Social Media Isn’t Toxic, But Our Relationship With It Is
Social media is the reason that I got to meet my estranged, biological father at age 20.
It’s hard to speak poorly on something that has influenced my life in an unthinkable amount of ways, from access to information to connection to people in one hundred different time zones.
And truthfully, I don’t find the need to speak poorly on social media because I don’t think social media is a problem.
However, it’s clear that there is a problem.
And it happens to be our relationship with it.
We as a collective have grown an insane amount of dependency on social media, and I don’t even blame us for it. How could we not! It’s one of the most addictive platform to date. It’s given us the ability to have pretty much the entire world within our palm. There’s no way Jack Dorsey had any idea that Twitter would hold the amount of power that it holds when he went about creating it, but here we are.
I’ve witnessed, as well as experienced, social media manifest itself into crevices of our lives where it has no business being, and I truly think it’s time we acknowledge the elephant (or, I guess, bird?) in the room here.
Here are some ways in which I’ve seen us be negatively affected by our relationship with social media + tips on how to counteract it.
We End Up Comparing Our Lives to False Representations of Happiness
No one online is being 100% honest about their lives. No one is showing the downs, the days they don’t want to get out of bed, the days they’re bloated, the days they can’t seem to stand their significant other. But instead, they show the instances in between where everything seems perfect. I once read instagram described as “a highlight reel of our lives” and that couldn’t be more true! So with that in mind, how damaging do you think it is to be constantly comparing our very real lives to the exploited and manipulated version of others? It isn’t a fair game. We make ourselves feel less than for not looking like that girl we follow on instagram, or having her relationship, or job, or happiness, when in reality we’re not even sure SHE has it in the first place.
Tip: If you want to share yourself online, do so! But be honest. Share about the days that you feel like the baddest bitch in the building, but also share about the days when you feel insecure and unable to wear anything other than sweatpants. If we were all honest about our circumstances, we wouldn’t make each other feel inadequate. In fact, we might even connect a little more.
We Place Dependency on “Likes” and “Retweets”
The search for self worth is one of the most pivotal moments in one’s coming of age. What are we going to define ourselves by? Our careers? Our marital status? Our physique? The correct answer is of course by the merit of our individual soul, and we’re all eventually supposed to figure that out, but social media has complicated things. There’s a rush that you get when you post a good selfie, and are responded with an influx of “likes” and “retweets”. This high becomes addictive, whether you consciously recognize it or not, so much so that we end up fully depending our self worth on this very thing. We feel as though we lose value when what we post isn’t responded to in a validating manner.
Tip: Look in the mirror every morning and repeat to yourself that you are beautiful and you are worthy (because you really ARE!) Make sure to look yourself in the eyes and really connect to yourself. It may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, and you may not even feel like you believe it, but with time it becomes much easier, and will start to have a positive impact on your self image.
We Become Uncomfortable with Actual Human to Human Interaction
The amount of social anxiety in our generation is not normal. That’s really the simplest way I can put it. I see way too many people talk about how much face to face interaction makes them anxious, and how they avoid even the simplest of tasks because it involves engaging with another person. We have become so accustomed to existing and communicating behind a screen, that it is no longer within our nature or attention span to hold a conversation with another human being. And that’s crazy! We’ve found ourselves so deep in this comfort zone I’m unsure if we’ll ever be able to dig ourselves out.
Tip: Make the effort once a day to have at least a short conversation with a stranger. Whether it be your grocery store clerk, a neighbor you see while walking your dog, or that classmate that usually sits next to you and you’ve never spoken a word to. Find a commonality and point it out, you’ll be surprised how good you feel after exchanging energies with a person.
The point of this article isn’t at all the further you from social media. Honestly, I don’t even think that’d be possible this far late in the game.
Nor am I excluding myself from the narrative. I made it a task to not check my notifications while writing this article, and let me tell you— I failed. Miserably.
But there is a lot of power in awareness, and if we take the time to recognize how we’re being negatively affected, perhaps we can make the effort to reverse its impact. Keep on tweeting, keep on instagramming, but make sure you lock and put your phone down sometimes. Go for a walk. Tell somebody they’re beautiful. Face a fear. Eat a delicious meal or achieve a special goal and DON’T post it. Enjoy your own triumph and live your life offscreen as much as you possibly can.
Oh, and another practical tip: PRINT YOUR PHOTOS!!! I know I sound like that irrational 90-year-old that thinks all technology is gonna crash one day but like…
what if it does……….