SOCIAL MEDIA: HELPFUL OR HINDERING?

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Submitted Date 03/05/2019
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I think we can all agree that social media has become a huge part of all of our lives. We carry it with us everywhere in our purses or back pockets and can access it at any time right there in the palms of our hands. We have so many different apps and websites now. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest...the list goes on. But is social media helping us or hindering us?

Social media is great for many different reasons. It allows us to connect with people from all around the world, allowing us to meet and get to know people who we may never have gotten to know otherwise. It’s a great way to brand yourself and your company. A way to keep in touch with loved ones and share pieces of your life with your friends and family from all over the world. In a lot of ways, social media brings people together. Is the connection that social media creates between us a genuine one though?

How many times have you seen someone who you know in real life post about love and light and positivity on their social media accounts when you know that in person, they are rude or selfish or apathetic? How many times have you made an internet friend who portrays themselves as this great, kind, loving person via social media, but then when you do finally meet them in real life, they aren’t that person at all? I know that this is something I’ve experienced pretty frequently. On social media, you can make yourself out to be whatever you want to be. You get to pick and choose the parts of yourself that you want people to see. In my opinion, this makes a lot of the connections formed on social media not as genuine as they would be had you met each other in a real life setting.

This is not to say that all people portray themselves as something that they aren’t, but with social media, you never get to see the full picture. You don’t get to see the ten selfies someone discarded because the lighting or the angle wasn’t right. You only see the eleventh one that they settled on when they got the lighting and angle perfect. You don’t see photos of people laying in bed because it’s winter and the seasonal depression is hitting pretty hard and they have no motivation to get up or do anything. Instead, you see smiling pictures of people on vacation or out with their friends or playing with their dog. We all create this picture perfect persona and post the photos and statuses that we think will get the most likes because for reasons we cant really put into words, these digital likes and heart reacts give us a sense of fulfillment.

A lot of the time, we’re so absorbed with trying to keep a strong social media presence that we forget to be present in our day to day lives. Rather than going to a concert and getting lost in the music, we’re busy trying to get a good Snapchat video of it so that all of our friends know that we are here and having a good time. Rather than going to a restaurant and enjoying the meal with whoever you came with, we’re busy snapping pictures of our meals for Instagram and spending the entirety of the meal checking to see if anyone has liked the post yet. And when our photos or statuses don’t receive as many likes as we had hoped for, then we begin to feel self conscious. We go into a state of panic and debate whether we should take it down. But if we do, then the people who have already seen it will know we took it down. But then again if we don’t, then we’ll be that person who only got X amount of likes on their picture or status. I certainly have gone through this before, and it can really give you a lot of anxiety if you let it.

Since everyone is always posting their best selfies or photos of them traveling the world or out with friends or accomplishing their dreams, it is also very easy to begin to compare yourself to other people on social media. It’s easy to compare accomplishments, to compare experiences, to compare looks...everything until you begin to pick yourself apart. As a woman, I feel like it’s especially difficult not to compare yourself to all of the Instagram models and influencers who have taken over that app by storm. With their perfectly even brows and long, voluminous hair and thin but curvy bodies. It’s hard to constantly look at these photos of all of these beautiful women and not begin to compare yourself to them. It’s hard to take a step back and remind yourself that they are people too and just like you, they have their good and their bad days. Their job is to make themselves as aesthetically pleasing as possible and post photos of that. But despite having this knowledge, I still find myself scrolling though my feed, seeing all these pictures of all these beautiful women and feeling a pang of insecurity. Or seeing people post about these amazing job opportunities that they’ve been offered or having success with their art and feeling like I’m not doing well enough in my own life in comparison, like I should be further ahead.

Despite all of these things, I don’t think that social media is all bad, but I do think that too much use of it can become very detrimental. I think that once your social media presence becomes more of a priority than being present in your day to day life, that it is hindering you moreso than helping you. I also think that once you feel your mental or emotional wellbeing suffering due to social media, that it is definitely hindering you. However, as much as I feel like social media is very hindering to us as a society, I still check my Facebook daily, I still use Instagram to share photos and promote my work, and I still watch people’s Snapchat stories. In fact, I can’t really imagine my life without social media because I do use it so much. It’s an addiction for me and a lot of other people. I reach for my phone so instinctually to scroll through my Facebook feed. It’s habitual, like a security blanket almost. However, whenever I do feel myself being too negatively effected or consumed by social media, I try my best to put my phone away and either pick up a book or a pen and paper to write, go outside to take a walk, or go to the gym to work out. I try to do something that requires my full attention so that I can be fully present in real life rather than lost in my Facebook feed. While I don’t think that social media is going to go away any time soon, I do think that there are ways that we can try to keep it from becoming a negative thing in our lives, and limiting our use of it and remembering to remain present in our day to day lives is the most effective way to do that.

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  • Tomas Chough 5 months, 2 weeks ago

    I think that once your social media presence becomes more of a priority than being present in your day to day life, that it is hindering you moreso than helping you. I also think that once you feel your mental or emotional wellbeing suffering due to social media, that it is definitely hindering you.
    This is definitely it. The moment it's controlling you in every way and you're constantly reactive to it, it's a problem. I'm a musician so I almost need to use it as well and it helps a lot. But I do my best to use it as a tool for the most part and not just to consume nonsense all day. If I find myself constantly opening Instagram, I might even delete it sometimes (for a couple hours) because it distracts me from my work. It's definitely about a balance that isn't easy to achieve. Thanks for sharing Alexis!

    • Alexis Bowe 5 months, 2 weeks ago

      I completely agree! It can be like second nature to reach for your phone and open up whatever social media app you use most, so deleting it even if only for a few hours is a great way to stop yourself from falling into that habit!

  • James D. 5 months, 2 weeks ago

    Social media is such a weird thing. It’s been around less than ten years but is already being used by billions of people. We really should do more as a society to manage the negative side of social media.

    • James D. 5 months, 2 weeks ago

      Also: this is why I like Writespike. It’s based on content which is usually very genuine. Not like the carefully-curated social media accounts you normally see. Good article!

  • Nina Appasamy 5 months, 2 weeks ago

    This is a really insightful and accurate piece. I also think that social media can cause someone to get bogged down with all of the depressing news. While it's good to know what's happening in the world, I think it is really stressful to read everything right as it's happening. In some ways, social media is great for how it connects us to the rest of the world, but too much of a connection to the bad stuff that happens every day isn't healthy.

    • Alexis Bowe 5 months, 2 weeks ago

      I totally agree with you on that! It's definitely hard not to get depressed when something awful happens and then your entire social media feed is talking and posting about it for days after.

  • Miranda Fotia 5 months ago

    I agree that there are definitely negative sides to social media. Some people really lack social grace behind their computer screens and it sometimes makes me lose hope for the world. At the same time, it also helps people like me, currently a stay at home mom, feel less isolated. It gives me an opportunity to connect with adults, and that means a lot when most of my daily conversations in person are with a child, people at the store, and my very quiet husband. I guess it's both a source of anxiety and relief for me. Anxiety, when I see so much stupidity and hate on social media, but also a relief when I find someone to converse with that is intelligent and passionate. Great piece!

    • Alexis Bowe 5 months ago

      I've never thought about it from this point of view, so thank you for sharing! It definitely can be very helpful in connecting people, which is one of the most positive aspects of it!

  • Jared Clawson 4 months ago

    As a high-schooler, it's easy to recognize the negatives of social media and its direct effect on mental and emotional health. But at the same time, I think it is a wonderful tool for expanding friendship and social interaction. That's the duality of it I suppose. Thanks for sharing!