Wednesday, August 4

No holiday from social media

There is a desire for vacations. Despite the exponential increase in cases among the younger population, the year and a half of the pandemic with all the mobility restrictions that it has implied as well as the vaccination process, generate a whir constant with respect to the first summer period where we can get to live situations similar to those of the ‘old normality’.

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Already in 2017 Spain was a country where the use of social networks increased on holidays. According Adglow data, 21% of Spaniards used social networks more during this period, increasing this figure to 30% in the case of young people. According to this same study, twice as many photographs are published compared to winter. The most used during the summer were Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. According to the ASUS study “Technology and summer“In Spain” 18% of Spaniards affirm that the first thing they put in their luggage is their mobile phone “.

Then the pandemic would come and last summer, although there were some exceptions, mobility was greatly reduced and it was an atypical first vacation. Still, the long confinement and the rise of teleworking brought new habits with them. The pandemic triggered the use of social networks, 27% more between January 2020 and January 2021 of increase in the use of Internet and social networks. And now finally, a vacation again. We take to the roads, airports and the networks.

In 1973 the artists Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman made a video essay on television that included the phrases: “It is the consumer who is consumed. You are a product of television. You are delivered to the advertiser who is the customer. He consumes you. You are the product ”. With the passing of the decades these phrases have undergone different mutations and it has become popular (updated to our time) as: “If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product.” A sentence that can well be applied to our relationship with social networks.

The researcher and journalist Marta Peirano he reflected on his latest book a couple of years ago about the interests of the big technology platforms: “I don’t think Facebook, Google or Amazon are going to become ’empires’. I do think that they are perfect tools for the construction of those empires, and I believe that those empires are being developed with that data extraction tool that allows us to have that power of prediction and manipulation that we did not know until now ”, he declared. Everything we do in networks is the wet dream of any advertiser: they can know what we are looking for, what we like, what not, in what we invest more or less time. What happens is that the mechanisms that these platforms develop so that we remain attentive to them are not innocuous.

This video produced by the NGO “Ditch the Label” specialized in mental health in young people and social networks among other topics, shows a critical view on the use of networks. It can be superficially useful but it is also true that the debate “social networks are bad” vs “social networks are good” is a trap. In recent years we have been able to see how these are used in an imaginative way by communities that seek to defend social rights, such as anti-racist humor through Tiktok, for example. What there is is a growing trend that is beginning to be studied by the academy that could be summarized as: does the use of social networks generate anxiety?

On A study, conducted in 2017 by the Royal Society of Public Health and the University of Cambridge to analyze the possible impact on British youth, specialists studied the attitudes towards these networks in 1,500 British people between 14 and 24 years old with the following conclusion: ” young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, especially anxiety and symptoms of anxiety and depression “.

Any Orben, researcher at Emmanuel College and Visiting in the Brain and Cognition Sciences Unit at Cambridge University has investigated the effects of digital technologies on adolescent mental health. “Social media gives us a different perspective on how we fit in the world. And I think it increases the pressure on young people: not only do they compare themselves with their peers at school or around them, but with the rest of the world ”, he adds.

Social networks offer us an infinite carousel of images. An update that never ends, as Ivan Pintor Iranzo pointed out in his essay on TikTok at CCCB Lab a few days ago. In that carousel, often shaped by the people we follow or those that the algorithms understand we want to follow, a picture of the world is usually constructed. The reward effect offered by likes It is very tempting not to publish a photo from that unattainable cove to which we have arrived and from which we observe the sunset. And it is that social networks do not seem to have vacations because we use them all the time.

“There is a binary logic behind social networks. But not everything is clearly yes or no, clearly I like it or I don’t like it, I share it or I don’t share it. We are losing living with ambiguity ”, says Tyler Shores, researcher on issues of digital well-being ”from the University of Cambridge. For his part, Orben points to another reflection: “If we really want to understand the effects of social networks in our lives, we need to stop thinking about the time we use them and start thinking about how that time is used.”

If we are not going to disconnect from the networks, that could be a task for this vacation.

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