While slow speeds and text-based inputs were common during Hi5 and Orkut days, the advancement in internet speeds and pervasiveness of smartphones made Facebook a rising community. Nowadays, the audience is not just limited to Facebook, they are posting videos via Vine, looking at lives of stars and friends via Instagram and posting stories on Snapchat. Social has moved beyond the domain of text-based information. The overuse of such services has led to new challenges for the human psyche. Instead of living one complete life, we have bound ourselves to live multiple others. Either by creating personalities and profiles on the internet, or by looking at the profiles of others.
This drive towards perfection and the “social dream”—unlike the American dream—is not just restricted to a house, car and a job, but demands much more. It is also more fluid in nature, with needs and aspirations changing with new trends. Thus, despite being a source of such a vast network of information and countless movements, social media has also become a vessel of fear, depression and everything that is wrong with society. While it may have provided a voice to millions, it has also accentuated the ills of society, providing a cover for the troublemakers.
Katherine Ormerod’s work is basically a survival guide to social media. Many others have presented similar works, but what gives Ormerod an edge is her background as a fashion magazine editor, and her balanced view of the social world. The author does present some compelling points about the power of social media to sink you into depression or create an echo chamber, but she is never dismissive about its power to be a gamechanger. So, the same service that once vilified A-listers, also became a source to channel their frustration and anger against their fellow stars. Twitter has led to millions of MeToo hashtags and TimesUp moments. Similarly, Instagram and Facebook have allowed women to voice their stories to million others, inspiring them to come out with their own truth. Ormerod does highlight this phenomenon, but her book is composed more for don’ts then dos.
Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life details every aspect of one’s life that social media has touched. Ormerod discusses identity, body image, health, relationships, motherhood, career and money, and politics and the impact social media has had on all these aspects. The flow of the book is similar throughout with the author highlighting emerging trends on each of the issues, and then defining the takeaways. Although Ormerod does not disturb the rhythm throughout her work, it does become repetitive in nature. For those who have been reading similar stories, there’s not much Ormerod has to offer in terms of fresh perspective or insights. The epilogue does go to great lengths in defining a future, with augmented reality and new technologies taking over the internet, and whether that shall entail a further revision of our understanding of the internet.
Ormerod’s book is one of the many guides detailing how one, especially parents, should view social media. While it does lay down certain rules, at no point does Ormerod turn into a Luddite, making a call for discarding existing social media accounts. For any first-time reader, Ormerod does an excellent job of detailing the ills of social media, while also eliciting trends that people would have missed out. For people who have read such works before, there is nothing new except the balance with which she details the life on social media, and some of the takeaways. Although the work could do without a few grammatical errors, what it needed was a futuristic outlook. Ormerod, unfortunately, ends all that in her epilogue, not detailing the future of social media and new technologies. Tech humanism and augmented reality are concepts that are downplayed in these works.