My personal experience with a virtual world

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It was an early morning in 2012. I was in the 8th grade then. My classmates told me stories about how they met new friends and how they even chatted with celebrities and got to experience many amazing things. I was intrigued. I wanted to experience these exciting things they always talked about. Every child wants to partake in the childhood fantasy. So I went on to create a Facebook account;  this was the beginning of my journey through the virtual world. As time went by, I became accustomed to checking my social media more frequently. I immersed myself in the social media culture by chatting with friends via Messenger and Whatsapp. I started to share more content with my friends via my newsfeed to let them know that I was also virtually informed. Within no time, I was already a member of eight different social networking sites. This new online world now played an integral role in my life. For example, social media sites were now my teachers; they taught me news from around the world. It was also like attending school every day because I could look up information online. A virtual library, it was. Instead of blogging in my diary, I took to social media and posted about my life and daily routines. Social media was now a source of happiness and more so, it brought along a sense of motivation, pain, and frustration.             

My newfound interest started to interfere with my education. Instead of checking my school notes, I would rather check social media to see what was happening with the lives of people around me; the food, clothes, events, or activities they were involved in. But something I would later discover was that by becoming more aware of other people’s lives and the content they were posting, I started to become less in tune with myself. I was more focused on the illusions that social media depicted than the actual realities of what life is. Thus, I started to sense insecurities which came with depression, jealousy and hatred as a result of comparing my life with others. In fact, I became a lesser version of myself and much like what the people in the social media world expected of me.

Luckily, my phone went missing and my mother insisted that I was not going to get another smartphone due to my excessive use of social media. My mom’s refusal to allow me to get back into the virtual world was one of my saddest moments. I felt lonely because I wanted to be more aware of things happening around the world. However, this denial led to something much more important and meaningful to my life. Within a period of a month, I became less concerned about other people's lives and more concerned about myself. I found myself reconnecting with my academics. I was now becoming more of myself with a focus on my realities. I had more time now to do my homework, study, and sleep rather than staying up late at night browsing through the net. 

Lack of social media also made me realize the consequence of the excessive use of social media. This new realization sparked an interest in knowing if other students had similar experiences with the excessive use of social media. I then started to research to figure out how social media affected people’s lives, mainly, students’ performance and behavior. Moreover, I wanted to know if being clouded by the fake realities of social media have real consequences on people’s mental health, study habits or even marriages. I would later discover that marriages have been ruined because of a post or comment spouses made on social media.

After researching, I started to realize that social media had not just been interfering with my study habits, but was also interfering with my educational,  professional, and private life. For example, I had no privacy. Anyone who had access to my social media profiles could easily find out where I lived. They could access important information like my email and date of birth. Moreover, I sometimes spent 15 hours just browsing through social media without doing anything productive. However, after carefully scrutinizing my use of social media, I made the decision not to entirely quit social media, but to change the ways I use them. I decided to only use social media during my spare time. This way, there would be no excessive use and I would not be distracted from my studies. Thus, I prioritize my education over social media. 

However, this is not to say that social media cannot serve good purposes. It can, however, I decided to look for the positive aspects of social media and let go of the negative ones. Therefore, I unfollowed sites that did not contribute to positive or educative aspects of my life.  Since I only use my social media accounts to spread positive messages that seek to promote peaceful coexistence. I started to use my social media as a tool for connecting with friends, families, loved ones, from all around the globe. Social media has changed how I view the world and also helped me develop better social networking skills. 

Lastly, students ought to realize that nothing is more important than exceeding in all aspects of our academics. Moreover, addiction to social media can distract us from our studies because we may divert all our time to excessive use of social media. Therefore, students are better off using social media to mainly enhance their professional lives and build their networks. Social media can also be used for news too but with a high increase in fake news, students need to be cognizant of what kind of news to consume in order to not be strayed away from productive news that can help better their studies. Social media is not inherently bad, but it becomes terrible when we are unable to restore self-discipline from being addicted to social media.

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Liberia