I was talking to a friend recently about social media addiction. We spoke about the impact that it can have on our mental health. The conversation really got me thinking.
Like most 30+ year olds, social media didn’t really exist when I was a child. When I was a teenager, I remember there being Yahoo chatrooms and MySpace, but it definitely wasn’t at the same level that things are today. I think I was about 20 when I got my first Facebook account. None of the other big social media networks existed at that time.
Now, social media is everywhere. People have built entire careers out of their ability to take carefully staged photos and perfect captions. The ‘influencer’ has been born and everyone wants to be like them. People live their lives through their mobile phone screens, desperate for the next ‘like’ as it will make them feel validated.
It Isn’t Real
But, society seems to be forgetting one very important thing. Social media isn’t real.
It’s been said many, many times before, but it’s worth saying again. Social media isn’t real life. The pictures, videos and captions that we see on social media are a carefully chosen snapshot of someone’s day.
An Instagram story, for example, gives a 15 second window into someone’s life. When you think that there are 86,400 seconds in a day, 15 seconds is nothing. Not even a glimpse.
I know that I am guilty of it myself. I carefully choose the selfies which get rid of most of my chins. I don’t post pictures of my child screaming because I gave him the wrong type of toast. I don’t write about how my husband left his dirty socks in the middle of the lounge floor…again.
Even though I pride myself on my honesty, there are still things I refuse to talk about. For example, I don’t talk in detail about the painful parts of my childhood, such as my parent’s divorce. I haven’t discussed the worst parts of the breakdown I had at the end of 2017. I don’t talk about my sex life.
Even for me, social media is a tool which is used to show my best side, the best side of my family and the best side of my work. It isn’t the whole truth.
I have noticed recently that there has been more of a push towards sharing every aspect of our lives. The idea is that we should be sharing both the good and the bad. One of the most recent examples of this has been a trend for people to show others any mental health medication that they might be on.
While I am passionate about speaking out about mental health and think that it is fantastic that some people feel comfortable talking about it, it hasn’t been a good thing for everyone. For some people, it has lead to negative feelings about themselves if they haven’t been confident enough to share.
I don’t know whether people should start becoming more honest on social media or not. I’m not sure what full disclosure would actually achieve. Yes, it might make people feel as though they aren’t alone when they go through difficult times, but it isn’t going to fix things for anyone. Telling someone that I suffer from depression doesn’t make my depression go away.
There are many, many things which only the people closest to me will ever know and I think that’s the way it should be. I don’t think that relieving my pain and exposing all of the horrible parts of my day will actually help anyone in the long term.
Ultimately, I think that we should only share the things that we feel comfortable with. If that means that you only share the happy moments, then that’s fine. You shouldn’t be made to feel less just because “the social media gods” say that you have to share things you aren’t comfortable with.
Social media is here to stay, whether we like it or not. It has become an integral part of modern society and the influence of social media platforms is likely to continue growing in the future. But, that doesn’t mean that we have to be sucked in.
I use social media for my business, to keep in touch with my family and friends, to pass the time when the children are going to sleep. If I am honest, I probably use it far more than I should do.
I see all of the photos of perfect houses and wonderfully angelic children. I watch funny and satirical videos. I see the boasting about how great life is.
I watch it, and then I remind myself that none of it is completely real. Everyone has a persona that they are trying to put across. What you see on the screen isn’t the whole picture.
I think that as long as we keep reminding ourselves of this, we can limit the control that social media has on our lives. We will remember to start living life for ourselves rather than being jealous of people we will never meet.