Social media – supporting others and dealing with its negatives.

Social media. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. At one point it was a generational sensation, for those who were teenagers in the 00s, with sites such as Myspace and Bebo. Now the most popular is of course Facebook followed by Twitter, with Snapchat, Instagram, Linkedin and Tumblr all deserving honourable mentions.

As well as the change in the social media sites that are used, so has the age of the people who use them. I know children as young as 7 who have access to Snapchat and as old as great grandparents (my once internet hating Dad for example) who use Facebook. Most social media sites are easily accessible via smartphone apps, which pretty much everyone has nowadays. The general gist is, most people use or have used some form of social media.

It is a phenomenon which has become integrated into our daily lives. Alongside other things I have spoken about in my other posts, there are positives and negatives to it!

Keeping in touch with friends and family on Facebook. Sharing photographs and stories to those close ones which have moved away. Finding and reconnecting with old school friends or long lost family members. Getting a new job on Linkedin. Following people on Twitter such as celebrities or inspiring humans (I follow so many scientists and conservationists!) where you would not able to speak to them otherwise. Becoming connected to charities which you may need help from. Learning how to make a new recipe for dinner or getting a party theme inspiration on Pinterest. And of course, just general silliness and entertainment with sharing memes and tagging your friends in funny posts. Social media has also been a very powerful tool in sharing world news and has achieved amazing things such as finding lost people. There are many, many good points about social media which is why it is so popular and has become a part of today’s daily culture.

However – and you probably know where I’m going with this – there is also a lot of bad points. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that social media can make us feel unsuccessful, inadequate, unattractive, jealous. Sometimes it’s hard to see others post hundreds of beautiful selfies, pictures of their travels around the world, posts of their success and not look at yourself in comparison. However, it is worth remembering so you don’t feel this way is that people upload things that show them in a favourable light. There’s not many of us that choose to post a selfie when we’ve been throwing up all morning because we had too many tequila slammers the night before, sharing with the world that we’ve been sacked for not doing well at our jobs or videos of our partners walking out on us.

And that’s perfectly ok. Lots of things happen behind closed doors. Just because someone posts a photo of them smiling doesn’t mean they haven’t spent all evening crying. Just because someone is going on an exotic holiday doesn’t mean they have loads of expendable income (realistically they may have scrimped and scraped for years to be able to go!). Just because someone says that life is going well doesn’t necessarily mean it is. What we choose to post on social media is rarely the whole story.

We also post because it can make us feel better about ourselves too.

Loves on Instagram, retweets on Twitter and likes/comments on Facebook. Whether that’s ‘congratulations!’, ‘have a wonderful time!’ or ‘you look lovely!’ – these things that were once completely insignificant do make us feel good about ourselves. So I think it’s great if we can all support each other in our posts too, rather than choosing to let it make us feel bad in comparison. So, if someone shares a post that they’ve got a new job, congratulate them, if they look amazing in their photograph, tell them, if you like what they’ve posted whether it’s because you agree or it’s appealing, let them know. ‘Liking’ and commenting are really quick and easy ways to be kind and support someone. After all, you are following/friends with these people! Otherwise, you are simply using social media to monitor what others are doing, which although a lot of us are guilty of, it is not really a productive use of time. 

Likewise, it’s quick and easy for people to be mean. When I was in my early teenage years, Facebook arguments and indirect tweets about others was unfortunately, quite normal. I distinctly remember receiving messages from someone when I was 13 – days after my Nan passed away – saying that they were going to dance and spit on her grave. Such things were probably down to a mixture of a lack of regard for others feelings, hormones and general immaturity. The person who said those things to me then is doing wonderful and amazing things for charity now. As an adult, this sort of behaviour happens far less, though I have seen it on younger family members or friends social media accounts and so it still seems to be a major problem.

People are more confident behind a screen. It’s easy to send horrible messages to people than to say it to their faces. It’s easy to be mean about someone online without using their name and if that person gets upset or it causes conflict – you can throw the ‘it wasn’t about you’ line (even if it was!). Of course, posting anything horrible about others is cyberbullying. In a lot of cases this is done indirectly and it is often hard to get solid evidence of this as a form of bullying. In schools especially this is something that needs to be locked down on as it is a major problem.

Saying that, even as adults recurrent cyberbullying, indirect messages and mean posts do still happen. Sometimes things can seem really insignificant – but because you know they have been done with a cruel meaning it hurts regardless.

For example, a few months ago two people who I am not friends with on Facebook ‘liked’ a post of mine in which I was saying that I was upset. This was done with a sarcastic and mean intent, and although really it is something minor it upset me further. More recently a post appeared on Instagram which seemed to be an indirect shot at myself. Again, this is something minor. However, both things indicate that these people are gossiping/laughing/being mean about me which of course, is never nice to know.

When you’re faced with things like this you may feel like you want to retaliate. I certainly get upset and angry with such seemingly small things. There are ways you can avoid seeing such content – blocking, unfollowing, unfriending etc. Changing privacy settings on social media accounts so only those you decide can see your posts. When a close family member of mine had lots of mean messages coming their way the only way this was stopped was by blocking all of the people that were bullying them from all social media platforms.

The best advice I think though, is to use the negative energy people are putting into being mean about you into positive use. Study that little harder, laugh a little louder, appreciate the people who support you a little bit more. Reduce time spent on social media and replace it with spending time in fresh air and physically seeing the people you spend all day chatting to. Block out anyone who is purposefully mean about you and only allow friends and family members see what you post online. Like/comment and support others posts. Give out positive energy to others, change any negativity coming your way into positives and it’ll allow yourself to become a lot happier! 🙂

-A bit of a long one today, so thank you if you made it this far through my ramblings!

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