By Jimmy Warden
A baby was born in 2004. By the time it was four years old, it was known worldwide. Little did the world know this infant would become one of the most famous teenagers ever known. Not only that, its intelligence would skyrocket. Since birth, it has come to know 1.7 billion people by name. It also inspired other babies to spawn, in 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2016. The tragic part of this story is it has inflated the levels of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem in humans.
The baby born that was born in 2004 is, of course, Facebook. The babies born in the other years that were mentioned are Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. They’re a great way to connect with family members we don’t see frequently, friends we’ve lost touch with, share inspirational quotes and videos, and show the world what we’re up to each day. They’re also platforms where we can develop our own “personal brand” and profit off it. That’s the skinny on the positive aspects of social media.
Cons of Consuming Content on Social Media
With pros, there are always cons, and the cons of social media seem to outweigh its pros. For starters, they’re all manipulative interfaces. For example, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok gather search data from all of their users so they can find marketing ads that are tailored to each user’s searches. Social media leverages this information by strategically finding more content for every user to engage with. Invasive, right? This Jedi mind trick is also a way to get the user to become a larger consumer. If we’re into health and wellness, and we click on a few health and wellness posts, we’ll end up having suggestions for accounts to follow or more posts to click on; this is also deceitful. Then, we’ll spend too much time going down the rabbit hole that was served to us on a silver platter by the social media platform. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In a way, social media is its own world. People create posts that show their best selves. But then again, what does best mean in these situations? Best means filtered bodies; specific camera angles and lighting; snippets in time; the highlights of a performance. Then, we consume all of this and compare everyone’s life to ours. As a result, we feel anxious and depressed because everyone seems to have a better life than we do. We see men and women in tremendous physical shape, but we forget their lighting, posing, and camera angles are designed to make them look better than they do; then, we feel bad about our physique because we think it needs a lot of work. We see people on an exotic vacation or moving into their dream home, and then we believe life sucks where we live. We see highlights from sports, dances, plays, and concerts; then, we think people perform like that 24/7. These posts we see are just moments captured; they’re not always reality.
Cons of Creating Content on Social Media
Creating content on social media is as easy as taking a picture and uploading it, writing a post about how you feel, or sharing a video that you made or found somewhere. However, the downfall of this is we put a lot of value into the reactions we get. These reactions are likes, comments, retweets, reposts, etcetera. When we don’t get the reactions we were anticipating, we experience disappointment. When we do, all can be hunky-dory, but we still have an inner feeling that there should have been more positive feedback from our post. This is a big reason why teenagers (and adults!) are more depressed and anxious than ever. Not only are we comparing ourselves to everyone in the world, but we’re also expecting to have a high level of engagement on our social media posts, and we experience those hard emotions when we don’t get the engagement we wanted.
The comments we receive strongly influence our emotional well-being. If we post something meaningful to us and we receive judgemental comments, it hurts our self-esteem. It makes us believe what we shared is meaningless and stupid because others don’t agree with it or find value in it. This prevents us from wanting to post more in the future because we’ll be anticipating someone saying something critical.
What to do?
I know I’ve been bashing social media for most of this blog post, but there are some ways that we can use social media positively.
1.) Use social media with a purpose
Having a purpose for social media helps filter out its noise, figuratively and literally. If your purpose for using it is to stay in touch with family members and friends who live far away from you, use the platform in that way. No need to get sucked down a rabbit hole of nonsense. If your purpose is to create content that inspires people, go for it! Post what you want to post, knowing your post is meaningful to you and those that consume your content.
2.) Rise above judgement
This is primarily for people who create content. This is a message I often remind myself of when I’m losing motivation to make new material. It’s hard to keep in mind because we want the approval of others, but it’s a sad reality that there are people out there who spend a chunk of their waking hours passing judgment on what other people share. Be better than those people, and block them from your page if necessary.
3.) Be aware of the rabbit holes
If you’ve ever mindlessly scrolled social networks (let’s be real, all of us have at some point!), part of the reason why you don’t stop is you’re unaware that you’ve been sucked into your phone like quicksand. So, you just keep scrolling. Other times you click on ad that popped up because of what you’ve been consuming, and before you know it, you’re hopping onto the website of the ad. Next time you find yourself doing this, try to catch yourself before you get sucked in too much. If you’re able to do that, you’re honing your skills of mindful technology use.
4.) Take planned breaks
There will be times when social media is too much to handle. Instead of fighting that beast, tame it. Block out time each day or each week to not use social media. This will help create more of a balance in your usage habits, and it will allow you to decrease your dependency.