much needed change around pressing climate issues.

There is no doubt that social media does have increasing negative effects on young people and their development, i.e. disrupting sleeping patterns and presenting false and unachievable beauty standards, to name a few. However, amongst all of this, it is important to appreciate the good that social media is being used for. It isn’t easy growing up in a hyper-connected world which is so focused on evolving further and faster by the minute; in a world that is so consumed by the internet and certain ideals, but it only takes one person, as we’ve seen, to shift the focus elsewhere even if only for a brief moment.