How I’ve kept my social media usage under control during the lockdown: a young person’s perspective.

Tom Comer is 17, a student at the Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School in Newry, and should have been sitting his A-levels in Mathematics, English Literature, Irish, and Physics. In his spare time, he enjoys quizzes (not just on zoom), the Irish language, and Gaelic football. Next year, Tom hopes to attend university to study Mathematics and Economics. Here, he tells us about how the Covid-19 pandemic has made him rethink how he engages with social media.

As a so-called ‘Quarinteen’, just like the majority, I have social withdrawal symptoms. Ironically, I found out early on that social media does not help with this at all. I spent an inordinate amount of time browsing social media in the first few weeks of lockdown but over time, I've begun to realize that it amounts to nothing and often leads to feeling unhappy, unmotivated, and frustrated. But I have sorted this problem out by changing my views on the lockdown itself and developing my relationship with social media.

I found it very useful to realize that social media will have pitfalls, there is no way to recreate the real fun and craic you will experience with your friends. Although it is difficult to initially accept this, it helped me also realise that in treating social media as a different experience and not striving to recreate my usual in-school social interactions I can more easily limit it. I found that I was more able to control it if I treated every day as I would a normal school day as regards social media usage. Instead of waking up and engaging with my friends online - I only began contact with them around the time I would have if I was coming home from school, around 5pm or so.

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I find that some social media applications are a lot better for genuine social simulation, however. Often I realized that rather than spending two hours talking to upwards of five or even ten people at once on Snapchat or another app - I got a lot more enjoyment and satisfaction from speaking to one friend over the phone or on FaceTime for an hour. These much more immersive and involved experiences available via FaceTime allow more focus on the conversation itself but also contrast the sporadic nature of communicating to vast numbers simultaneously.

I've also found that staying to one form of media at a time can be a great help for building resistance to the endless cycle of social media consumption. It sounds ludicrous on paper, but trying to watch an entire film without checking your phone once, nowadays, is a feat of will. It really shouldn’t be. Appreciating one form of media at a time has made me appreciate them each more individually but also helps lengthen attention span - something I have found to be greatly shortened by the short and snappy cycle that is social media.

To conclude, I do feel social media can be a brilliant ally in this lockdown - opening doors through the social barriers and combating loneliness. But it is great to keep in mind that social media should stay as such, an ally, and we are in control.