Last week, I discussed the line people need to walk with social media. I suggested that people need to be able to recognize when social media are appropriate to use, and when using them becomes an obsession. Now, I would like to continue this discussion and give more reasons to my claims. Social media become an issue when people prioritize social media over real life situations, giving media an unordered amount of attention. The dangers which result from an obsession with social media are not worth the temporal pleasures people experience through them.
The world is ordered. Once order is lost, chaos reigns. This is obvious through almost everything in daily life. When people pay attention to things that do not really matter, they may find it difficult to finally face the important things because their minds were not well prepared. Similarly, Love is ordered. When we love something out of its order, we glorify that thing, and can easily become used to treating that thing that way. For example, when we honor a good above an obviously greater good, we lose sight of the proper value of things and unjustly give attention to things. In Augustine's Confessions, Augustine discusses the hierarchy of goods. He states that all things are good in their proper place. So, food and drink are good. They both nourish our bodies and make us feel good. We get a certain amount of satisfaction when we eat and drink. Having friends is good too. We also receive satisfaction from relationships with others. But we do so in a much more meaningful way through learning, sacrifice, and charity. However, Augustine states that when we place our love for food and drink above our love of friendship, we inordinately love food and drink. We become obsessed with that good and undervalue what rightfully is a better good.
Ordering our lives well also includes ordering the love for the goods in our lives. Social media, albeit a good in this world, are things which can easily be mistreated. Once people start replacing the love they have for social media above the love for actual conversations, they undervalue real relationships and obsess over something too much. You may say, however, that social media is a way to enrich your relationship with someone else. And while this is true to a certain extent, depending on social media for all of the development of a relationship is dangerous. Social media, due to the fact that people who use it so often, can easily be a place where people falsely feel close to their "friends" or "followers." Through pictures and posts, you may feel like you are close to someone. But because there are no actual interactions, the only thing you learn about the other is facts. You miss every other good thing in a relationship with that other person. You feel as though you are right there with them, but you are not. You are by yourself on the couch, watching others live their lives separately. Social media can give you a false sense of being close with people even though in reality you are not. Thus, when people spend more time on social media than with people, they learn more about other people's lives than other people in actuality.
In another sense, Social media are dangerous because they force habits on those who are used to using them. Social media, as I mentioned earlier, gives people access to information–quick information. Through snapchat, people can see what others are doing just through the quick tap on the phone. And especially now, with snapchat's fairly recent News stories, people have easy access to a lot of quick information. Though oftentimes morally reprehensible and disgusting, these News stories supply the snapper with quick and easy stories just through the tap of a finger. It makes accessing the news much simpler. But also, it makes the reader accustomed to quick information. Through getting used to accessing information this way, with little time to actually process and think about the new information, the snapper may get lazy and desert other ways he gets news. He abandon critical thinking skills, eventually even just accepting what he says as true and never really finding out a truly accurate answer. He may get used to not asking himself "why," which will ultimately hurt him in the long run.
In total, social media, although a good, is a low good and must be treated thus. It is a way we use to communicate with one another, but it is merely a way. Once social media replace actual conversations, we have messed up somewhere. But it is not too late if you feel like social media have enslaved you. You can always just take a break from it. Periodically deleting apps on your phone may help you take space away from social media. I often delete apps off of my phone months at a time to ensure that I never become addicted to some. Using social media does not make you a bad person, but just like everything in life, goods are ordered, and are so justly. We must be careful to honor their places.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches 5th grade English and History as well as 11th grade Spanish III at a Great Hearts Academy in Glendale, AZ. In addition to teaching, she coaches JV girls basketball and is a writing tutor for The Classical Historian Online Academy. Jessica recently played basketball professionally in Tarragona, Spain, where she taught English ESL and tutored Classical Historian writing students. In 2018, she received her Bachelor's degree in English and Spanish from Hillsdale College, MI.