By Faten Omar

KUWAIT: To conceptualize social media's effects is to break down its good and bad sides. Social media offers a unique way for human beings to connect. Kuwait Times spoke with teenagers to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of social media on youth in the society.

Hatan Fatafta, 16, told Kuwait Times she first experienced social media in 2017 at a very young age. "I was 11 when I first downloaded social media apps. Social media platforms were not as popular as they are now. I was amazed at how the technology was developing so quickly. It had a positive effect, where the youth started to meet new people from around the globe, get jobs, trade on the stock market and make extra money, use walking apps to lose weight, and even students had access to online information that helped them in their homework," she said.

But all social media applications were not as useful, according to Hatan. "TikTok is one of the worst apps - there are hugely inappropriate videos that children shouldn't see. It affects our health too; it was found that using the phone for more than 14 hours can cause high blood pressure. It is an addiction. I barely sleep and have constant headaches. It has affected my studies. I cannot focus, got depression and lost vitamins from my body for being online 24/7. I tried to stop this addiction, but even therapy does not work," Hatan rued.

As for the advantages, she noted: "I was able to learn Turkish and mastered it. I was talking to Turkish media through social media apps. Also, I was able to learn approximately 45-50 percent of Hindi. I got to know many people from all around the world, who turned out to be good humans."

Be up to date

Salma El-Nabawy, 17, told Kuwait Times: "For me, the only advantage of social media is that it allowed me to be up to date about what is happening around the country. But it made me an addict and wasted a lot of my time. It made me stay up late until 7 in the morning, while my eyesight deteriorated. Also, my expectations are high now on where to go on vacation and what to wear or do. I also see many dirty videos of brainless people."

She added: "Twitter scares me, as people there are shallow and scary. It is a male-dominated community. You can see how many men threaten women with killings, the way the murderer killed Egyptian student Naira Ashraf. You will also find tweets about gay rights or why men are cheating. This generation is getting worse because of social media, in addition to nonsense relationships by teenagers. Many underage people meet online and talk about inappropriate topics. Ironically, this relation is strong as long as the Wi-Fi signal is strong!"

For Maiar Hamed, 15, socialization, increase in knowledge about technology and less boredom are the top reasons for being on social media. "When you spend time on social media, distance does not matter. I can talk with my friends even when I'm on vacation and stay connected from anywhere," she said. As for the disadvantages, Maiar said that sometimes the images and stories on Instagram lower her self-esteem. "I'm not satisfied with the way I look and dress. Many pictures promote a certain beauty type that I do not match. I also get anxious around people because I spend more time indoors and have difficulty spending time without my phone," she added.

Ahmad Al-Abdullah, 17, said social media platforms help in connecting people and spreading noble causes. "I believe there are a lot of people on social media who spread awareness about noble causes that are worth being educated about. Some outlets also offer the latest information and updates about Kuwait, and I think it is good to know what is going on in the world we live in," he told Kuwait Times.

As for the cons, Abdullah believes that some accounts, especially on Snapchat, influence teenagers in a bad way, in addition to causing security issues, lack of face-to-face communication skills, and cyberbullying that make teenagers feel bad that can sometimes lead to suicides. Social media also affect family relationships, he added.

Hassan Al-Mosawi

Social media addiction

Psychological and social consultant Hassan Al-Mosawi told Kuwait Times that social media dominates teenagers' lives and makes it difficult for them to escape it. "They cannot even distinguish what is good or bad for them. Rather, they are looking for suspenseful and abnormal topics, as they have become prisoners of these applications and the ideas they transmit. Social media has changed their behavior," he said.

He pointed out that teenagers can escape the addiction of social media. "It is possible to get out of the addiction cycle if the teenager tries to focus their energy on positive things and change their lifestyle to useful activities. But the process of recovery from social media addiction may need a long time and is not an easy process," he cautioned. "Unfortunately, teens trust information posted on social media more than they trust information from teachers and parents. It has been scientifically proven that teens become depressed as a result of continuous follow-up of apps, and it is difficult to get out of this bubble," Mosawi noted.

In 2020, Kuwaiti Government Communication Center revealed that the number of social media users in Kuwait increased, especially on Facebook, which had 3 million users and Instagram with 1.80 million users, in addition to 1.68 million on Twitter and 1.65 million Snapchat users.