Whenever a new technology emerges and takes the world by storm, it's very typical for there to be a certain level of a moral panic about the whole thing; how this new technology will make things worse, how it will lead us to ruin, and how it's more damaging than anything else. It happened with film, it happened with television, and now it's happening with the Internet. While I would like to think that the Internet has been around for long enough now that we would've moved past the initial panic of the Internet "turning people into zombies" and "making them uninterested in the real world", the fact of the matter remains that the Internet is a technology that in the large scheme of things is still in its infancy. Social media and its capabilities and applications are evolving and expanding constantly, so there's no way of knowing what the Internet will be in, say, the next ten or twenty years, not to mention beyond that. And thus, there will always be new reasons for moral panic - new opportunities to claim that the newest innovation will surely be the one that destroys us all.

One of the most common worries regarding the Internet and social media is the fact that it detaches us from reality. That if we're not careful we will begin to experience reality more through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram than by going out and actually living. And this is the kind of fear that the short film A Social Life taps into. In the short, we meet our protagonist who is a young woman living her life through social media. She sees everyday life more as opportunities to take pictures for her social media accounts than by actually doing and experiencing things. She will take pictures of herself in running shoes to boast about going jogging, only to take the shoes off right after posting the picture, and never actually leaving the house. When she cooks, she takes photos of fresh vegetables to impress people on social media, only to revert to take-out immediately after posting the picture. Her life is made up entirely of staging pictures for social media, and then sitting on the couch monitoring how many likes come her way.

A Social Life is based on the notion that one of the dangers of social media is that we will replace a quote-unquote normal life with one online. That instead of going out socializing with friends, we'll stay at home desperate for attention in the form of likes, retweets and reblogs. But how realistic a fear is that, really? Most of us are hedonistic - we want to enjoy life and get as much out of it as we can. Sure, we also love comfort and easiness - that's why instead of taking the time to cook you get take-out, for example. But how many of us really would willingly trade going out to meet friends, or going out to a movie or a concert, for sitting at home looking through our Instagram feed? Very few, I would imagine. The way I see it, if you want to take part in social media and share your life with others, you need to actually go out and do things first so you have something to share. Sure you can always sit and watch YouTube videos or something for hours on end instead of contributing to content on the Internet yourself since there's no shortage of entertainment online, but again it's hard to imagine a reality where a large amount of people would only be interested in entertainment on their computers and nothing else.

Social media, I feel, is not a replacement for reality or an alternative for it, but merely an extension of it. It enables us to get in touch with a larger amount of people than ever before. It allows to access more information than ever before and gives us the opportunity to be more informed. And let's face it, if you already have a satisfying life to begin with, social media won't distract you from it. Think of the protagonist in A Social Life - we see that she literally has no life outside of social media. She doesn't go out or see other people - she merely sits at home managing her social media accounts. Her problem doesn't come across as much as her inability to juggle social media with her real-life social life, as much as it does her latching onto the comfort in the attention she gets on social media because she can't get it anywhere else.

This is an important aspect of social media that I wish to highlight. Of course, it's preferable to have friends who you go out and see, and it is preferable to form connections to people you can actually meet and interact with. But what if you can't? Not all of us are able to socialize and connect with the people we meet in our everyday lives. I know I've struggled with this for a good part of my life. I'm socially awkward and have a hard time approaching new people because I'm shy, although over the years I've gotten pretty good at faking confidence even while nervous. I have very specific interests, such as heavy metal and horror movies, which believe it or not are not particularly popular topics among most people you meet. When I wanna discuss the latest Lordi album or my favorite gory bits in Peter Jackson's Bad Taste, most would rather talk about sports, or the latest episode of a reality show they saw that I've never watched. It's not that neither side is wrong in their interests, nor that you can't try and be open-minded towards interests outside your own. Not to mention that I've always prided myself in the fact that I've always been able to get along with almost everyone. But getting along and engaging in small talk isn't really much comfort if you have no friends who you see outside school or work, meaning you spend weekends and holidays either with family, or alone.

This is where the Internet can be a wonderful thing that can make us more social, not less. When you don't meet people with similar interests in your own community, you can meet them online. I've made tons of very good friends online over the years, some of whom I've gone on to meet face-to-face as well. Social media then isn't a replacement for real-life interactions, but a gateway to them. And for me, the most wonderful example of this is the relationship I have with my girlfriend who I met - you guessed it - online. Had we never crossed paths I might still be without anyone I connect with deeply enough to share my life with them. But here I am writing this article mere days after returning from a week spent with my girlfriend in France, and in about a month I will be heading back to spend most of the summer with her. Me and her live in two different countries, you see. Social media has led me to a relationship where I meet people from a different culture than my own, visit places I wouldn't have otherwise, and am encouraged to learn a new language. So when me and my girlfriend may wanna take a selfie to remember a good moment we had, or to share our experiences with mutual friends on Facebook and Twitter, you'll excuse me if I don't feel guilty about it.

It's up to each one of us to decide for ourselves how we can best use social media to enrich our lives, and to define what the borders and limitations should be for our own use not to get out of control. In A Social Life a woman who has only lived through social media decides to drop it and instead venture out into the real world to live. But much like you can use things like junk food or alcohol in a destructive way, you can also enjoy them modestly and responsibly. And the same goes for social media. If the protagonist in A Social Life gets a genuine social life as she steps out into the real world, maybe then she can go back to social media, but this time use it in a more constructive way than before.