The effect that social media has had on the social fabric of society is huge, and obvious.
Almost everyone is on some form of social media now, but most of us probably don’t step back and wonder how it’s actually affecting us.
If you’re younger than 30, you’ve grown up amongst the advent of smartphones and social media, so the idea of not using it has probably never crossed your mind.
The issue is even worse if you’re under 20.
Statistics show that almost 90% of people under 20 regularly use social media, which is going to be basically your entire social group.
But is this really a problem? Should we really we be concerned about people browsing Facebook?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes.
The problem with social media is twofold.
- First, sites like these don’t put forward an accurate model of reality, which can skew our perspectives as to what’s real, what’s normal, and how we should feel about it.
- Second, social media is specifically designed to play on the reward centres in our brains.
Here’s how that works.
In terms of perspective, I’m sure that you’ve noticed how most people’s lives online are always a lot better than they seem to be in real life, right? That’s a noted phenomenon. People consistently post to show themselves in a better light, and might not worry so much about fudging the exact details, if it makes them look like they’re doing well.
Whether that’s posting up pictures of a shiny new car or awesome vacation without showing how much work it took to afford it, or even if they used credit!
It could take the form of unrealistic and photoshopped selfies that aren’t a great indication of how any can look in real life.
It could even just be the very basic issue of not picking up the phone and having some real contact with people, because you send them a message, and that counts, right?
See, humans naturally weigh themselves up against the other people around them. Most of the time, this isn’t really an issue, because the people around us are like us.
But on social media, it’s a free for all.
You can get in contact with absolutely anyone, including people you otherwise wouldn’t see. This constant comparison, especially with images that might not actually be real screws up our heads, and causes us to feel bad because we’re comparing ourselves with things that don’t actually exist.
The simplest way of stopping that? Stop seeing it.
As for the reward centres in our heads, what does that even mean?
Well, there’s this little hormone called dopamine, which gets pumped into our bloodstream whenever we do something that’s good. Meeting up with family, eating good food, even something exciting like a roller coaster is fun specifically because of this system.
But social media is specifically designed to trigger this system. Even the way it’s used, the motions you have to take and the colors of the interface are specifically designed by behavioural scientists to grab your attention and make you feel good for using it.
Worse, it makes you feel bad for not using it. I’m sure you, like us, have had days where you’re cut off from your phone, and it actually makes you feel shaky and ill at ease, like you’re missing out.
That’s absolutely intentional, and it’s what the makers want.
But how do you fix this? It’s quite simple, if you follow the 5 tips below.
1) Curate your feeds
This is alarmingly simple, but something that people don’t generally do.
It comes down to one thing. Stop following people who don’t bring good things into your life
If there are feeds that show you images that make you feel bad, cut them out of your life. If you’re interacting with people, or have people hanging around that make you feel bad, then remove them from your life.
You wouldn’t associate with people in real life who made you feel awful, so why do it online?
2) Seek out positivity
Find new people to follow, who give out good messages.
Once you’ve cut out all of the trash, that’s going to leave a lot of space in your life.
Make sure you replace it with good things, that make you feel better about who you are and where you want to be.
3) Blocking is absolutely okay
You don’t just have to remove people from your life.
It’s not uncommon to have our feeds full of mentions from celebs and brands about who we should be and how we should live our lives.
But if these images and messages aren’t appropriate for you? Block, and block mercilessly.
4) Remember that social media isn’t an accurate reflection of reality
Social media is designed to be a ‘best of.’ No one’s gonna post up images of their failures, without damn good reason.
That means that, every time you click online, you’re putting yourself face to face with unrealistic images. If you just accept them at face value, and measure yourself up against these fake perspectives, of course you’re going to come off worse.
The only person you should be measuring yourself against, is yourself.
5) Replace social media time with real life action
Whilst social media is an excellent tool when it’s used correctly, a lot of people today seem to default to using it in lieu of doing anything else.
I mean, it makes sense. Not only is social media designed to be simple, easy to use and addictive, it gives you that feeling of accomplishment when you get in contact with other people.
But it’s all the ghost of a ghost, and you’ll feel so much better about yourself if you spend the majority of your time actually pursuing meaningful goals, rather than watching other people achieve theirs online.
Take it from us, your life will improve so much more if you cut down on social media time, and start focusing on real life action.
The last word
Social media can be an incredibly empowering tool, if used correctly.
It can also be an exceptionally effective method to keep in contact with friends and family, as well as using it for work connections.
But that’s the way it should be used.
By being more discerning in how you choose to use and consume social media, you can use it to benefit your life, rather than bring you down.
All it takes is some smart choices, and the courage to step back and remove the toxic elements from your life. The power is entirely within your hands.