Over the holiday break, I had lots of time to do nothing. Like, absolutely nothing. So naturally I spent an obscene amount of time combing through my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube feeds, repeating the cycle over and over.
Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a great time-waster. But a few hours online can truly illustrate how nasty and terrible the internet world is.
Take the recent debacle with YouTube star Logan Paul, who on Dec. 31, while traveling in Japan, posted a video of him and a group of friends discovering the body of a man who had hung himself. To justify the video, Paul claimed he was raising awareness for suicide prevention, despite the fact that he laughs and makes jokes about the corpse in the video. Rightfully so, Paul has faced significant media backlash, and he’s since posted an apology video on YouTube.
With Paul’s 10 million subscribers being predominantly teen and pre-teen viewers, it worries me what the societal impacts will be of an online world where a social media star can be so in over their head that their judgement is skewed to the point they think actions like Paul’s are acceptable.
Social media can be a cesspool of inaccurate information and immoral behavior, which breeds more of the same. Sure, social mores and acceptable behavior have been subjective for as long as mankind has existed, but in what world does anyone think it’s OK to post a video that is essentially a “Teens React” video to a hanging body in a forest?
To me, Paul’s video — and his entire juvenile YouTube channel for that matter — reflects a personal need for validation that has consumed our culture. Why else do you start a YouTube vlog channel in the first place? To go viral and feel validated. That’s the reason you see 400-second Snapchat stories, and that’s why some people can’t help but tweet every 10 minutes.
What is this online culture teaching the next generation, the generation that hasn’t known a world without the connectedness of the internet? I hope I’m wrong, but I really can’t see the internet’s omnipresence having a positive impact on society’s youth.
It pains me to see pre-teens already engaging in Twitter wars and worrying more about conceiving a witty Instagram caption than on studying or learning an instrument or anything that has some lasting value. They’d rather just reach a new personal “likes” record.
And sure, some of this is generalization, I probably sound like an old curmudgeon, and don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad feeling when a tweet gets a few likes. But there’s just so much more to life.
If you’re like me and find yourself jaded with the internet and the trivialness of it all, remind yourself there is a world outside the internet.
And if you’re one of those people who tweets uncontrollably, I just hope you can take a step back and recognize there are means of fulfillment less vapid before realizing you may have been ignoring the people around you. Your tweets don’t define you. Your real-life relationships with caring human beings do.
But who am I to say anything? I’ll be back on Twitter five minutes after I finish writing this.
Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor