I am definitely not the first person to point out the fact that our generation is hiding behind mobile phones and social media profiles. We are getting lazier with our social interactions – so much so, that pre-set emoji as a reaction to a ‘story’, has become a way of interaction. If only I got a Euro for every time I heard (or said myself): “I haven’t heard from him in a week, but he sent a reaction to my story today!”
Social media is part of our lives, whether we like it or not. And I have to be honest, I’m not completely against it. It opens up the possibility to connect with so many people around the world and even though we don’t always manage, we can keep in touch with old/distant friends. We have the medium to express ourselves, encourage others and most importantly, to make others laugh. The exploding ‘Meme’ culture definitely helped to soothe the painful weeks during the Covid-Lockdown.
The problems start, when we become walking Instagram profiles.
It becomes easy to log-out of the real world, our realities and our social connections; the life over which we cannot swipe a filter. We become addicted to the dopamine release triggered by those little heart notifications, and the little thrill of the vibrate, when someone slides in our DMs. But these are just symbols, pictures and sounds. We forget that just by clicking ‘Follow’, doesn’t mean that we are connecting and just because we ‘double-tap to like’, doesn’t mean that we care.
Of course, I can name several other negative aspects of social media and the way it is brainwashing our lives. But let’s be honest; you can delete it from your phone, but it’s still there. All we can do is learn to use it in a positive way and become conscious of the times when it becomes counterproductive and toxic. Be present with the people around you; the ones who will genuinely react to the story you have to tell (and not just with ‘heart-eyes’ or an applause) and be conscious to also reciprocate the attention towards them.
The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is a very recent and good example of how social media can be useful and destructive at the same time. With the world being in ‘lockdown’, and relying on their phones for social interaction, the rate at which the awareness was spread was unbelievable. My newsfeed was flooded with propaganda, posts and disturbing videos. In theory, this immense amount of support for the movement was very emotive and an impact like this would not have been possible 20 years ago. However, this became destructive when people began abusing those who did not appear to ‘post’ or share enough ‘BLM’ content. The #blackouttuesday, encouraged people to post a black square on their profile. This, in theory, was a poignant yet dynamic trend in the aim to show support and recognition towards the racial corruption in our society. Nevertheless, it remains an internet ‘trend’.
I saw many posts which aggressively condemned those who did not post a black square. The absence of a black square does not symbolize racism, nor does the presence of a black square solve any racial discriminations. What matters, is the ongoing conversation and intolerance to any racist behavior (whether that’s on social media or in real life). Ultimately, ‘BLM’ is leading the shift to a greater sense of equality and peace in our world. If this creates more aggression and judgement, then we are heading into another dark hole.
Moral of the story: Social Media can be a blessing and a curse. We have to use it with caution and be aware of the influences that we are consuming.
Another toxicity within our social media world, is body image and our perception of beauty as well as the illusion of a ‘perfect-life’. Instagram is an endless library of eye-candy and engaging visuals tailored to every user. Instagram has also become a platform where vanity almost seems acceptable.
Our news feeds are constantly being refreshed with content, and a good 80% of the time it’s things that make us feel somewhat insecure. Girls showing off their perfect bodies and flawless skin while men flaunt their gains and whatever else in order to nurture their egos. Meanwhile, couples showcase their true love and idyllic holidays. Everything and everyone just seem perfect and happy.
You, and myself included, are ‘everyone’. No one shows the 75 unedited selfies that were taken before ‘the one that gets posted’ #wokeuplikethis. No one films themselves having an argument with their partner and no one sees the awkward positions girls stand in just to create a thigh-gap illusion. We put filters on our lives because for a moment, we even fool ourselves that we have everything figured out and under control.
We have to learn to separate social media from real life. Paint the picture that you want on social media but stay authentic and true to yourself and know that everyone else is also just trying to paint a picture; a picture which they can control.
It also wouldn’t hurt for us to be more mindful of what we are creating as a society and the subconscious effects that we have on one another. We are all connected; on the internet and as a universal collective.
The best way to get around it, is to be conscious and aware of the dangers and toxic potentials that comes with the use of social media. We have to learn to become self aware and identify our addictive tendencies and insecurities and learn to find the root causes. We can also de-clutter our social media platforms by taking a look at the content that appears on our newsfeeds. Ask yourself: How does this influencer/page influence my life/wellbeing? Does this content make me smile or question my own worth? You might be surprised with what you’re left with.
Yours truly, Suzan Xx