In recent years social media has moved from a pastime to a central part of how we communicate. Thoughts once reserved for personal journals have turned into status updates, tweets and hash tag trends.
The rapidly increasing social phenomenon has granted us access to an online community, the ability to instantly connect with people from all over the world, the freedom to share an endless stream of thoughts and photos and be given a quick boost to the ego for every like, share or re-tweet.
With an estimated 2.34 billion social network users in the world today there's no denying that social media has its benefits but the impacts of jumping on the social bandwagon aren't all rosy, what was once a revolution in bringing people together has become equally as powerful in disrupting brands, personalities and the lives of others, now termed as the 'dark side of social media'.
If you're part of a social network, below are 4 things to be mindful of:
In a recent study, it was reported that teenagers check their combined social media networks over 100 times a day, resulting in a rapid decline in young people's confidence and self-esteem. The selfie crazed era, has triggered an addiction to uploading a flawless filtered 'selfie', making it virtually impossible to look as good in real life. Having a continuous photo shopped or animated version of our online identity, can lead to dissatisfaction with our offline appearance, which can not only wreck our sense of self-worth, it can also force us into experiencing feelings of inferiority when we're confronted with a #nofiltered reflection, staring back at us in the mirror. Learning to embrace your appearance by uploading photos without editing and which are more in alignment with your reality can help you to feel more comfortable in your own skin and own who you are, as you are.
With more social networks now available, having access to 'setting up a profile' has never been easier, and as a result the number of internet trolls and cyber bullies now online are more prevalent than ever. Voicing opinions, sharing personal moments or simply making yourself 'visible', can lead to online bullying. Whether it's having a fake profile to hide behind, or the ease and lack of repercussions which can come from typing behind a computer screen, online bullying has capitalised on the 'freedom of speech' and in more severe cases led to an increase in teenage suicide attempts. Part of the reason for this is down to the trend of placing emphasis on the number of friends or followers people have, which can sometimes push people into adding 'virtual' friends just to build their popularity. A quick way to avoid online bullying is by avoiding having anyone outside of your close network on your 'friends' list or if you're a brand by moderating your content by blocking any followers or likers on your page who may overstep your boundaries. For public personalities and celebrities its not as easy, which is why It always surprises me when people make personal attacks when they could quite easily switch over, after all if I don't like a TV show I switch the channel. Remember quite often these trolls are cowards hiding behind the keyboard and these types of people can often put others down to feel good about themselves. Even if it's hard we have to keep things in perspective, if an online troll isn't saying anything worthwhile don't give them the satisfaction of holding you back.
Playing the comparison game
When scrolling through social media feeds it can come across as a 'bragging book'. Sharing 'highlight reels' or 'stories' that only display one aspect of others' lives can make it look as though we're all living the 'perfect life' making it easy to get sucked into a habit of glorifying others whilst putting ourselves down, or wondering how we add up to the next person. The longer we spend time on social media, the easier it can become to compare ourselves to others. It can be easy to forget that we're only seeing one snippet of people's lives which can push us into feeling a need to compete with others, lose sight of who we are or have the ability to make peace with where we're at on our individual journey. Learning to limit the amount of daily time spent on social media feeds and understanding that life is not a competition and that you're only seeing the 'best bits' of others' lives can help you to keep things in perspective.
Battling for validation
With so many options for people to like, share, re-tweet and now express an emoticon to our posts it's not uncommon for many to equate the attention from their posts with a sense of approval and validation. This can feel like an online popularity contest where we're battling for likes that can give us a quick high when our content goes viral and leave us feeling dejected if our content isn't 'liked'. The more we focus on the online version of ourselves the more we can lose momentum on making real changes and growth. Having this type of dependency can push us into developing patterns of behaviour which may cause us to subconsciously seek the validation of others in our offline worlds as well. Unplugging once in a while to get back in touch with what you think makes you great instead of what others think can help you to stop placing so much emphasis on your online persona and detach from the approval of others.
There's no doubt about it, social media has a dark side but it's also one of the greatest movements of our time, the ability to stay connected to friends, family, customers and business associates is easier than ever and if you're mindful of how you use it, it can enrich your life and the lives of others.