The main motivation behind the youth exchange “Live Free, Use your Phone Wisely!” was to address the influence and impact of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube on the life of young people because social media are prominent parts of life for many young people today.
Using social media these days is almost inevitable. It is used for sharing information, ideas, opinion, issues, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. Most people engage with social media without stopping to think what the effects are on our lives. We’ll look at both the positive and negative effects of things and seek to understand how we can use the platform in a sensible manner. If we are on social media, and we are not learning, not laughing, not being inspired or not networking, then we are using it wrong. Words have power, we must be careful how we use them.
Some of the negative effects are: online bullying, self-image issues, illusion of control, fear of missing out, loneliness, jealousy, addiction, mental issues such as depression and anxiety, attention deficit etc. But, also using social media can bring a lot of good things to us and to the community like: education and training, marketing, useful information, enhanced connectivity, getting or providing help, spreading awareness, it helps in building communities and can be used for noble causes.
According to us it is important to turn the attention of youth to social media and look at short-term and long-term effects, on impact of social media on communication patterns of young people, on their self-confidence and self-esteem. We consider it important to ask questions such as: ‘How to use social media in a positive way e.g. in teaching or in increasing engagement of youth in decision making processes?’ ‘How to limit the negative impact of social media and keep young people safe e.g. how to deal with cyberbullying?’
When it comes to social media, it is not just enough to be on it. We need to know how to be effective with it. No social media network did anything wrong, the problem is the way we use it and the role it plays in our lives. The main aim of youth exchange “Live free, use your phone wisely!” was to open critical thinking and debate on impact of social media and to raise awareness of young people on safe and positive use of social media e.g. in job seeking process, informal learning, involvement in decision making processes or addressing community issues.