Social media and teenage popularity pressure

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Various social media platforms have created a niche among different sections of youth in Sikkim. Popular ones include Instagram and Tik-Tok. Instagram is a picture based platform while Tik-Tok specialises in lip-syncing short videos of songs and dialogues.

These applications have come as a welcome relief for many creative individuals who have showcased many creatively stimulating videos and posts which has made many individuals comment and give an interesting perspective on the minds of those who are using such platforms.

“We don’t follow the hard news which comes on television,” says teenager Bhaskar Rai. He adds that platforms such as Instagram provides bullet news in “an interesting way”.

Even in some recent cases of rape and murder, social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram played a major role in mobilising the public to come forward in support of the victim.

The power of social media has had a turnaround in Sikkimese society, however, the increasing number of users has meant difficulty in scrutinising fake and real accounts which can easily be used as a trap for the young.

For example, there have been many cases of children being lured for money or gifts later to be found that they are yet another victim of the vicious trap.

A social worker, Amos Tshering, narrates a story of how a teenage girl from Sikkim was lured to take up a job in Bangalore which ended her being exploited for dance performances in the rural hinterland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Such cases have seen exponential growth with many teens from Sikkim and neighbouring North Bengal being lured for lucrative jobs, only to be exploited as dance performers in weddings, where they are often subjected to exploitation.

Another impact is psychological. The race to have more followers has led to many young minds take the route of sexualisation through portraying images and videos, these images may be subtle but is enough for sexual predators and paedophiles to identify such vulnerable group of children and teenagers. The competition to earn more likes and followers have also led to many children suffering from anxiety and depression at a very young stage fuelled by a sense of unworthiness and comparison. Parents and guardians need to check the accounts of their children, particularly of minors regularly. These children have been conditioned through influences of the internet in such a way that they remain susceptible to the vulnerability of the ills of social media.

The two-way sword of the millennials can be either facilitating holistic growth or a disaster. As the world grips under ultra boom information, the question of how mankind can chart a facilitating path without affecting humankind’s true nature remains unanswered.

Some deep psychological impacts of the pressures on social media have also resulted in suicides. Many cases have often evoked strong reactions calling for serious introspection on the usage of this new tool of communication. Sexualized images of minors are slowly becoming a norm or the new normal in the virtual space which makes it imperative for new legislation to facilitate more self-regulation mechanisms online.

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