Is Social Media a Health Hazard?
Social Avatars, Anonymity and Balance
Existing social networks revolve around illusions and false validation.
These days, the average social newsfeed is nothing shy of a battle for clout, made up of the highlight reels of people’s lives who crave attention from others (many of whom they don’t even know).
It’s true that social media can cause jealous behaviour over total illusions — some are envious of things, relationships and lifestyles that don’t even exist. Many people use social media to create avatar versions of themselves that only reveal of the best of who they are (because let’s face it, who wants to see the bad?) and this virtual world often seems to be inescapable. A large percentage of society is suffering from social media gluttony, consuming an average of 5 years and 4 months spent over their lifetime. With this amount of time spent marinating in the fake world, it’s no wonder users can forget what they see may not always be authentic. This feeling of envy can be extremely disheartening, even depressing at times.
However, social media can also be a tool for social good.
A report into the impacts of social media on mental health in young people recognised the positive effects, including encouraging participation in causes and events. The report acknowledged social media’s role in “creating new spaces for young people’s civic and political engagement by opening up opportunities for diverse forms of participation, self-expression — as well as creatively addressing social issues.”
Many teenagers also use social networks to seek guidance, support and comfort from like minded people through groups and forums. In fact, 68% of teens claim that social media has provided them with support during difficult times. While 70% say social platforms help them to connect better with their friends’ feelings. The use of content campaigns and hashtags is another great way for activists to feel involved and influential in causes they believe in. Hashtags such as #SelfLoveClub #BringBackOurGirls and #MeToo played significant roles in advocating each social movement.
The role of anonymity in social media
It’s true anonymity can allow villains and bullies to troll without revealing their true selves. But anonymity itself isn’t always a bad thing. People often exercise anonymity to avoid fear of judgement; like that teenager who needs advice or that passionate blogger who doesn’t want their colleagues to see their personal opinions online.
Anonymity gives people the power to speak on things they aren’t confident sharing with their identity attached. It gives an opportunity for debate and discussion to flourish while eliminating personal backlash.
So, is social media a health hazard?
The real question to ask here is, how are we using social media?
There are healthy and unhealthy ways of using social media. Much like diet: if you indulge too much on things that are rich and sugar coated, it’s going to make you feel like crap. Digesting more content that is enriching and insightful, filled with nutritious information, is going to make you feel better, lighter and brighter on the inside. What you feed into your body, as well as your mind, has truly substantial effects on your mental state and overall lifestyle.
Healthy social media use is all about balance
Search for content that interests you on an intellectual level, things that excite and inspire you. Your social media experience should be more about sharing the things you love and less about viewing the manufactured moments of people you envy.
If you find a forum about something you are passionate about, but are afraid to face personal scrutiny, contribute anonymously. Use your voice to drive debate and spark discussion, even if you use an anonymous handle to do so.
Life is what you make of it… and the same goes for social media.
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