Firstly, we should consider it a privilege to be able to have and engage in social media. The word “elite” comes from the word “literacy” both referring to the distinction between the unlettered. (Strate, 2008)

Prior to all communication technologies whether that be the printing press, telegraph,

telephone, newspaper, radio or TV; each of these received notable backlash and scrutiny before they were integrated in civilisation. It was thought that Newspapers would corrupt minds and TVs would mean people would stay inside and never leave their house, and whilst civilisations have managed to move on from these rather sceptical and pessimistic positions, there is still a part of each technology, that as it progresses, appears to become more and more addictive.

If I was to tell you that I consumed a substance every morning when I woke up and every night before bed, and during the day, you would say I was hooked to that substance right? Or that I looked at porn every morning, every night and during the day, that I was a sex addict. Though when we think of our phones, do we have the same judgment, and if not why not? If it’s something we do every day, every morning and every night, then the behaviour is addictive at its core, is it not?

We are addicted.

90% of 18 – 29 years olds are on social media (Parnell 2017), and we spend on average of two hours on social media. Facebook users share 2.5 million pieces of content per minute (The School of Life, 2014)

Anything we do at this kind of frequency is worthy of scrutiny, critique and self-exploration.

There are unintended consequences of social media on mental and social health. Developmentally children are more vulnerable to technology. (Big Think, 2017) and there are higher reported cases of depression and anxiety in young adults. We need to start protecting our own and others’ phycological safety.

Our self-esteem is so closely linked to social media because the product or service as it were, is YOU. We develop social currency by attributing value to others and ourselves as if we are a good or service. Professionals in media and communications refer to it as the ‘economy of attention’. Our brittle and precious egos become none less than a transaction. A series of small moments, whether that be one like here or there, a hater here, to a little bit of name calling there, a touch of sexism, racism elitism here and there and everywhere. It all adds up to become a bigger problem. I will never forget my first hater. It was like a kick in the guts. But it did teach me early on in my public career to harness a wall of self-protection and learn about the psychology of haters. It helped a lot knowing the issue really does lie with them. And I must say I did take some morbid satisfaction in the fact that they must have miserable lives.

We must ask, what do we want in our lives? Why do we post the things we do? Do we genuinely want to share something with the world or is it ego driven?

And whilst we are in the information age, we are also in the mis-information age. The ability to critically analyse information as it comes across our screen is getting harder and harder.

Bailey Parnell suggests the more you define your own values, the less likely you are to be affected by the number of likes you get. Though I think we have sailed the “values” bandwagon a bit too much and people are using the term a little too frequently for my liking to the point where it is becoming rhetoric. “It just doesn’t align with my values” is a phrase I hear that I frequently ask people why they have the values they do and upon inquiry, many are not willing to examine their own biases or question why they hold the values they do. They just have them. Own them. But even with my disdain of people’s over use of the word ‘values’, still, there is merit in looking at values.

So, what is the solution?

  1. Look at your principles, morals, standards, values. What are you trying to achieve on social media?
  2. Recognise your addictions and your own patterns of behaviour? How many hours a day are you interacting with a screen?
  3. Audit your social media use. There are apps everywhere for this and they are incredibly enlightening / slightly depressing.
  4. Create a better online experience for others – is the content you are “putting out there” positive, uplifting, honest, credible, sourced correctly, real?
  5. Unfollow people who bring you down or post the same stuff. People who do not grow and evolve are quickly removed from my feed. I have started unfollowing statements like “you deserve it” “I love you” “click/double tap if you agree” “Tag someone who needs to read this” Bullshit you love me – you don’t even know me. Bullshit I deserve it – I don’t deserve anything more than the next person. These kind of comments are preying on those with low self-esteem or wanting to prop up their own content – and for what? TO help their audience – I don’t think so.
  6. Start following people that are inspirational, make you laugh, are intelligent, witty and those that are smarter than you or offer unique perspectives. You have the power to curate your feed. So do it.
  7. And please, please please, stop with the echo chambers? You know the social media accounts that have other social media accounts that all support each other out of obligation. It reminds me of the soggy sao biscuit story in high school. (Google it if you need to). It really does get tiresome and it is painfully obvious what is going on. No one grows in a place where egos are continually stroked. Shallow responses and comments all for what? People grow by having good friends challenge ideas, contribute in meaningful ways, develop and further discussions or inquire about your thoughts and statements with a view to broaden knowledge. The best friendships I have are the ones that are thought-provoking, develop ideas and thought, not the ones who just high five every comment like we are in year 10 in high school.

Social media is neither good nor bad – it is just the most recent tool we use to communicate. It will likely become obsolete in its current form, one day and something else will replace it that we will need to be equally, if not more, cautious and of how it interferes with our life and the effect on our phycological well-being.

 

References:

Big Think (2017, July 25) Social Media’s Dark Side: How Facebook and Snapchat Try to Steal Our Self-Worth, Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/HBRLMoL_vTQ

Fuller, M. (2005). Seams, memes, and flecks of identity in Media ecologies: Materialist energies in art and technoculture(pp.109-166). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT press.

Strate, L. (2008). Studying media as media: McLuhan and the media ecology approachMedia Tropes1, 127–142. Available : http://www.mediatropes.com/index.php/Mediatropes/issue/view/174

TEDx Talks (2017, Jun 22) Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health? | Bailey Parnell | Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/Czg_9C7gw0o

The School of Life (2014, December 8) The Dangers of the Internet. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/uquRzrcwA18