Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Social Media : Good or Evil?

The other night, I stayed up until 1am writing a post on this topic and I decided against posting it because it just came pouring out, stream of consciousness style, and it got a little too tangy...and verbose.  But I promised myself that I would address the issue of social media on a longer format which leads us to Confessions of the Chromosomally Enhanced.  Welcome back!   

I watched the Netflix documentary, "The Social Dilemma" (three times).  It warns about the dark side of social media and the detrimental impacts social media can have on our kids and on our society.  Ironically, I posted about it on Instagram and encouraged our followers to go check it out:

"The Social Dilemma" underscores the negative side of social media:

"Technology is at the root of addiction, polarization, radicalization, outrage-ificiation, vanity-ification, the entire thing."
                                    -Tristan Harris, Former Design ethicist at Google

The documentary highlights technology's impact on children, and it provides some disturbing statistics about the rise in self-injurious behavior and suicide since the introduction of social media.  As a parent of young girls, this resonated with me.  The most compelling part of the documentary, for me, was the very end (during the credits), when the creators of this technology unequivocally stated that they do not allow their own children to utilize it.   

Let that sink in.

"Social Media digs deeper and deeper down into the brain stem to take over kids' sense of self worth and identity.
-Tristan Harris, Former Design ethicist at Google

Children and teens tend to make decisions based on emotion and not rational thought, thanks to a pre-frontal cortex that hasn't fully developed yet (source).  Consequently, social media poses many risks due to children's limited capacity for self-regulation, their susceptibility to peer pressure, and their failure to understand the long term impacts of one's digital footprint.  But can we admit that even as adults, the dark side of social media manipulates our perceptions at times, too?  

Have you ever fallen into the trap of seeing the perfect housewife on Instagram and wondering what she knows that you don't?   You know - the thin, stylishly-dressed, fully made-up woman with hair that would make Jennifer Aniston green with envy?  She has an expansive, gorgeously-decorated, perpetually-tidy home where she prepares nutritious meals from scratch daily and feeds them to her cherubic children who never test her patience with fighting and defiance?  You know the one.  Actually, there are thousands out there if you look.  

But hopefully you know it's not reality.  We all have our problems.  As a mom/sister blogger, I can see both sides of this coin.  I can testify that balancing an honest portrayal while not defaming your loved ones is a fine line to walk.  I'm glad my mom didn't have social media when I was growing up - I would have been mortified!  Heck, I'm glad I didn't have social media growing up because I would undoubtedly CRINGE at 13 year-old me flailing around in Tik Tok videos.  Can you imagine the horror?!  

So with that in mind, I try really hard to never disparage anyone in my family.  The unintended side effect of that is a perception that you only see the good parts.  Let me tell you right now:  no one is perfect.  My house gets messy, my kids fight, my sister drives me nuts, and I lose my mind now and again.  I just generally don't stop and film these things.  Do you?  

What  confounds me, and maybe testifies to my age which is far closer to "Get off of my lawn" than it is to Tik Tok dance trends, is the sheer lack of boundaries on social media.  Oversharing and demanding personal information from others seems perfectly acceptable as long as it's behind a screen.  If you wouldn't approach the stranger behind you in line at the grocery store and say it, is it acceptable to say it to someone you've never met on the Internet?  

I've shied away from Facebook, but I appreciate Instagram as a quick and easy way to store memories.  Our account is public.  We're very fortunate to have a warm and supportive group of virtual friends who encourage us and keep things 99.9% positive on Instagram.  But I'd be lying to you if I said that I've never been tempted to delete the account and disappear into anonymity thanks to the other 0.1%  During the past year, I found it beneficial to moderate my media intake (social and otherwise) so I could get some perspective without all the "noise."

When fellow special needs advocates succumb to the negativity bias and tell me they want to throw in the towel, I remind them of the impact we can have just by posting photos and captions.  The positive messages I have received from people throughout the years have been so moving.  I feel grateful for a platform that allows us to upload snippets of our lives so that others can get a non-clinical view of life with Down syndrome and how it truly impacts a family.  Blogger and Instagram have been  beneficial in allowing us to advocate and share our journey, in the hopes of creating a more positive perception of Down syndrome.  Ideally, Josie and Leanne will experience more acceptance in the future because our family (along with many others) are allowing people a chance to get to virtually "know" someone with Down syndrome, and bias that stems from ignorance can be alleviated and replaced by a genuine appreciation for the joy Leanne and Josie bring to our lives.  

And that's why I'm here.  


  1. Ignore the .01. The rest of us sure do. I also thank goodness that I grew up without the internet. Im Glad my child semi did (the beginnings, pre tik tok she is 32) I wouldn't even get her a TV in her room until she was 13. I personally think I need to cut back on my electronic usage and work more around the house. It's so easy to come home do what needs to be done and then slip into many hour of youtube.

  2. Welcome back! This is a great post. I haven't watched The Social Dilemma but I will now. I moved the FB app to a back page on my phone so it's not staring me in the face every time I turn it on now. I enjoy IG too but am posting less and less. There's so much information out there about social media and most of it isn't good. Thank you for sharing this info with us.