Unfiltered Thoughts: Unplugged – Thoughts on Social Media

In today’s digital world, social media is more than just a platform for connection; it’s a powerful force shaping our lives, our opinions, and our future. It influences how we communicate, form relationships, and perceive ourselves and the world around us. But how does it impact those who use it? Is it a source of empowerment, or does it bring challenges that need to be addressed?

For many, social media is a tool for self-expression, creativity, and activism. It can amplify voices, foster communities, and provide a space for learning and growth. However, it also comes with its set of challenges. Issues like cyberbullying, mental health impacts, and the pressure to present a perfect life can significantly affect users.

Could raising the access age be a solution to these challenges? Some believe that setting a higher age limit might protect younger users from the negative aspects of social media. It could give them more time to develop critical thinking skills and resilience before diving into the complexities of the online world. Others argue that age isn’t the issue; instead, we need better education on digital literacy and more robust safety measures.

And how can we create a more positive online environment for everyone? This is a question that requires collective effort. From enhancing privacy settings and content moderation to promoting kindness and empathy online, there are many ways to improve the social media landscape.

We want to hear the unfiltered thoughts from those voices who live and breathe this reality every day.

 

Content Warning

 

This following unfiltered thoughts may contain themes that might be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can visit our Creating a Safe Space page to see a full list of support services.

 

When did we become our parents?

“I’m sending you the link to buy this special portion I saw on Amazon” quipped my mum. “Your dad and I have been having it. It’s supposed to prevent COVID. Order it now”

“Mum, where exactly did you get this information?” I asked.

” I read it on whatsapp” replied mum confidently.

This was no short of the madness that ensued during the pandemic when my parents tried to convince me to try several concoctions and herbal teas off Amazon which all promised to enhance immunity and improve my gut health. All because they read it on Whatsapp. A few years later now, I find myself in the same exact position, yet now with my friends sending me reels on Instagram and Tiktok about ways to improve my gut health. The scientific basis for this I ask? Because an influencer said so.

The lack of critical thinking and proper information consumption is at a rapid decline amongst our generation. This coupled with little to no regulation on what those with verified accounts post on social media is a recipe for disaster. Being accustomed to accepting information without subjecting it to analysis has become the norm. With millions using social media everyday to consume bite sized snippets of random information as opposed to full-fledged reports on one specific topic. If I had to ask someone from the current generation when was the last time they read a newspaper or a fully researched unbiased article, the answer would probably be sometime long ago for an assignment.

In the social media world where quick and easy is the way of land, is there space for facts over fiction?

Hashwina (she/her), 27 ACT 

The Root of All Evil?

Social media is often portrayed as the devil personified. A malicious tool, a government weapon, a cesspool of toxicity, a platform for faceless, cowardly hatred. It is often made out to be the ultimate enemy, the root of all evil.

Whilst potentially these fears bear some degree of truth, it is important to remember that things in life rarely exist in absolution, and social media is no exception to this reality. Perhaps the impacts of social media are not black and white, rather are part of a scale – up-and-down and back-and-forth and gray all through. What can be, without question, a source of such powerful, oppressing cruelty and violence can conversely bring with it such unity and kindness. Such sense of community and togetherness, and which holds almighty potential for learning and growth.

Perhaps the solution is not to deny its existence and bury one’s head in the sand, but rather to choose the harder option. To sculpt and fine tune a model that harnesses forces of empowerment and connection. To educate and teach boundaries and learn new skills. To hear stories that would otherwise exist only in the margins. Perhaps the solution is a societal movement opposed to a logistical one. A movement in which we are able to hold others and ourselves accountable for our words and behaviours and in which we take responsibility as humans within a complex, digitising world.

Rachael (she/her) 22 WA

 

Youth is not the biggest factor

I always felt that most of the negative aspects of social media, particularly addiction and the need to present a perfect life to everyone on screen, does not lie much in what age one starts to use it. Rather, it lies with two robust safety measures that most parents seem to not implement. The first is them neglecting teaching their children the basics of self-control. The second is them neglecting the conducting of frequent spot checks on what their children are accessing on the social media. No matter how old one is, they can still experience those negative aspects if they do not watch how much they spend their time on social media. Thus, it is crucial for parents to limit the time their children spend on social media. Parents can easily accomplish this by setting a specific time limit for their children’s phone usage, such as allowing them to use their phones for only one hour before bedtime. As celebrity culture is rampant nowadays, the need to be rich, beautiful like them can come too. Thus, it is also for crucial for parents to inform their children that while it is alright to look up to their idols for inspiration; it is crucial to not obsess over  them as well. To accomplish this, parents can ask their children about their recent online searches and provide their honest opinion on the content their children are accessing.

Wilson (he/him) 23 WA

 

Democratic social media is safe social media

Theoretically, I support limiting social media use until youth reach a certain age where we can be reasonably sure that they have the critical thinking and discernment skills to self-filter their own feeds.

However, practically, I can recall being a pre-teen myself in this age of social media and I know that youth will almost always find a way to circumvent social media platforms’ policies and get access to the media and content they want to see. Access cannot be the crux of the issue, because like bootleg wine during prohibition periods, somebody will always know somebody with an older sibling willing to give them social media access.

I believe we need to accept that youth will always have access to the online world, and so our priority needs to shift to creating and curating positive online spaces that youth can actually derive benefit from rather than harm.

The first step? Demanding transparency from influencers and content creators regarding sponsorships, brand associations and payment. I love the “Community Notes” feature on X, where users can add disclaimers to potentially harmful or untrue content. The visual red flag might give youth, still acquiring their critical thinking abilities, pause.

Meighan (she/her), 22 Canada

 

From Profiles to Personas – Redefining Identity in the Age of Social Media

In today’s digital age, are we the ones navigating social media, or is it subtly redefining our perceptions, relationships, and who we are at our core?

Instead of focusing on the superficial layers of these platforms including likes, followers, and curated feeds; we need to consider the deeper impact on our identities and interactions. Social media often acts as a mirror, reflecting not just our desired self-image but our collective societal values. It prompts us to ask: Are we using these platforms to genuinely express ourselves, or to conform to an ever-evolving digital culture?

This mirror effect challenges us to reconcile our real and virtual selves, pushing for authenticity that goes beyond the screen. The shallow interactions that are equated with “friending” and “following” have resulted in the need to redefine what connection means online. Rather than shielding young users by raising the access age, let’s empower them through critical engagement. Equip them with the tools to navigate social media with confidence and discernment. This approach fosters resilience and prepares them to be thoughtful digital citizens.

By reimagining the role of social media, we can harness it not just as a platform for personal expression but as a catalyst for collective growth and positive change.

Jyotsna (she/her), 17 NSW

 

Think Bigger

Raising the age of social media access is a band aid solution to wide-spread issues. What happens on social media is reflective of the society we live in – discrimination, racism, queerphobia, ableism, fatphobia, power imbalances and bullies all existed long before social media was created.

Children are vulnerable, yes, but that also means that social media can be a saving grace in an unfair society. Think of the young closeted transgender teenager who follows trans-affirming social media accounts, or the young chronically ill teenager who can stay connected with their friends online when they are having a pain flare up.

Instead of banning social media for people under sixteen, why not stamp out discrimination (in schools and in society more broadly), invest in mental health care for all, have peer support workers at schools for kids to talk to when they’re having a rough time (I know I didn’t find the sweet chaplain who was also a grandma, someone I felt I could honestly and openly talk to at school about mental health- I didn’t relate to her).

Teenagers will find ways to get around a ban, anyway. Let’s think bigger!

Anonymous, 26 VIC

 

Instagret

Why do I mindlessly document my life in such a public manner? The older I get, the more ‘on this day’ notifications appear, presented by default as happy memories. My dull choice of clothes, unflattering hair and pimpled, then eighteen year old, skin is the worst thing for someone desperately trying to evolve. And yet at twenty-six, I haven’t even considered what thirty-two has to say. Cringing at my digital public exhibit is still easier than accidently scrolling too far in my DM’s, the exhibit that goes too far. A virtual hallway of friends I’ve lost, along with my mind.

Social media for me personally has become an online art gallery. The curator a cracked picture frame emotionally, almost able to hide the damage from potential buyers through filters and witty captions. Until a potential buyer enquires, and the frame finally shatters from the exposure to such closeness.

AJ (he/him) 26 WA

 

What’s not safe online?

Should online platforms set a higher age limit?

I wonder if it alone would do much to keep people safe – I know I lied about my age when I started using social media.

A 6-year-old kid I cared for talked about being active on Roblox already. It scared me that he was already on it at such a young age, but I could see that it excited him. Platforms like that could help him have fun, express his creativity and find friends beyond his schoolmates. The dam has already been opened, so what can we do about it?

Making digital environments safe takes a village. We all should have more conversations about what safe and appropriate interactions look like online. There’s now an increasing awareness of what grooming looks like, and abusers can’t get away with it as much anymore. The more people are aware of online safety, the more we can prevent unwanted behaviours and push platforms to do better.

Anonymous, 29 NSW

 

It isn’t our fault, so stop treating it like it is

The trouble with things like age limits on accessing social media is, in my mind, two-fold.

Firstly, restricting those under certain ages (such as 16) from accessing social media seems like a nightmare of a policy to implement. How would this even be enforced? A check-box that people can just lie about? Officials stalking profiles finding hints of people are under 18? Arguably, the only thing this will do is make social media something more appealing, creating a toxic culture of rule-breaking and exclusivity, just like with alcohol, or porn, or vaping.

But secondly, I want to be clear, social media being bad isn’t our fault. There are plenty of terrible individuals from our generation on platforms like instagram and TikTok, but they’re just users. We aren’t the executives of Meta creating toxic spirals for self-image that can get away with it because ‘they’re just a platform, not a publisher’. We aren’t the government officials who failed to address this problem year-on-year and refused to stand up to the big corporations behind this actual problem. We’re honestly just the people wanting to chat to our friends some more. So truthfully, if you want someone to punish, stop looking at us.

Toyo (he/they), 22 VIC

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