Who has Instagram? Or Facebook? Almost everyone. And if you don’t, you are saved from the voices.
There are three issues with social media: you can see and share whatever you want; you can text and say whatever you want; and it’s free. This means that literally anybody can send any message to the world, without many restrictions and without payments. That would sound like a dream in the 90’s.
When we talk about voice, we are talking about opinion. With social media, in particular Twitter, people can share their opinions and have public discussions. The virtual voice that social media gives you is a million times louder than our normal voice. With your phone as a microphone, it’s like a giant common loudspeaker. Go ahead, type what you think and press “Share”. Because now, you have a virtual voice.
Social media gives you the possibility to vote and comment about anything, regardless of your real life circumstances. Some people are voiceless in real life. This could be for many reasons: feeling of inferiority, fear to be judged for their opinions, they are ignored, not being able to reach the target audience, etc. But this changes with social media. Start-up businesses can easily promote through social media. Anyone can vote for anything (e.g. on Instagram there’s a voting tag for insta stories). The LGBT community has gained more popularity and support from society because of social media. You are able to talk to anyone that you haven’t met in person thanks to social media. Musicians can share their music and self-promote in a cheap and easy way. Discussions about general themes can be done worldwide providing many different views. And there’s so many other examples. Just having the chance to be heard is a privilege, even if it is a common privilege.
Let’s step into fantasy. What if you could be somebody else apart from the person you are right now? What if you could have a secret life along with your normal life? Because that’s what a virtual voice gives you: a parallel life. In social media you have a profile, a photo, a name and a short description. You can make it match your normal life, but not necessarily. You can hide your face from the public, have a completely different name, and say whatever you wouldn’t say in real life. That’s the moment when voiceless people have a voice, any voice they want. What about Instagram models? Or influencers? They probably had a pretty average life before becoming famous. All they had to do was to create a public image that is liked by the public. But without social media, Instagram models and influencers wouldn’t exist at all. Now that they are famous in social media, all they say is much more listened to than before. So indeed, it gave a stronger voice to people who, at first, had a mute opinion.
But it doesn’t end there. What about people that completely hide their life but only share one thing: their passions? This could be photography, music, poetry, art, memes… You can have an account where you only share about one topic. Somewhere where you share your creations and thoughts about something. Some unknown musicians share their music through social media, without showing their face or sharing their personal life, and still have many followers. In some cases they become relatively famous (e.g. Alan Walker). The difference with the influencers and models example is that in this situation it has nothing to do about their lives. They have literally created a parallel life, where people don’t know you and just admire you for the things you share and create. New voice, new name, new life.
Now is when the controversial thoughts about social media come into play.
Some people dislike social media, and they have their reasons. As wonderful as it is, social media can be used in the wrong way. First of all, many people use social media to send hate to other people. Sometimes is because people think it’s inoffensive. Because it’s so easy to say what you think on the screen. Nobody is watching, it’s a couple words, I feel like I need to say it. What could go wrong for me? A negative comment is read not only by the person that it was meant for, but other people can read it too. All of a sudden, the only thing you receive is criticism. Non-constructive criticism. Because hate attracts hate. Because when someone shouts, someone else shouts. If that person said what they thought, why can’t I say what I think?
These attacks, even knowing that we shouldn’t care too much about what other people think, can still hurt and lead to insecurities. Selena Gomez once took a break from social media by saying that it was “not healthy” for her. I don’t blame her. Everything on social media can be very superficial, and people still criticize any small thing.
Hate is best friends with anonymity and with multitude, and social media has both.
It has also darkness. Ignored darkness. There’s so much inappropriate behaviour and inappropriate content hidden in social media. Too much cyber bullying. Too many stalkers. Too many suspicious accounts trying to follow you. Too many people that you don’t know texting you to know about you and wanting to know where you live. This is not paranoia, there have been cases. Kids and teenagers have been kidnapped, particularly in the USA, when they were going to meet their ‘new online friend’. Also in 2006, Internet Watch Foundation had found 10,656 cases of child abuse domains. It is also estimated that 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given time. Social media can be used as a tool to fool young people and make them fall into a trap. Young people trust too much on social media, and some adults use social media to traffic very inappropriate things such as child pornography. That’s the truth, a harsh truth. Social media has so much darkness, and it’s in front of us, hidden.
I completely agree with the statement; the great thing about social media is how it gives a more powerful voice to anyone. This is a great utility. But the not so great thing is how we use it. It is great to have the chance to be heard and a parallel life along your normal life, but it’s not right when you use it to attack people online or for inappropriate and illegal stuff.
That’s why social media is so controversial.
Because no one uses their voice in the same way.