Can we overcome the toxicity of social media?

In a previous post I mentioned how social media is “one of the most revolutionary things to happen on this earth” and I still stand by that statement. However, with this huge shift in society comes a much darker truth that we’re only just beginning to discuss in wider society. Social media can be an EXTREMELY toxic thing. From 2011 to 2013, cases of Cyberbullying to Childline increased by a whopping 89%[1]. More and more young people are struggling with self confidence issues as a result of the “perfect lives” they see on social media[2]. In amongst other negative effects[3], FOMO (fear of missing out) is a form of anxiety that has been heightened in many, as a result of social media. So, what does this mean? We should all boycott social media and never use it again?

Sometimes I really do want to delete all my profiles or unfollow everyone on my Instagram and now that I’m writing this, I realise that would be a fantastic idea. The main thing that holds me back from doing it is the fact that I run two businesses… Or is it? I think in some ways I’m a good example of how you can become dependant on social media. I like to be in the know and I think that’s the real thing that stops me from deleting my accounts. I know I’m not a hugely impressionable person so a lot of what I see on social media doesn’t influence my day to day life. But even the most unimpressionable person will be influenced by something at some point. This is where the title of the post comes from. Can we ever truly and fully overcome the toxicity of social media? I don’t think we can!

It may seem like a huge generalisation to say that as a society we can’t fully overcome the toxicity of social media but here’s why I think it’s true. Firstly, whether you want to believe it or not the vast majority of people in society are conformists. That includes you and me. An article in Psychology Today states that “Human beings are herd animals. We survive only in highly coordinated groups. Individually, we are designed to pick up social cues, coordinate and align our behaviour with those around us.”[4] So even if you don’t necessarily conform to wider societies norms, you do conform to the norms of your social circle. So, from a social media point of view what does this mean? It means that although we know only posting the good aspects of our lives, photoshopping pictures to make them look better, posting old holiday photos to make it seem like we’re always on holiday is toxic. We’re still going to post them to ensure we fit in with the rest of society.

Secondly, there are definitely good aspects of social media but we can never get away from the bad. What do I mean by this? I use social media mostly for business purposes and whether I’m on my business page or my personal page I always have features pop up that are recommended for me i.e. on the Instagram discovery page I see posts that Instagram recommends, on Twitter I see tweets that people I follow like etc. so even if I didn’t want to see these it would be difficult to avoid them. Let’s also bring mainstream media into this. When something is going very viral mainstream news outlets pick up on this and share it for example, the Yanny & Laurel fiasco and the black and blue dress. So even if you aren’t on social media you are still impacted by social media whether you want to be or not.

So, what’s the point of this article? To bash social media and turn everyone off it? No that’s not my intention. The point of this article is to highlight the importance of a) taking the things we see on social media with a pinch of salt, b) making sure we’re extra careful with the things we do post on social media and c) educating the most impressionable people within society (young people) about the truths (and the lies) that come with all things social media.

Paula M

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/08/cyberbullying-more-children-affected-childline

[2][2] https://childmind.org/article/social-media-and-self-doubt/

[3] https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/negative-effects-social-media/

[4] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201012/you-are-conformist-is-you-are-human

One thought on “Can we overcome the toxicity of social media?

  1. Pingback: Jussie Smollett is a reflection of us all

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