I personally can not stand social media. I have pondered a lot about the ways it impacts the mind; beyond the basics. We have all heard about the detrimental effects of social media. We have all heard adults making comments about our generation’s lack of physical communication and not “living in the moment” due to our captivation with our phones. And as social media culture has skyrocketed, the more abstract cons have been widely publicized as well, such as its impact on mental health.
But if you really think about it, there are even deeper ways all these mediums have changed us.
I used to have social media until a year and two months ago when I deleted my accounts. I had the usuals: Instagram and Snapchat. I had Twitter for a couple weeks toward the end of my social media lifetime, but I could not take it. To be frank, social media ruined my mental health. I was not able to handle the constant influx of picture-perfect, sugar-coated postings. And even if the posts were not picture-perfect or sugar-coated, I could not control my relentless comparison to whatever the contents of the posts were. Whoever and whatever it was.
Comparison was the primary downfall of social media for me. It is all so overwhelming. All these stimuli bombarding and polluting your brain. Plus, there are now a million different social media platforms and some people keep up with them all. How do those people not go insane? I genuinely admire their mental stability. It is beyond me. It is all a black hole
I feel that social media is reinforcing a culture of caring about what’s going on in everybody else’s lives and what everybody else is doing. It is also further establishing a culture of caring that others know what’s going on in our own lives.
But do either of these things really matter?
I think it is all disengaging people from their lives. Instead of living, people are taking time out of their days to document their lives for others to see. I am not trying to shame people; live and let live. I just like to question the motives behind things. I think social media really has the power to intensify how much we care about what others think of us and our craving to show off.
These things are completely natural, but apps like Instagram and Snapchat can make us care way too much. It can also enlarge our need for validation in unhealthy ways and make us more self-absorbed. Caring so much about what others are doing with their lives can be dangerous and throw us off the course of our own lives. Sure, other people’s lives can be a source of inspiration. But more often than not, we feel more drained and envious rather than inspired after scrolling through someone’s Instagram account.
Likewise, caring so much about if others know what is going on in your own life is equally unhealthy. The problem with Instagram profiles is that they are these collections of pictures and videos that we are seeing all at once; although, all these posts gradually happened over time.
Another problem with Instagram itself is that we can see multiple profiles at once. When I used to compare myself and my life, I would cherry-pick things I was jealous of from each profile/person. But later I came to the realization that each profile just had one or two things I compared, but here I was making this conglomeration of things in my head expecting my life and myself to have all of these characteristics.
According to author Jean Twenge, author of the book “iGen” and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, “We found a substantial increase in major depression or suicidal thoughts, psychological distress, and more attempted suicides after 2010, versus the mid-2000s, and that increase was by far the largest in adolescents and young adults. These trends are weak or non-existent among adults 26 years and over, suggesting a generational shift in mood disorders instead of an overall increase across all ages.”
Social media has subconsciously changed the way we think. I believe it has made us shallower and has increased the superficiality in our society. Through social media, standards and norms are more publicized; they have therefore become more prevalent in our lives. There is no doubt it gives us an insanely unrealistic vision of what life is or should be. I started to see lives as Instagram profiles, like these packages that can be summed up, as if a human life is an entity that consists of set things.
But a human life is an experience for the beholder. A human life is being in the moment; the things we do and the things that happen to us. Having this abstract “profile” that “encompasses” who a person is and what their life is like has inevitably changed the way we think about people, whether we realize it or not. When we see a person’s social media account online, we form interpretations of who they are and what they are like.
I do not mean negative judgments, just general impressions. For those with social media, no longer can we truly think of a person as who they are in the moment when we are interacting with them. There will always be that image of who they are on social media in the back of our minds that influences our overall perception of them.
That is not necessarily a bad thing; it is just human nature, what we are exposed to changes our notions. But I just think it is sad. It totally changes the dynamic of how we get to know people; truly knowing nothing about them until you learn about them from what comes out of their mouth or other people’s mouths.
Imagine a world without social media and simply knowing people for who they are when you interact in person; not knowing who they are associated with or what their life is like according to an abstract account on the internet. Before social media, that is how it was. It is so strange to think that that is how adults’ lives were when growing up. There was not all this information about people and things readily available. Now we are so informed about every person who actively uses social media accounts.
Some argue that social media helps us learn about different people and the world and different lifestyles; it exposes us to much more than we would probably ever come across in our own bubbles. That is definitely true. But maybe “ignorance is bliss” is a popular phrase for a reason and maybe limited exposure is natural and good for us? I don’t know, it is all confusing. I guess there’s no “supposed to” in life. Life is complete imperfection.
Social media is not all that bad of course. It can also ironically be a stress reliever. Memes, inspirational quotes, funny videos. I understand. I do. And I understand people wanting to be in the loop. But I am fine with being up in the clouds away from it all; unaware of teenage norms and pop culture and what my peers consider desirable. It is all up to you.