Social media has become a big part of our lives. People spend hours every day on apps like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. These apps have a significant impact on people’s moods and behaviours which can be both negative and positive even though most of the research focuses more on the negative side. It is important to study the impact of social media because there are over a billion people who use social media worldwide in their daily lives.
Let’s start by talking about how social media has helped people rebuild their lives. Many cancer patients have healed because they recorded their journey through social media blogs which helped them connect with other people and know that there is someone out there wishing well for them. Similarly, a study was conducted which focused on women who had had a miscarriage. They came on social media and spoke about their trauma. Speaking about such things takes courage and especially those topics which have a social stigma attached to them. So one might wonder what it takes for people to come and share their story which also happened during the #MeToo movement.
Through social media, it is easy to find people who have gone through similar experiences as you, and have the courage to post them online which they may not have been able to do in real life. This broad-spectrum sharing is a definite characteristic of social media. It makes it easier for others to express support or share a similar experience to build strength in numbers, educating others and reducing social stigma. Researchers call this behaviour as “network-level reciprocal disclosures.” Behaviour which is becoming more prevalent on social networks today is at the heart of movements like #MetToo.
Hence, even talking about daily lifestyle struggles can attract people who feel exactly like you which can help you in building a strong social system. This can help you in coping with your self-esteem issues and give you a feeling of being in control of your life. Social media is also helpful when people feel helpless as it gives them a platform to have a voice and be part of online movements or even start one.
On the other hand, too much overwhelming news and information can be a lot to process and make you feel anxious. Social media has some disadvantages such as unsolicited advice, triggering news and overflow of information. There is also a whole influencer culture where we see other people travelling to beautiful places, wearing good clothes and getting paid to wear beautiful outfits which can make you feel like your life is not good enough and also create body image issues and bring your self-esteem down. So it’s easy to get lost because of all the disadvantages but if you work on making social media safe for you, there is a lot that can be done.
Firstly, you can try to regulate your use of social media and spend less time on it. This can help you to make time for other equally important things that will give you happiness and a sense of self. You can also leave social media completely even though it may seem impossible in the kind of times we live in. Hence, it is easier to regulate and decrease your screen time.
Secondly, it’s important to check the kind of content you follow. You need to prioritise what you want to see on social media, for example, a person who gets easily triggered by news should only follow pages that don’t have news, or a person with body image issues should try to follow body positive pages and influencers who do not enforce stereotypical body types. Social media is becoming a more inclusive and informed place but it mostly depends on what kind of content you follow.
Thirdly, you can try to follow the pages of people who inspire or understand you. For example, reading quotes that describe your mood can make you feel like you are understood or meeting people online who have the same taste in music as you can also elevate your mood.
Lastly, creating a safe social media space also means giving a limited number of people access to you and your life. You should only follow the people who don’t judge you and encourage you to be who you are on the internet. Even if you have a public account, you can still block people who make you feel uncomfortable. It is also important to remember life outside social media but if you still struggle with anxiety related to social media, you can always seek external support to work on the underlying issues. Fear of missing out or FOMO is one such fear that people usually have. If it gets out of hand and becomes disruptive then it’s better to work on why that fear exists in the first place. So try to be in control of what content you consume on social media and question any negative thoughts that you may have because of social media.
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