Social media can be very addictive and have harmful effects especially among young people. Through a series of stencils, iHeart draws attention to the negative side of social media.
Is social media a danger for teenagers? It is what the Vancouver street artist, iHeart, denounces through his artworks. He uses street art to voice his opinion on social issues. In 2014, he produced several graffiti stencils in Vancouver through which he criticizes the negative impact of social media on teenagers. He considers that social media, instead of bringing people together, drives them apart. In an interview for the huffingtonpost, iHeart says: « I see people walking down streets barely glancing up from their devices. Digitally we’re hyper-connected and yet so disconnected from each other. »
iHeart was part of « The Social Paradox », a street art exhibition in London highlighting how people rely on technology.
iHeart illustrates the irony of social media ©iHeart
iHeart became widely known with this piece of art called Nobody Likes me, located in Stanley Park. Banksy, posted it on his Facebook account. Within a day, the artwork received 117,000 likes, 13,500 shares and was re-tweeted by thousands of people. This, however, was not iHeart ’s initial plan since « Anonymity is a must » for him. He describes his experience of fame as « overwhelming and awkward. »
Ironically enough, he criticizes social media but he became famous because of Facebook. He has spread awareness about the danger of social media with the very help of social media platforms. « There’s almost too much irony that happened with this piece. Posting it on Instagram, Facebook, my website, and Twitter, then it going viral. Basically the idea behind the piece completely backfired. »
Nobody Likes Me represents a young boy crying while holding a smartphone. He is disappointed with the fact that he has zero likes, mentions and followers on his Instagram account. The message iHeart wants to deliver with this image is clear. He shows how our society is obsessed with technology, social media and narcissism. Some teenagers become obsessed with the number of friends, likes and comments they get and it affects how they value themselves. They become more anxious as they keep waiting for their profile to change. If they are always connected, it affects their schoolwork, their health, their concentration and possibly their relationships with family. Social media was designed for people to be better connected with each other. However, teenagers are so hypnotized by their phones that they tend to ignore their entourage.
Today, people acquire a smartphone from a very young age and they are not always aware of the threats they are facing. Teenagers can be exposed to danger on internet such as cyber bullying, harassment or hateful comments. They can interact with a sexual predator without knowing. Their personal information can be seen by viewers who could potentially used it to blackmail them. Social media certainly has its advantages but also many traps. It helps people to keep in touch with families and friends living far away. But if they are used in the wrong way, social media provokes a multitude of mental health issues that can undermine self-esteem.