Is Social Media Really that Social?

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

I believe that one of the true reasons we are unhappy today is because of the influx of social media. I recognize the dichotomy here. I'm writing a blog that is mostly shared through marketing done on social media. But, here's the thing, social media can be a great tool. It can be an excellent way to reconnect with friends and family. It can be a great way to keep in touch. It can be a great way to share information. AND, it can also be a source of depression, anxiety and feelings of failure.

Why? When I scroll through my feed on various social media accounts, I see so many amazing things happening to people with whom I'm connected. So how can this be detrimental?

Here's the thing, social media tricks us. It fools us into thinking that the posts we see are the totality of a person or situation. Logically, we know they aren't, right? We know that someone posting a picture of themselves surrounded by friends is sharing a moment of their lives. When we sit back, we know that the people that post these "golden" posts have the same challenges we do...bills, arguments, addiction, health issues, etc. But, that's not what we see. We don't see the stress and challenges. We see the good. Sure, we have those downer friends that post nothing but the difficult things that happens to them, but that's not the norm.

People want to present a persona of a perfect, happy life where they are in control of all that happens. They present a life where nothing bad happens to them that they aren't in control of...but we know this isn't life! This isn't anyone's life! Bad things everyone!

How do social media sites trick us? Well, it isn't really their fault, it's ours. Most of us are not intending to make ourselves look like we're living a life we aren't or are we? Maybe we want to portray the perfect life. Maybe for once in our life, we can make people think everything is fabulous. Remember those awkward high school days? Well, look at me now, high school friends! I'm living a life you can only dream of!

Regardless of the WHY or intent, the outcome is the same...the outside world perceives our life as "golden".

I'm not that way on social media. I'm quick to share the challenges of parenting, business and life, in general. I try to balance the good and the bad. Because of this, time and time again, I receive messages of gratitude, from friends and connections, thanking me for being real because so few are. Interesting.

I believe the influx of the "golden" posts on social media cause us to feel like we are alone. We compare. We compare our lives to others. That act of comparison is the problem. I believe the young and naive are more easily influenced by the "golden" posts. Look at this excerpt from an article at the Child Mind Institute.

"A 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the number exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the suicide rate for girls in that age group increased by 65 percent.Smartphones were introduced in 2007, and by 2015 fully 92 percent of teens and young adults owned a smartphone. The rise in depressive symptoms correlates with smartphone adoption during that period, even when matched year by year, observes the study’s lead author, San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge."

The complete study is linked in the quote. I find it hard to turn a blind eye to the fact that social media is now completely and easily accessible, day or night and depression and suicide has risen at such a drastic rate.

Who wants to face their daily drama when everything they see online is that everyone else's life is better? When we compare our lives to those of the influx of the "golden" posts in our feed, ours feels dismal. We feel lonely, isolated and negative about our lives.

What do we do? How do we change this?

My feeling is that we need to step away from technology. In another post, I'll go into the high we get from our "social" world, But for now, put your phones, computers, and tablets down. Step away from the web and step into social opportunities. Read a book and stop scrolling through the feeds. And, I don't mean for an hour (although that's better than nothing), I mean daily. Here's some ideas to limit your screen time:

1. Set a daily schedule. Maybe you allow yourself an hour every evening to scroll through your feed.

2. Only connect with people you really care about. Why do you need 2,000 friends when you only really care about 20?

3. When you see a positive post, feel gratitude for the good things that have happened to that person. Changing envy (even if it's subconscious) to gratitude changes the game.

4. Cut off social media altogether and connect with people like you used to...pick up a phone, go get coffee, etc.

5. Note how you feel after spending time on social media sites. Only use the social media platforms that make you feel good.

6. Find a hobby that fills your time.

Social media plays a role in our society and it probably isn't going anywhere. But YOU have the power to control how YOU allow it to affect you.

What will you do? How will you help the young person in your life?