Social media cops a lot stick these days. Something we all once envisioned as the savior of our times has now become that creepy, lurking neighbor we’re all beginning to feel a bit wary of. The sort of guy you peep at through your window in the safety of your own home and start a neighborhood watch over.
Sometimes I feel this whole social media thing is not dissimilar to being at school again.
Facebook – the one who knows it all. Any question you ask he’s got the answers (and by answers I mean all of our data perfectly packaged ready to be sold to the highest bidder). Twitter – the friend who just doesn’t know when to shut up. Snapchat – the friend from primary school who got left behind. Lastly, Instagram the prom queen. Voted the winner. Although secretly half the crowd hopes she might fall off the stage and crack her precious crown. She’s the popular kid that everyone loves to hate.
The truth is that we revel in our discontent eager for more fuel to add to the fire. It’s a filthy habit we refuse to quit. When it comes down to it, even when given the option to walk away, we just can’t help ourselves.
I spent five years studying Media and Digital Marketing at Uni. I chose those courses because I wanted to be a DJ like Annie Mac because I was passionate about helping businesses and brands communicate better with their audiences. I was intrigued and fascinated by this whole online world. Everything was changing so quickly. I felt excited to be a part of it.
However, throughout the time, I felt myself becoming more and more jaded by what I was learning and seeing. People becoming extremely discontent with their lives because they didn’t live up to ‘Instagram standards’. Brands getting further from the customers they claimed to love. When I left the UK in 2016 I felt like turning my back on all of it.
It’s taken me a while to get to this point, but I’m confident that social media can be a positive catalyst for change. I believe our experiences have the power to bring us closer to one another. Social media gives everyone a voice. For some, those voices are encouraging us to believe that our lives and our person are not enough.
For others, those voices inspire us to get out of bed in the morning. Build our dreams. Show us whats possible. Let us know we’re not alone in what we’re going through. Tell us we really need to get off our assess and down to H&M because they’re offering 20% off and that’s a deal that’s just too good to miss. Do you hear me? Too. Good. To. Miss!
If we want social media to work for us we have to work with it, not against it. We have to be willing to take the images and the lives we see on social media as they come. If we’re not already awake we need to build our awareness. Social media and reality are not interchangeable. They never will be. But here’s the kicker. Authenticity breeds authenticity.
If you don’t like what you’re seeing be a part of the change. This doesn’t mean you need to stop uploading your best photos or chucking a cheeky filter on to bring out the colour of your hair. It means be real. Let people know you’re a human. You have shit days, so do I.
Sometimes those shots that aren’t quite perfect are a story in and of themselves. Don’t be afraid to share that with people. If you want to. There’s something to be said of giving too much of yourself away online, but you yourself know what you’re comfortable with. I was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness and it can feel very lonely.
I certainly wasn’t about to upload pictures of me crying, curled up in pain for the world to see. I own that and it’s my right to choose who will share those days with me. Just like it’s your right to share your pain points whatever they are.
It’s easy to blame Instagram models, bloggers, or in fact anyone, for the discontent in your life. To covet the lives of others and jealously look on at other’s successes wondering why the most exciting thing that’s happened to you is your takeaway driver arriving five minutes early. I know this because I’ve been there.
But it’s not fair and it’s not right. If something or someone on your feed makes you feel like any less than the badass man/woman/other that you are then get rid of them.
Follow accounts that inspire you to do, be and have more. That make you laugh and ugly cry. Accounts that awaken feelings and encourage you to question what the universe has in store. For you, for me – for all of us.
When people call out celebrities for making irresponsible decisions on their social media I’m always torn about which school of thought to follow. On the one hand, they have so much influence and power that they have a responsibility to use it for good. On the other, to a certain degree, it’s our job to tell our kids and ourselves the truth about these social ‘realities’.
As someone who’s experienced, and still experiences, anxiety, and depression I know what it’s like to wake up and feel like you’re not enough. That you’re not doing enough. Or that somehow you’re different. On those days you have to muster up all the willpower you can manage and unglue your eyeballs from the screen. Switch off for a few days. Rebalance your energies.
Whether on social media or real life we’re always going to compare ourselves to people or even feel a bit of jealousy. It’s what makes us human and our similarities, and differences, are what connect us to one another.
I think when you take away all the noise – the outrage about the chronological feed, the algorithm scares, the likes – I truly believe that’s what is still at the heart of everything. It just got a bit lost along the way.
Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic, but give it a try and prove me wrong.
What about you guys? Do you think social media is bad for your mental health? How has it affected you? Let me know!