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SOCIAL MEDIA: HELPFUL OR HINDERING?
I think we can all agree that social media has become a huge part of all of our lives. We carry it with us everywhere in our purses or back pockets and can access it at any time right there in the palms of our hands. We have so many different apps and websites now. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest...the list goes on. But is social media helping us or hindering us?
Social media is great for many different reasons. It allows us to connect with people from all around the world, allowing us to meet and get to know people who we may never have gotten to know otherwise. It’s a great way to brand yourself and your company. A way to keep in touch with loved ones and share pieces of your life with your friends and family from all over the world. In a lot of ways, social media brings people together. Is the connection that social media creates between us a genuine one though?
How many times have you seen someone who you know in real life post about love and light and positivity on their social media accounts when you know that in person, they are rude or selfish or apathetic? How many times have you made an internet friend who portrays themselves as this great, kind, loving person via social media, but then when you do finally meet them in real life, they aren’t that person at all? I know that this is something I’ve experienced pretty frequently. On social media, you can make yourself out to be whatever you want to be. You get to pick and choose the parts of yourself that you want people to see. In my opinion, this makes a lot of the connections formed on social media not as genuine as they would be had you met each other in a real life setting.
This is not to say that all people portray themselves as something that they aren’t, but with social media, you never get to see the full picture. You don’t get to see the ten selfies someone discarded because the lighting or the angle wasn’t right. You only see the eleventh one that they settled on when they got the lighting and angle perfect. You don’t see photos of people laying in bed because it’s winter and the seasonal depression is hitting pretty hard and they have no motivation to get up or do anything. Instead, you see smiling pictures of people on vacation or out with their friends or playing with their dog. We all create this picture perfect persona and post the photos and statuses that we think will get the most likes because for reasons we cant really put into words, these digital likes and heart reacts give us a sense of fulfillment.
A lot of the time, we’re so absorbed with trying to keep a strong social media presence that we forget to be present in our day to day lives. Rather than going to a concert and getting lost in the music, we’re busy trying to get a good Snapchat video of it so that all of our friends know that we are here and having a good time. Rather than going to a restaurant and enjoying the meal with whoever you came with, we’re busy snapping pictures of our meals for Instagram and spending the entirety of the meal checking to see if anyone has liked the post yet. And when our photos or statuses don’t receive as many likes as we had hoped for, then we begin to feel self conscious. We go into a state of panic and debate whether we should take it down. But if we do, then the people who have already seen it will know we took it down. But then again if we don’t, then we’ll be that person who only got X amount of likes on their picture or status. I certainly have gone through this before, and it can really give you a lot of anxiety if you let it.
Since everyone is always posting their best selfies or photos of them traveling the world or out with friends or accomplishing their dreams, it is also very easy to begin to compare yourself to other people on social media. It’s easy to compare accomplishments, to compare experiences, to compare looks...everything until you begin to pick yourself apart. As a woman, I feel like it’s especially difficult not to compare yourself to all of the Instagram models and influencers who have taken over that app by storm. With their perfectly even brows and long, voluminous hair and thin but curvy bodies. It’s hard to constantly look at these photos of all of these beautiful women and not begin to compare yourself to them. It’s hard to take a step back and remind yourself that they are people too and just like you, they have their good and their bad days. Their job is to make themselves as aesthetically pleasing as possible and post photos of that. But despite having this knowledge, I still find myself scrolling though my feed, seeing all these pictures of all these beautiful women and feeling a pang of insecurity. Or seeing people post about these amazing job opportunities that they’ve been offered or having success with their art and feeling like I’m not doing well enough in my own life in comparison, like I should be further ahead.
Despite all of these things, I don’t think that social media is all bad, but I do think that too much use of it can become very detrimental. I think that once your social media presence becomes more of a priority than being present in your day to day life, that it is hindering you moreso than helping you. I also think that once you feel your mental or emotional wellbeing suffering due to social media, that it is definitely hindering you. However, as much as I feel like social media is very hindering to us as a society, I still check my Facebook daily, I still use Instagram to share photos and promote my work, and I still watch people’s Snapchat stories. In fact, I can’t really imagine my life without social media because I do use it so much. It’s an addiction for me and a lot of other people. I reach for my phone so instinctually to scroll through my Facebook feed. It’s habitual, like a security blanket almost. However, whenever I do feel myself being too negatively effected or consumed by social media, I try my best to put my phone away and either pick up a book or a pen and paper to write, go outside to take a walk, or go to the gym to work out. I try to do something that requires my full attention so that I can be fully present in real life rather than lost in my Facebook feed. While I don’t think that social media is going to go away any time soon, I do think that there are ways that we can try to keep it from becoming a negative thing in our lives, and limiting our use of it and remembering to remain present in our day to day lives is the most effective way to do that.
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