Social media and the oak tree

Imagine a tiny acorn.

No, really, imagine the tiniest acorn in the world, so small it’s barely as big as your pinky.

This seemingly insignificant acorn drops down from its mother tree and is carried away to a spot just by a gushing river. It plants itself there, knowing that the water from the river will nourish and care for it.

As the years go by, the tiny acorn soon sprouts into a powerful and majestic oak tree. One day it rains a little too much, the river soaks into the soil a little too much, then the roots can’t breathe, the trunk goes limp, and by the next day the tree is dead. The river that gave the oak tree life has now killed it.

If we were the tree, what would the river be?

Many people would say that, for the teenagers of today, social media is the river. It’s not hard to see why.

Like the river, social media provides many benefits to the youth, especially in these challenging times, as the Covid-19 pandemic forces schools to adopt online learning through various platforms. Those living away from their families and friends can only use social media to keep in touch.

WhatsApp messages, Discord calls and Instagram stories are the new “love letters” of the 21st century. This is how we now connect with those we love when our hands cannot reach them.

It can also help spread awareness about certain topics like the Black Lives Matter movement which took the world by storm due to the amount of support from social media.

As a Malaysian, I had never heard much about the oppression and dangers Black Americans faced in their country, and social media helped to educate people like me about what was going on in other parts of the world, and how we can help to change it.

On the other hand, like the river, social media can also be the very thing tormenting youth of today.

Depression, anxiety, mental disorders, phobias – these words may be widely seen on social media but these mental health issues are extremely serious.

Yes, there is an increased awareness and acceptance among our generation regarding these issues but this increased awareness has only highlighted how terrifyingly real these issues have become.

How often do we hear about teenagers self-harming on social media? How often do we see attempted suicide cases on the news after a compromising photo was posted online? How many young people have taken their own lives because of the incessant cyberbullying they face online?

Too often. Too often. Too much.

As an “oak tree” planted a little further from my peers, I still find myself affected by the flowing river. I can’t help but wonder if I would look much better if I had a body like the girl in the picture, or if I had the confidence of that guy on TikTok … if, if, if.

Like the Malay saying goes, ‘sikit-sikit lama-lama jadi bukit‘. These are small things, but over time they can snowball into a giant rushing river that threatens to choke you or drown you.

An oak tree can live for nearly 1,000 years in the right conditions. It can grow up to 45 metres tall and may produce millions of acorns in its lifetime, providing nourishment for generations of animals and perhaps sowing the seeds for generations of its kind.

But once the river beside it overflows, no one can save it.

Take a break. Shut down your phone. Cook yourself some food, learn a new skill, read a good book, or just take a deep breath.

Don’t let the river overflow.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

To give the younger generation an avenue to express themselves, Twentytwo13 now has a dedicated space called Young Voices. If you are a young writer (aged between 12 and 17) and would like to have your article published on our news website, send your contribution to editor@twentytwo13.my.

All articles must be accompanied by the young writer’s full name, MyKad number, contact number, and the mobile number of the young writer’s parents/guardians for verification purposes.