Column Road

Passport to Privacy

By Indigo Jones

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ocial media consumes us all, to the point where some people may not realise the extent of their social media consumption. I will hold my hands up and admit outright that I am addicted to my phone and social media. Many would say that my addiction is unhealthy and this falls upon the use of social media. I would agree, and this was confirmed by my recent trip to China over the Summer.

China as a country is full of beautiful culture, innovative technology and flavourful food; but in a country without traditional social media how can they possibly share pictures of their food or locations?

In reference to the ‘Great Firewall of China’ the Los Angeles times stated that, “Censorship has long been a fact of life in China, where comments conveying dissent, activism or criticism of authorities are removed post haste from the internet”.As a result, the Chinese government have banned the use of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp. The use of You Tube, Netflix and even Google are also banned and therefore it makes it incredibly difficult to use various forms of media to communicate.  Although, as a result of this censorship brought upon China it made it nearly impossible for them to discuss the recent Hong Kong protests online.

Perhaps, the Chinese government are correct to ban such sites. With the age we live in, and the amount of information we share publicly on social networks, we allow everyone to see our day to day lives. The privacy that comes with the banning of social media sites would improve the lives of many and would destroy the negative impact of social media, for example cyber bullying.

Albeit, there are ways around the Social media ban that coincide with China’s privacy policies. There are communication apps such as Wechat, Weibo and QQ to name a few of the ways that people communicate online in China. These apps replace the famous social media networks we traditionally use in the West and enable the Chinese to overcome the usual banning of social media.

Another way around the ban would to be to invest in a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in order to use the sites, although some of these codes are illegal and there was talk last year of the Chinese government banning VPNs in China as a whole.

As stated earlier, my own trip to China was eye-opening. The realisation of my own unhealthy obsession with using my phone and social media became especially apparent through experiencing the culture shock of travelling to the beautiful country. Within the first couple of hours let alone the two weeks I was there I realised my constant necessity to scroll through twitter or post a snapchat story. Even little things became increasingly difficult; like not being able to use google to search questions, or maps to figure out where to go and even Gmail to check my mail emails. This became thoroughly evident through my inability to go even 10 minutes after landing in Frankfurt (before my connecting flight to London) to log back in to all my accounts. This when the control my phone had over me became increasingly apparent.

This ‘social media cleanse’ although short, was eye-opening due to the fact that since I was thirteen, I had spent several hours a day on social media, with my usage increasing annually. According to my phone’s screen time, in the last week I have spent 29 hours on social networking out of 49 hours in general on my phone. These figures from my own habits are surprising, but they don’t come as a total shock due to my persistent use of these networking apps and my relentless need to refresh timelines.

Although, it doesn’t seem like I am the only one with this issue, as according to OPS in comparison to other EU countries the UK was ranked third of countries with most internet usage. This statistic comes as a bigger shock when they also state that “The UK was 10 percentage points above the EU average of 85%”.

These figures demonstrate the issue that the UK as a whole in regards to Social media and begs the question, how would we as a country react to the banning of social networks?

The Western world’s tendency to binge online streaming services such as Netflix, and the popularity of such sites, demonstrates only one of the things we would struggle with if they were banned. Although the banning of such sites would be sure to increase education, fitness and communication levels due to the escalation in free time.

With the inability to use apps such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate perhaps it would improve general conversational skills. Many students feel uncomfortable meeting new people, making conversations or doing presentations and this falls down to their dependency on online communication. Without using such sites, it would enable more time for exercise and revision, and that is me speaking from personal opinion.

Personally, I believe that social media is a valuable tool for our generation in order to communicate with friends and family abroad, or to make new friends before starting University. Social media itself paves the way for protests such as the Arab Spring in 2010, and it enables protest groups to come together and discuss what they feel passionate about.

Sites such as Google and the different apps google offers make life easier, especially when it comes to need to use Google translate abroad to understand those from the country you are visiting (Trust me). Although, perhaps it would be valuable to regulate social media use, or maybe reducing the use of it to a daily allowance.  I agree with most when they say that 13 is too young to be involved in such sites as it can negatively impact on how young people view their self-image. After considering the UK’s high usage of internet usage, perhaps it would valuable to take some tips from China.

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