In my previous blog posts, I have talked about the current orientation towards a digital era, increased digital and social media usage, increased perfectionism and stereotyping, as well as certain pros and cons about the usage of digital platforms. However, I haven’t mentioned the impact of social media usage on individual’s expectancies, social comparison, and means to either equality or diversity.
Population in the world: 7.741.708.905
The population that uses internet: 4.381.919.641
The number of cell-phones sold today: 5.529.800
The number of computers produced this year: 297.406.900
These numbers correspond to the exact moment that I checked, however, https://www.worldometers.info/ is running like a clock so, probably all the above-mentioned numbers have increased by now.
Different Neighborhoods, Different Lifes
I don’t want to make assumptions or generalizations, however, I think that at least some of us have been raised in a bubble. Some of our parents wanted to make sure that we were raised in a decent neighborhood with quality education, certain friend profile, and limited exposure to the not so bright parts of the world. Maybe we were not allowed to go to a particular neighborhood of the town after a certain time of the day, go outside alone, use public transportation without a family member, etc. I don’t believe that all of us had the knowledge or awareness that we do today until reaching a certain age. Or maybe we still don’t have it considering that there have only been a geographical change in most of our bubbles but it is still there.
Opposed to the world that we were introduced to, there is also one that consists of different stereotypes, lifestyles, worries, needs, and expectations. There are people out there who envy the lives that we constantly complain about, need to make serious compromises, and constantly make a social comparison. There are individuals who see the opportunities others have that they don’t, which in the end makes them feel even worse due to their circumstances.
In comparison to the numbers of this part of the population with lower socioeconomic status, when we look at the gap between the world’s population and the number of internet users we don’t see as much of a difference as we might have anticipated. This might be due to the reality that some of the individuals from a certain socioeconomic status background tend to compensate for the opportunity differences with an individual from a higher socioeconomic status group at least in the visible sense. I have heard and came across adolescents who wanted a smartphone or a laptop so badly in order not to fall short from his/her peers, families who took a loan in order for their children to be not embarrassed about using a Nokia phone instead of an iPhone.
With increased marketing and technological improvements that provided a wider price range and accessibility, technological devices, especially smartphones became a means for showing one’s social status. Individuals, especially adolescents started feeling such pressure of not owning one which in the end increased the above-mentioned desires of obtaining such a smartphone regardless of what it costs. This and the fact that the internet doesn’t discriminate between its users depending on their socioeconomic status gave individuals with different backgrounds the same opportunity to access different digital platforms.
Is It Really Equality
Nowadays, everyone with a smartphone or a laptop can access the different social media platforms, create an account and view almost every possible content included. In other words, regardless of the various socioeconomic status or background, all individuals who have the essential devices have access to the same platform. The level of internet and social media access resembles equality by no means; but what about the part that comes after. While we are making the equality judgment, we are only considering the opportunity for access and we tend to forget about the impact of the user experience.
However, we are not anticipating the fact that being exposed to different influencer accounts, other individuals from higher socioeconomic status and certain lifestyles that not everyone can afford might be increasing diversity between different backgrounds, let alone equalizing. Even though one might think that such exposure is voluntary, social platforms increase the chances that an individual from a lower socioeconomic background encounters different lifestyles. Such exposures can decrease one’s self-esteem, acknowledgment of the extent of one’s opportunities; while increasing expectations from their life that leads to increased disappointment with one’s life which can have serious psychological consequences. These are just some possible outcome examples after constant exposure to unrealistic lives, and they are more than enough to consider the role of digital media as means to equality or diversity.
It is a topic that can be debated for so long, however, I have to say that it makes me question whether not having equal access to certain platforms in order to limit various exposure is better considering possible negative psychological outcomes.