In the wake of recent high-profile suicides, I wanted to discuss how I really feel about social media.
As a copywriter, I use social media as a business tool. But I’m also a twenty-four year old using social media to catch up with friends, share aspects of my life and pass the time when I’m feeling bored.
Now, I don’t believe social media is inherently bad. In fact, I think it can be brilliant when used for good. Because of apps like Twitter, news stories not picked up by mainstream media can go viral, petitions can be signed by millions in a matter of minutes, and GoFundMe’s are created every second that help to save thousands of lives. And because of Twitter accounts like @dog_rates, I’m never more than 30 seconds away from a cute dog photo.
The bad side of social media is where insecurity breeds, comparisons are made and we all feel like the grass is greener on the other side.
Now, I’m going to raise my hands here and say that I often contribute to this problem. Now and again I’ll have a moan on Twitter about something in my life, or I’ll share a story in a blog post, but for the most part, I use social media to depict a highlight reel of my life.
I’m most guilty of this on Instagram, where I only post photos that show the good times. I don’t fake anything I do, nor do I pretend to be someone I’m not, however I’ll only share the parts of my life that present me in a good light. Someone who’s got their shit together. In reality, I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. I’m working my ass off trying to keep up with a timeline of achievements that I believe I’m already behind on. I stress and overthink pretty much everything. I’m the worst for comparing myself to others and I regularly think that I’m failing at so many things. And social media plays a big part in this.
The truth is, everybody is on a different path. Some of the things you see on social media are real, some of them are not. Maybe that girl who travels the world for free is living her best life, and good for her. But there’s a reason why she has millions of followers. Her life isn’t most people’s reality, and that’s why people are so hooked on seeing more.
It’s easy to look at a glossy instagram account and believe someone has their shit together, but as recent events have shown, that’s not always the case.
When it comes to the state of your mental health, I believe social media is a huge influencing factor. How can it not be? Even if you aren’t conscious of it, the content you consume is shaping your view of the world, even your own life.
After recent suicides and an increase in social media related mental health issues, I believe it’s time we change the way we interact online. Our generation has been given this incredible tool that allows us to connect with the world, share our thoughts and feelings and enact change.
As heartbreaking as these recent suicides are, they’re showing us the real problem that’s at hand. It’s time we change the way we share online, and start being more vulnerable and open with each other. By talking to each other about how we really feel, supporting others with their endeavours and being honest about our failures as well as our successes, we can help the next generation of social media users to have a better online experience, one that builds them up instead of knocking them down.
This isn’t something that will change overnight. There are plenty of influencers making their living from sharing their ‘perfect’ lives. And there will always be aspects of our human nature to battle with, parts of us that don’t want to be vulnerable. But I do believe that being aware of how you consume content, in particular how it makes you feel, and using that to shape the way you share content online, can only have a positive effect.
It’s something I’m trying to do a bit more anyway, starting here, starting now.