It’s no secret today that social media is a huge part of our lives. Its presence looms over us constantly as it sucks us further and further into its void. By no means am I saying social media is not a useful tool – you are likely reading this blog through a social media platform after all – but the overall concept of it is to addict you and toss you into a bottomless pit of likes and streaks and new TikTok dances.
There are, of course, upsides to social media. It allows people to meet new friends and bond with them. It allows people to create and share ideas. It also allows them to become more aware of the world around them. The constant hatred of social media can be met with these arguments. There are, however, some extremely noticeable downsides.
Most social media users have probably experienced the way that it seems to throw your awareness of time right out the window. One minute, it’s just a cat video, and the next minute, it’s actually three in the morning on a weeknight. A survey from Common Sense Media showed that a whopping 68% of American teenagers sleep with their phones within their reach at night, so you can probably see where that leads to, and it’s definitely not a healthy amount of sleep. Social media has also been shown to lead to higher rates of anxiety, lower self-esteem and body image, and FOMO, or the fear of missing out.
Some social media platforms, particularly Instagram, have started to add features that may help improve users’ mental health. People are no longer able to see the number of likes someone else’s photo has gotten, and likes on their own posts are hidden from plain view. The goal of removing this feature, according to Instagram, is “about creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” In less professional terms, people may compare themselves to others in unhealthy ways by looking at the number of likes that they would get on posts, and Instagram is trying to combat that.
Those who were old enough to have Snapchat in the early 2010s might remember when the photo exchanging app allowed everybody to see your “best friends list”, which was a list of the people that you were in contact with the most. This was removed in 2015 due to security concerns, but the impacts on people’s mental health is easy to imagine.
Most social media platforms also have the option to restrict and block people that mistreat you. Awareness about cyberbullying and other downsides of social media are being spread and after years, companies are finally starting to make changes for the better. While change is being made, some of the problems that social media brings can’t, or more accurately, won’t be addressed by the companies themselves, so we need to make some changes ourselves.
A solution to all of these issues would be for everyone to go and delete all of their social media accounts right now, but I know that few people, myself considered, plan on doing that anytime soon. Putting face-to-face contact with people first is a good way to make sure that social media does not get in the way of your everyday life. Spreading positivity online and encouraging others to do so as well can challenge the hatred that some people experience. Most importantly, taking a moment to check in with yourself while you are online and seeing how social media impacts your own mental health is a step towards making the online world a safer place for everyone.