The noun ‘community’ derives from the French word 'comuneté', which means public spirit. However, this concept of public spirit is now a paradox, given that social cohesion appears to have broken down in our modern world.
There has been an undeniable shift from interpersonal to para-social relationships. A para-social relationship is when a person forms a relationship with someone's curated persona, fostered primarily through television and social media. These manufactured characters present a one-sided illusionary persona that we should aspire to be like and emulate in our everyday lives.
For instance, Kim Kardashian has meticulously fabricated an ideal life through reality TV and social media. Over 50 million people watch her in awe every week as she broadcasts about eating salad. As spectators consume her life, they believe they have a bond despite not creating a genuine connection.
Para-social relationships are causing a breakdown in social cohesion in my community, and others globally. Individuals waste hours on social media and spend less time fostering interpersonal relationships. When absorbed in this media, they search for someone who fits a pre-determined image, subconsciously rooted in materialism, classism and society's stereotype of beauty, instead of looking for a person's inherent qualities, which restricts the formation of genuine relationships. Many students, including myself, at my school and other schools, have fallen victim to the pitfalls of these para-social relationships. Many adolescents have formed revulsion towards those who do not conform to society’s standards, causing them to be ostracised. Moreover, the decline of meaningful interpersonal relationships and unrealistic expectations of perfection creates tremendous insecurities, alienation, and, in some cases, mental health issues.
So, what is the solution? We must accept that the para-social world is here to stay and will form a part of our teenage lives and provide a certain level of entertainment. To address this issue, I propose education where, at 11 to 12 years old, students will be informed about para-social relationships and how to manage them as well as how to develop healthy interpersonal relationships. This will also allow students to bond with each other, encouraging social cohesion and a more positive school community. Real relationships are far more important than para-social relationships. The school community needs public spirit.
By Eva N, Year 11