A recent report by the University of Copenhagen unveiled that excessive use and lurking on social media creates envy and also makes us miserable.
But why is this so important?
Initially when I read the headline, I assumed that it was the accessibility to global news and heart-breaking stories of human suffering which caused this reaction. With social media often the primary platform for sharing graphic atrocities in Aleppo to drastic natural disasters, the notion of social media as a cause for sorrow seemed understandable.
Unfortunately, to my surprise, the study did not reveal suffering as the cause for users to feel miserable. Instead what is apparently making is unhappy, is the following and lusting over glamorous lifestyles that are paraded online. It seems almost unimaginable that in the online world, which is flooded with international struggles and crimes, that people are more affected by materialistic images they view on their timeline than human suffering.
Why could this be the case? When I thought about it, it struck me that fundamentally social media is what you make of it. Despite the resources of countless news channels, human rights groups and grass root journalism in war torn states, it is up to the users to decide who and what they want to follow. So, if people chose to isolate themselves in a bubble of celebrity culture then their understanding of reality is inevitably going to be distorted. Perhaps that's why the same social media that caused global mourning over the death of four-year-old refugee Alan Kurdi, whose dead body was found at sea is also the same platform where people idolise and follow reality TV stars and socialites.
Unfortunately, whilst heart breaking news stories become 'viral' online and begin global Twitter trends, the question is: how often do they actually incite physical change? Peace does not seem to be in sight and innocent lives are still being lost in the refugee crisis. Comparatively, celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and countless Instagram stars are physically and financially benefiting from their social media presence as people are buying their products and funding their lifestyles.
Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools, which are making the world a smaller place. But the disappointing reality is that we in the "first world" cannot, despite the breadth of knowledge online, put our privileged lives in perspective with those in the "third world". Where the awareness of global suffering put forward by social should make us feel more grateful, the bubble that users create on their online world, is fuelling our materialistic greed and skewing our perspective.
When viewing our sorrows and our lives it is crucial to have perspective and gratitude for what we have in comparison to others. Until users of social media disconnect themselves from artificially constructed, airbrushed and planned accounts of online stars and instead follow real stories of real people across the world, people will constantly feel miserable.
If people are feeling depressed by lifestyles and materialistic items they view on social media, then there is something fundamentally wrong with our understanding of what is important. What we need to do as users of social media, is re-evaluate the difference between what we want and what we need. You can continually envy the lifestyles of others, as there will always be someone who has more than you. Instead, social media should be used to highlight and remind ourselves of the luxuries that we are fortunate to have and put into perspective what we really need. So next time you are lurking on some glamorous account on social media, stop and think, is this reality? But more importantly, is this important?