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Is it Social Media's Fault - or is it Just Us?

Onboard Spring 2021

Addiction is a tricky thing, some people have a more addictive personality than others. Which explains why most people can enjoy a few alcoholic drinks or smoke the occasional joint without it turning into a daily dependence. Do we take the substance or in this case, the media, away for everyone because of a minority who find it detrimental? Or should we just provide resources for those people who need help… and if it’s not social media, could we assume it’ll just be something else?

At the risk of sounding very, very old, some of us may remember a time when video games were blamed for teen violence, gangs and bullying. And who remembers being told you weren’t allowed to listen to certain music because if we did, we’d get shot or die of a drugs overdose? Interesting concept whilst growing up in a village in Hertfordshire but still.

A quick google search and you can find all sorts of finger pointing at good old socials. “Does Social Media Cause Depression?” shouts childmind.org, “The Link Between Social Media and Depression” posts verywellmind.com, “Can Social Media Be Held Accountable for Cyberbullying?” asks adweek.com, “Social Media Firms FAILING to Tackle Cyber Bullying” declares the BBC News site. And on and on it goes, with other sites not just asking, but stating “Social media culture can encourage risky and inappropriate behaviour” (phys.org). I just clutched my pearls.

Well, I’m not sure about inappropriate behaviour but in my case, after the act of gathering up resources and researching this article, once I sat down to actually write it, well I fell down facebook’s rabbit hole twice. Ok maybe three times. Then I got sucked into some random what sort of pizza topping are you type Buzzfeed quiz before checking my Instagram for latest likes. For me, social media is the ultimate procrastination assistant and sometimes, I have to put my big girl pants on and minimize that window. I can’t quite close it… just minimize. That’s enough… oooh a whatsapp! Hang on….

Ok so you get my point. Social media is definitely a massive distraction, case in point – many employers ban it from work computers unless it’s strictly work related (pineapple on a pizza? I am not. Get OUT). Not only is it costing me time through interruptions, it’s completely thrown off my creative thought processes (fruit on pizza? But seriously…) and flow and therefore created more work for me in the long run (jalapenos definitely. But not pineapple). Or has it? For me I enjoy dipping in and out of different projects and perhaps the people and sites I follow on social media platforms give me more ideas and improve my creativity. So perhaps that’s ok for an office environment but probably not ideal when you’re supposed to focused on deck or interior duties on a superyacht. It’s pretty common to hear that wifi is only switched on for breaks, and limits are put in place on board, and even to say phones are restricted to cabins when on duty. Why? Because someone, at some point, abused the right to check their phone when they should have been working.

It’s a tricky one isn’t it? Finding a balance is key. So just for a moment, let’s say it’s not social media that’s the problem. What about if someone said it’s the smart phone? Remember a few years ago when facebook became a thing (I created my account in 2007 when I was living overseas after ignoring it for 3 years). Honestly I didn’t really get it but used it to keep in touch with photos of what I was up to for friends and family at home, it was easier and more efficient than attempting to download pics from my nikon digital camera (whooooo?) and email to individuals. It wasn’t really until smartphones became so accessible that the obsessive behaviours started was it? So maybe best we blame them instead of social media. When we could only check facebook by logging on to an actual computer, was it that much of a problem?  

Claims that big tech is benefitting from everyone’s obsessive use of these platforms aren’t exactly true either. Poor old Mark Zuckerberg has been hauled up to court to be held accountable for crimes of facebook (I don’t really know what they are) and as a result, Facebook spend thousands upon thousands of dollars trying to weed out conspiracists, terrorists, and anyone using the platform for evil purposes. Including my friend Ceri last week who mentioned a mouse and was told this was bullying and had her comment removed, but I digress. It’s sensitive ok? And the bots do get a little confused sometimes. They’ll get there but in the meantime don’t drop the F bomb too often or you too could end up in Facebook Jail.  

I’ve mentioned this before (sorry) but the problem with social media is the fact it does give people a platform to air their views. Whereas in “the good old days” (i.e. before tinternettage), if your buddy sat down at the bar and told you he was convinced the earth was flat, you’d all tell him he’s a complete idiot and cut him off until he agreed with you all and peace and harmony was restored. Then you’d just carry on with your lives. Effectively, his social network corrected his ridiculousness before he could do any, or come to any harm. Now, these people can head online and find new “friends” and create their own social network full of strangers who will validate and encourage their behaviours and opinions. That’s not so bad when it’s something harmless like a crochet group, but there are a lot of very sinister people out there lurking on the dark web, waiting for new “friends” to recruit into their strange and often cult-like ways. So for that reason, I’d tell parents to look out for their kids online. Make sure you know who they’re talking to. Sadly we can’t insist adults get other adult supervision online although I’m sure you’ll agree, a lot of them could do with it.

Often, the ones with the extreme views are the ones who shout loudest about it. So that’s why we hear more about them than the rest of people who generally just scoff at something fake, and carry on with their lives being normal and reasonable. So the shouty folk are reposting and barking that we all need to take heed of their views, so our news feeds and channels get clogged up with fake, nonsense, aggression and general pessimistic diatribe because the rest of us aren’t going to post “what a nice normal day it is out there today”. So for a moment, it could look like social media is depressing us all and a source of super negativity. But it’s not really is it? It’s Bob who you met in Antibes for 5 minutes several years ago who posted that far right rubbish about immigrants taking all our jobs and reposting something from Nigel Farage (you can unfriend these people you know).

I think it’s important we remember that social media is not a fair or realistic representation of the actual world. It’s a one-sided, false narrative of a world that doesn’t exist.  Kim’s backside did not break the internet. People mostly only post glamorous, filtered, #livingthedream pics, and that’s especially in yachting. Nobody wants to give likes to someone scrubbing a toilet or picking up a used condom from a mohair rug, so the creators aren’t going to offer that up. People want to be entertained (Cue Russell Crowe bellowing “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”). So that’s why the more shocking, or more provocative posters are going to get more likes, more interaction and more comments. And more shares.

So what’s the solution? Well, if you find social media negs you out, limit your time. Unfollow or unfriend people who upset you. Remember, it’s not real. Social media isn’t to blame for our problems, it’s just given people a voice who probably shouldn’t really have one. So the power is in your hands…. Use it wisely.