Recent graduate in the Master of International Affairs at the George Washington University
I love technology with a slightly alarming passion. However, if being actively present online has taught me anything, is that if I am going to enter the debate on whether social media and the internet has a negative or positive impact, the debate would never end.
In the world of instant DMs and “internet friendship” (yes, that is a thing), Instagram-scrolling at dinner parties as a replacement for conversation makes it difficult to see a good side to social media. Yet I truly believe there is a positive side to social media if it is used for good, and just like our own accounts, we have the power to control and choose what we see and not see, or in this case, what we follow or unfollow.
Worrying about being addicted to social media (that is, having the need to either constantly check your Instagram feed or post anything, be it completely irrelevant) is the 2018 version of worrying about being addicted to gluten.
The debate about technology and social media taking over our lives has infiltrated the spirit of our times to which everyone can have a “hot take” on anything. Even being in the generation of self-proclaimed social media fan, we may often find ourselves on the thoroughly uncool side of the debate.
I am not encouraging people to switch off from their social media platforms, but rather to switch on to the right things. Yes, to have a rational debate about the good and the bad of social media. We should look at both sides of the debate.
It is true that we do need to monitor our screen usage and somewhat online addiction, and a good starting point can be to acknowledge the parts that are not controversial or harmful and are frankly empowering online.
So, with all the talk of addiction, and Mark Zuckerberg making millions of dollars by spying on our Facebook chats aside, we should not stop recognizing that there is a huge amount of information and connectivity out there and that what technology brings is actually joyous. Having a career in the international development world has actually shaped my viewpoint on it. To be constantly inspired by ideas that are just one click away from my computer screen.
To say the least, here are three online activism/activist platforms that have empowered me to continue being online:
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Chatterbox is an ingenious website that connects the problem of underutilized refugee talent with the demand for their unparalleled language skills. It was founded by Mursal Hedayat, a young refugee from Afghanistan that founded the platform in 2016 after watching her mother struggle in the UK when she was laid-off from her job as a civil engineer. Through this website, you can find online and in-person language tutoring and courses delivered by native speakers for a low cost. Again, the power of the internet.
Aija Mayrock (@aijamayrock)
Aija is not your typical online activist. She started her activism through Twitter when she experienced bullying in middle school. From there, she took her voice, her words and her phone to create what is known as “Slam Poetry” to speak her mind about the issue of bullying. She is also the bestselling author of The Survival Guide to Bullying.
Tell Me About; (@tellmeaboutproject)
The Tell Me About project is an online magazine that is a platform filled with interviews featuring young people discussing world issues that matter to them. This Berlin-based platform hopes to capture the mind through storytelling in a way that transverses conversation. If you are looking for evidence that the internet is a positive force, I think this might be it.
This comes to show that Instagram does give us an opportunity to find people we can relate to when we thought we were alone, or when we need a little push of empowerment, to connect with people on the other side of the planet who we would never have otherwise met.
It is also a dark and dangerous thought pattern that turns this unprecedented opportunity for connection into a twisted way to sometimes dwell on self-loathe, anxiety and artificiality. But if any of the above Instagram platforms (and more out there) has shown, it is that there is a social good to it and it is something that people are personally going to try and fight one double-tapped like at a time. (kes)
Isabella Veronica Silalahi is a recent graduate in the Master of International Affairs at the George Washington University. She is now working as a Partnerships Analyst in the United Nations Office of Project Services in Washington DC. Bella is also active in youth development, digital activism and occasional traveler.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.