Social media, a platform widely used more so by a younger audience (those in the age group of 18-25) mainly for self-presentation purposes, writes Dr Juliette Dinkha. Since the mid-1990s, social media has been a popular trend among college and university students. These platforms are used as a social tool to establish and sustain friendships, and communicate with friends and relatives at longer distances, which provides users a way to feel connected to other people. The purpose of these sites varies based on professional or personal use. Social Media has transformed the way people think, talk, communicate or socialize on the web. Despite the many positive outcomes, it is important to use social media moderately since excessive use affects an individual’s lifestyle in terms of socializing, energy levels, eating, sleeping and exercising patterns and even behavior towards others.

There are many downsides related to the misuse of social media, most notably cyberbullying, which has tremendously increased among school aged children and college students, even more than regular bullying. In recent years it has led to a rise in teenage sadness, fear, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and attempts. Cyberbullying is seen online in a number of forms such as continued messages of rude and/or angry content, harassment, threats and insults, spreading rumors to harm a person’s reputation, revealing personal information about a person and cyberstalking. Aside from suicidal thoughts and attempts, cyberbullying can lead to numerous other mental health issues such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.

Kuwait is technologically advanced and a large percentage of population in Kuwait are spending a lot of time using various types of social media applications. It has been noticed that males and females in Kuwait use social media excessively for different purposes. They spend a great amount of time chatting on Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat and it is negatively impacting their sleeping patterns, social skills and interpersonal relationships. 

As a society, in general, you could say, we are becoming socially awkward, we spend less time face-to-face and our concentration and focus has decreased. We spend time sharing and posting content or buying products and services online which takes away time from family and friends. Social media has also negatively impacted the youth as they do not seem to be concerned about their privacy when sharing personal content and information. It is obvious that users in Kuwait place too much emphasis on virtual interaction and less on the real world. 

Social media users have to channel their creativity, interest and personal growth in more productive and healthy ways. A conscious effort needs to be made to stray away from the ‘addiction’ of social media by engaging in activities like sports and fitness, social gatherings, reading and spending time in nature and exploring new ventures.