Photo: Vancho Dzambaski

We ourselves need to filter the surrounding world in the internet that we interact with, and on a personal level, we need to create the strength to fight against all the dark sides of social networks. We should consider them tools whose background hides people who did dark things even before the emergence of social networks, it’s just that we didn’t notice them at the time. The job of the institutions is to fulfil their legal obligations, but as individuals we have to make our own choices about the waywe spend our time on social networks.

These were just some of the points presented by the speakers at the evening debate for young people “The Dark Side of Social Media – Coexistence of Good and Evil”, which closed the international conference “Digital Transformation for Citizens”, organized within the “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA” project, implemented by the Metamorphosis Foundation, with the financial support of the European Union.

Andrijana Vešović – Zombijana, a content creator and activist from Montenegro said at the debate that she has been uploading her illustrations on social media for 10 years.

“At first I just drew because it was fun. It’s the same today, however, now my platform has over 240,000 followers on Instagram, now it’s a platform, many people come and I use it for useful things,” says the Montenegrin activist.

Andrijana Vešović – Zombijana / Photo: Vancho Dzambaski

Today’s challenges are numerous: how to preserve privacy, how to stay mentally healthy, how not to be a human being who will personally experience every comment on social networks and most importantly – how to learn to deal with it.

Zombijana said that she deals with women’s rights – she draws and talks about them all the time. For the past five years, she has been working with the Women’s Safe House in Podgorica and there she learned about sensitive language and how to talk to victims without causing trauma.

“Generally, I deal with topics that no other influencer wants to deal with. I’m also here for the slightly more important things, so that we don’t have to be afraid that something bad will happen to me if I go out into the street”, said Zombijana.

Bojana Stojmenović, psychologist and founder of the Counselling Centre “My Psychologist” said that eight or nine years ago she was unable to find profiles on social networks that were in Macedonian language and that were dedicated to mental health, so she came across an idea to create her own profile on Facebook and this motivation was the point of departure of the “My Psychologist” page.

Bojana Stojmenović / Photo: Vancho Dzambaski

“What I do is research the direction in which I want to do psychoeducation. People will change if they understand what is happening to them, and ultimately, they will learn how to help someone else”, said Stojmenović.

Bojan Kordalov, communicator and social media specialist, adds that in making a balance between good and evil, the individual approach is very important.

“Today we can’t do without technology, we don’t go anywhere without our mobile phones, nor can we prepare for study or work without Google search. We can’t negotiate anything if we don’t use chat apps,” Kordalov said, adding that we need to find the positive things that technology has to offer.

Bojan Kordalov / Photo: Vancho Dzambaski

We have to use the tools in our interest and function or we will become dependent on them. We do not see technology as a benefit in the country, and the most important term in the era of digitalization is digital literacy. Kordalov says that it bothers him that we want to use the term digital literacy in an academic sense.

“If 95 percent of us use the internet, and only 5 percent use it for something useful at work or in our free time, this means that we are 90 percent digitally illiterate,” adds Kordalov.

The fact that you have a good smartphone and do not use its functions, and that there are a million mobile applications, and we limit ourselves to only a part of them, for example, only for listening to music or for online betting, this does not mean that we are digitally literate.

Regarding the harmful trends on social networks, Zombijana says that in terms of the negative comments she receives on her profile, 10 years ago she would cry over them, but now the situation is very different.

“I’m thinking about the source of that comment – if it’s with a photo of a flower or it says User 123456, I really can’t take it seriously, because you have to put your own name and surname, I want to know who you are, and then we can debate”, says the Montenegrin activist.

She had a negative experience in the area of security, when she was recently threatened by a man. He first started with comments saying she was a stupid feminist, then he wrote that he was going to beat her, so she reported it to the Montenegrin police and the person immediately deleted his profile.

“In general, I’m not even afraid of threats, it is just unpleasant. It’s about time people learned that the internet is everyday life, not some online place where we can go wild and vent our frustrations,” says Zombijana.

Photo: Vancho Dzambaski

Regarding the dark side of the use of social networks, psychologist Bojana Stojmenovic says that there have been observable changes in her clients’ problems. Five years ago, when Snapchat was released, she was contacted by quite young and older people consulting her regarding self-confidence, appearance and things they wanted to change about themselves.

Before the Covid pandemic, she worked with high school graduates and semi-graduate students, where as a psychologist, she had to convince them not to make aesthetic changes under the influence of characters from social networks, and with the Covid pandemic, this subsided as a problem, however the problem of loneliness among individuals emerged.

Stojmenovic believes that cyberbullying is now quite present and that this is exactly the topic they should work on when it comes to children.

“I am being increasingly contacted by parents and young people who deal with cyberbullying on a daily basis”, said Stojmenovic.

She also pointed out that what is trending on social networks and is simultaneously important for the mental health, are the numerous profiles, blogs and platforms that are dedicated to parenting and many topics about child growth and development.

Photo: Vancho Dzambaski

“I don’t agree with half of what they put out, some of the topics are quite harmful and there are many studies that show that everything they put out is harmful. We will be able to feel it as a result ten years after it is published,” she warned.

Moreover, Bojana pointed out that in the period after the Covid pandemic and the performance of all obligations online, loneliness is starting to emerge as the number one problem. She has been contacted by many companies in order to work with their employees. She expected to face problems such as depression or anxiety or other relevant topics, but most of the complaints from the employees referred to loneliness that developed after they started working online.

“A dozen companies I’ve worked with wanted me to work on how employees deal with loneliness, starting from the fact that they spend all their time in front of screens. From that point, until today, things have not changed much. We have employees who do not want to return to work with a physical presence, they want to work from home. “In one company, they told us that they have about 20 colleagues whom they have never physically met”, pointed out Bojana Stojmenović.

Often, she says, such people later contact her because of various psychological problems. She also spoke about loneliness among individuals, who find it difficult to find a partner, look for a partner on social networks and suffer in many different ways.

“I saw that France is considering to introduce a law where influencers will be fined if they use photo filters. That’s great,” Bojana pointed out about an idea how to overcome the difference between the digital “ME” and what we are in reality, answering one of the questions asked by the audience.

At the debate, a question was also asked by a high school student regarding the speakers’ opinion about online teaching, because there are already classmates who choose to be online and not want to show up with a physical presence in schools, and whether and how this affects the mental health of high school students.

“The biggest mistake we would make with digitalization is not to provide a choice. Even when it comes to the best thing you wear, if you impose this as an obligation, it will not be good. I’m not against digital textbooks or online teaching, I think there should be a choice. The students themselves should choose”, said the communicator Kordalov.

In addition to the issue of choice, Kordalov says that one must not forget that not everyone has good devices and the opportunity to follow online classes. If you introduce online teaching, Kordalov pointed out, it will not be successful if two students have to learn from the same laptop and the parents have to work on it as well.

Psychologist Bojana Stojmenović pointed out that it is necessary to think not only about the educational, but also about the social component.

“Some students want to go to school in order to socialize, not because of the teachers”, she said, adding that awareness should be raised about the negative consequences that the absence of this social component can cause among young people.

You can watch the entire debate tonight on the following video:

Link to the original post: THE DEBATE: We cannot do without technology, the question is how do we use social networks |