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EDITORIAL: Social media acts as double-edged sword during pandemic

The increased use of social media during quarantine has allowed us to stay in touch with our friends but also poses significant risks to our mental and emotional health

Social media platforms have been a blessing and a curse during quarantine, but we will have to remember how to put our phones down when we return to real life.  – Photo by Pixahive

Every story, post, comment and like has been a reminder that no matter how dire quarantine may be, our friends and the "real world" are still there. Imagine a quarantine with no Instagram or TikTok. Imagine having to send letters to friends through the post, or not seeing their faces for months on end.

In many ways, social media is a blessing for these particularly trying times. That said, the threat that social media poses to our mental health should not be underestimated. 

Social media platforms provide a way to share how-tos, keep up with important social movements, learn more about the world and most importantly stay in touch with friends and loved ones that you cannot see in person. On the other hand, the continuous scroll keeps people hooked, reduces attention spans and has the potential to worsen self-esteem issues.

The social media issue is not as black and white as older generations like to make it seem. We depend on our phones to stay connected and socialize, but we must be cautious not to overuse social media and risk becoming dependent on likes, shares and posts for temporary joy.

Since quarantine began, the use of social media platforms has skyrocketed. With nowhere else to turn for weeks on end, students and adults alike have turned to Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to stay connected with the world while we live through unprecedented times. 

In the past year, social media has been used as an especially potent tool in the social movements that have taken shape including the Black Lives Matter movement and the focus on hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Platforms like Instagram share information regarding changes in public policy and can explain to viewers what they can do to help and more. TikTok likewise breaks down information in a way that is easy to digest and access by almost anyone. Keeping key information circulating around everyone’s feed keeps social movements alive

Social media has also allowed people to adapt to quarantine life by making answers to questions like, “how to cut my own hair” easily accessible. With YouTubers like Chloe Ting, people learned how to exercise at home when gyms were closed. We picked up new hobbies with YouTube tutorials and learned to fill the gaps in our lives for the time that we lived almost exclusively at home. 

Most importantly, social media allowed us to talk with our friends when we were all forced to spend time physically apart. It allowed us to continue the connections we built at Rutgers in some way, even if it was not exactly the same. Social media gives us the opportunity to find the groups and people we identify with when there are physical barriers to friendship, and that is something that should absolutely be valued. 

Nonetheless, social media usage is designed to be addictive. The updates, pings and bright colorful design of the feeds reel you in for hours on end. Social media addiction is categorized by an inability to control the urge to check notifications and spending substantially more time than you would like on social media.

We can all remember a moment we were forced to delete the apps that usually take up all of our screen time to study for an exam or complete a project on time. 

Social media has reduced our attention spans and made it more difficult than ever to concentrate on our work, projects and exams. When our phone is just a reach away, it is almost impossible to work for more than 30 minutes at a time. 

Not only that, but also constantly looking at the way our friends and acquaintances portray themselves on social media gives us a polished and perfect image of an imperfect reality. The consistent use of social media lowers self-esteem because it creates the false impression that everyone around you is happier, more fulfilled and more successful than you are, when that is never the case.

That said, you should not beat yourself up over your social media usage. Logging off, stopping the infinite scroll and being present is difficult. During the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, overusing your phone is not uncommon, but be ready to return to the real world this fall.

Make sure to put your phone down when you finally see your friends in person again. Partake in the moments of real-life connectivity and treasure them while they last. We have had to learn what it is like to live out our relationships virtually, and we can all say with a certainty that it does not compare to the real life moments we shared with our friends. Relearn how to be present and make sure that social media takes the back burner when you arrive back on campus.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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