Social Media: It’s Complicated

“Social media is toxic,“ says everyone. It’s fascinating to me how people have such a negative relationship with social media because it reminds me of my younger self. I once quit Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter altogether some 6 years ago because I was on a quest to be a minimalist. I have since gone back and abandoned that path, so I can rightfully say “been there, done that”.

Misuse of social media can have a profoundly damaging impact on mental health. I know that from first-hand experience.

As I get older however, I realize the positives of social media more and more. I’d like to encourage everyone to envision what life would be like without social media. Fifty years ago, if you moved to another country, you would have likely lost all contact with your family and friends in the country you left. Now, we no longer have to worry about that because we have a myriad of platforms to connect with people all over the world.  

To give you a little backstory, I spent the first half of my life in Manila, Philippines where I was born and raised, and the other half in Vancouver, Canada, where I currently live. Thanks to social media, I remain in touch with my childhood friends. We still chat once in a while, share personal milestones, and talk about our day-to-day lives with each other. Social media has allowed me to continue my cherished relationships with people who are physically very far away from me. Without Facebook, I think I would have long been forgotten. It’s a privilege that I acknowledge, and that I think most people should as well. Now is probably the best time to be alive because of social media.  

Going back to the perception that social media is toxic, unfortunately, that’s not a lie. Ultimately though, we are responsible for how we use social media.  I believe it boils down to discipline and knowing your limits. For instance, I tend to spend a lot of my social media time on Instagram and Pinterest consuming content because I’m on a mission to discover and cultivate my personal style. As such, I look for inspiration in the fashion community, which dictates my behaviour as a consumer.

Following fashionistas on these platforms, I sometimes feel hopeless that I’ll never be able to afford the designer clothes and shoes that they wear and that I desire for myself. I also sometimes feel extremely unattractive after being exposed to a lot of ridiculously good-looking people. This sense of despair only looms over me after a significant amount of time browsing. I’m estimating, about 1 hour? I could be off, but the bottom line is that I could have prevented myself from feeling this way just by setting boundaries for myself while using social media.

By boundaries, I specifically mean limiting the time I spend browsing. When I first start browsing, the initial feelings are always those of excitement and inspiration, but after a while, I start feeling unproductive, lazy, and down. In my personal experience, it makes a huge difference when I only browse for 10 minutes as opposed to 1 hour.  But when I do browse for 10 minutes, I feel quite happy. Social media has a positive impact on my day.

So often, I hear people complain about other people’s usage of social media. Maybe it’s a neighbour who supports a detestable politician, a family member who is always fooled by fake news, or a classmate from high school who posts 10 selfies a day. Whatever the case, there’s always someone on social media that just somehow triggers a negative reaction from us. This is difficult because I think it takes a great deal of maturity to shield ourselves from getting annoyed by these things. I don’t know yet how to not be affected by certain things on social media, but once again, I will go back to suggesting that we must figure out our boundaries and discipline ourselves.  

At the end of the day, social media is just a tool. We, human beings, wield the power of how we choose to use it. I mostly see social media as a positive these days, after realizing that it has allowed me to maintain and nourish my relationships with friends and loved ones.

However, I’m not immune to the toxicity of social media, as it still impacts my self-esteem and will sometimes trigger some negativity in me. I think this is completely normal and just part of human nature.

If your experience with social media is always negative, however, that’s not healthy. As someone who has once left social media, I have a lot of thoughts about this matter. It’s time to examine your social media life, and perhaps learn where your boundaries are and enforce some discipline in your usage. Use it in a way that suits your life and your needs. Reinvent your relationship with social media. Remember that it’s not your enemy; it’s your ally.  

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

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