I’ve been on some kind of social media since I was 11 or 12. I got Facebook before the ‘allowed’ age of 13, with the condition that I had my mum as a friend, and it was actually my mum that suggested I got Twitter too. I currently have; one personal Facebook account, one blog Facebook page, one personal Twitter account and one that I manage (Young Farmers of the UK), one personal Instagram account, one blog Instagram account and one Snapchat account. As part of my job I also work on one Facebook page, four Twitter accounts, and one Instagram account. I wonder how many times a day my phone buzzes with notifications.
The advantages of social media are often clear, and I have certainly benefitted from them. I’ve met some fantastic people, via Twitter especially, and had some brilliant opportunities thanks to my presence on social media. I’ve learnt a lot from people online, and have/am using social media to grow my ‘online profile’ in terms of this blog, other writing, and the Young Farmers of the UK Twitter account.
But I often find myself less than impressed with the way that time on social media leaves me feeling. Sometimes it’s as simple as being annoyed at a comment directed at someone else, and sometimes I’m actually flung into the foulest of moods just through something I’ve seen online. As someone who could go on and on about the benefits of social media, I also see a lot of downsides to it.
One of my main issues with social media at the minute is the constant ‘bad news stream’ that seems to be happening. I’m not saying I want to be cut off from world events, but there’s a consistent layer of negativity constantly when you’re online, which is almost impossible to escape. And that does begin to affect you, or it has certainly affected me in the past. I’d find myself just scrolling aimlessly through social media, reading headline after headline of negative news, finding myself questioning everything I thought was good in the world, it often makes me want to cut myself off and live in a log cabin somewhere.
There’s also the time consumption. Hours and hours of just refreshing, scrolling, maybe reading an article, refreshing, scroll again. Social media never stops, there’s always something to be looking at. It isn’t that I haven’t got better things to be doing, because I have, I have loads of things I could be doing, but it’s so easy to just spend time aimlessly thumb flicking. It provides you with a very good distraction from things that are even remotely more difficult, including actually talking to the people you’re with.
Probably the biggest negative effect of social media I’ve been experiencing recently is the constant comparison to other people’s lives and what they’re doing. I find this especially with Instagram and Snapchat, when you can physically see what other people are doing, documenting their lives, their relationships, their meals (Guilty of this one!), on social media, through an ‘aesthetic’ photo or a funny Snapchat story. Social media is great at letting you show the world what you want them to see, but how often do people want to show the effects of a bad day, an argument with someone, a rubbish mood? 90% of what we see on social media, is people sharing something they know makes their life look good. And it’s so hard to remember that someone’s social media profile isn’t actually their entire life.
I think social media can really bring out some ugly sides to my personality, it’s so easy to get caught up in comparing your life to other peoples, that you forget to be grateful for what you’ve got. I’m really working on catching myself when I feel envious, or angry, or upset by things I see on social media, and trying to remind myself of everything I have. Not letting someone else’s holiday pictures make me ungrateful for the time away I’ve had. Not letting someone else’s night out make me feel lonely for being on my own for a weekend. Not letting someone else’s restaurant meal make me feel like I’ve never had a nice dinner.
So I hope it isn’t just me that sometimes feels that social media is more of a hindrance than a help, but I’m trying to work on how I react to what I see on social media because even though sometimes it makes me feel crap, I don’t think it should, or will, change. Although, I might start putting together a ‘Things I Don’t Post On Social Media’ blog, just to improve the balance.