Are social media good or bad? It depends on how you use them. There is a fair amount of research that shows how social media can have negative effects on one’s mental health. Cyberbullying is a big problem and there are loads going on to make Instagram a better place, for example. With regard to Instagram, people only portray their best self there, showing pictures of their fancy travelling experience, crazy night out, the latest trend in fashion, their Gucci or Valentino bag, so people end up thinking that this is how real life should look like. No, it’s not! These people are exactly like us, they just don’t show the boredom or flatness of doing the cleaning, laundry, going to the grocery shop etc. because who would be interested in all that?
I am very far away from those people who portray unrealistic models of life, I basically follow none of them. I decided to put myself out there to connect with like-minded people, preferably with those who are doing better and know more than I do. I decided to use this new technology as a tool for learning and improving myself personally and professionally. How do I decide who to follow? I follow people that share positive messages, those to try to lift others up not putting them down. I follow people who are honest and show the ups and downs of life. I follow women and men that have the courage to put themselves forward with their frank and bold opinions. For me, all this has been empowering.
I do not follow people who make me feel bad about myself, I also tend to block them, mute their accounts and leave communities when their members create eco chambers and stick to the opinions of their friends only. This isn’t empowerment, this is just creating a cage!
If your circle of people doesn’t inspire you anymore, you ended up in a cage, not in a circle of people!
Another big pro of being on social media for me was learning how to be okay with myself and my own voice. I have quite a unique personality, I struggle to fit in, I don’t believe in the herd mentality and girl gang bullshit, honestly, we already learned in high school that all this is just toxic and doesn’t lift anyone up. I always thought that this was a bad thing and there was something strange in me. “Why can’t I be like everyone else?” I have been asking myself as far as I remember. Then, I came to realise that there was nothing wrong with me. It takes a lot of courage to be unique rather than feel protected by your own crew and do like everyone else is doing because it’s the safest thing to do!
Having a strong personality and be frank and honest also means that you will clash with loads of people that divergence in opinions will become so big that you might end up being the only one supporting a cause and stand up with your own opinions. Do not feel bad about it! As long as you believe in what you are doing and you act according to your own principles, you are doing great because you are true to yourself and none can make you feel bad about it.
Finally, social media gave me opportunities that I never thought would be possible for scientists. They gave me a brand new perspective on what a scientist should be or do, that doesn’t only mean doing research or publishing papers. Being a scientist is a lot more, we aren’t alien, we are members of society and citizens too. Having an opinion and sharing pieces of information on sensitive topics that affect the society should be a duty for everyone. I often see scientists stuck in their bubble or research, going around in their academic circles and don’t interact with the public. Not jugding those who do it, but this isn’t what I want to be. The ultimate goal of science is to drive innovation and progress, to serve society to be better and work to promote a better future. I think, for me, this is the best take home message from these two years spent on social media.