I don’t have a personal social media account. Saying this sometimes feels like an ‘outing’, as being uncool; which is then normally followed by startled friends or strangers confusedly asking ‘But why?’. This reaction illustrates the problem.
The reasons for my personal choice are numerous: The obvious one being that I can clearly see how social media platforms like Instagram are impairing our mental health, especially that of young people by aiding in the creation of a false self-image. Apart from that, they are dangerously perpetuating the negative aspects of society: boasting, materialism, superficiality, deceit and hate — just to name a few. Not wanting to take part in this should be accepted as a personal choice, just the way not wanting to have a monthly subscription of Cosmopolitan is a personal choice. But sadly, it’s not.
Apart from being asked on a regular basis, I also see how having social media has become more important in working life. In LA, some stores are already only hiring people with over 20K subscribers on Instagram — in more commonsensical places of the world, social media is still important for networking. And it does have its justification: connecting with people has become incredibly easy via the internet. Therefore I do not suggest stepping back from normal messenger applications or social media completely. But considering if it is doing more harm than good for you personally should be the first step when dealing with this part of the internet.
The existence of social media platforms is not the problem, the use of them is not the problem, but the way we are portraying ourselves on them and how we value them can seriously harm society.
However, for companies and businesses, social media platforms are a great possibility to network, promote products and find sales. They use them broadly and to know your way around social media has become an important skill in professional life.
This leads to a sense of implicitness that takes away the credibility of companies that don’t have social media. It is almost impossible to create a business without having the usual social media accounts, fortifying the might of platforms like Facebook.
But if this also happens on a personal level, we have successfully created a problem. Online popularity has a significance that could become dangerous for our society’s wellbeing. Being valued through follower count instead of actual human relationships or defined by the likes on posts instead of real-life feedback, can seriously shift our targets.
In times when people delete their posted picture because of a lack of likes, there has been a problematic change of priorities. Social media outlets should be used positively, to give a platform for creativity, mutual support and to celebrate our diversity. Sadly, they create an implicit lifestyle standard and lead to us measuring and comparing ourselves with others. As there will always be someone more beautiful, stronger and richer, this global comparison is severely destructive. The negative effect on mental health has already been proven by many studies on the correlation between social media usage and depression.
But still, thinking like this is a bit controversial in today’s world, especially for younger people. Not using the possibilities given to us through modern technology makes you seem outdated and conservationist, not exactly interesting or cool. But is this sceptical attitude worth it?
Definitely, I would say. Not being stressed out by the world of social media is something the occasional disconnect is worth. Especially if you are susceptible to the mental health strain that constant updates and idealized lifestyle demonstrations cause. This decision is a personal one and should not fall victim to peer-pressure — although considering the disadvantages is still important. In the end, I cannot say that my choice is final, but it should be accepted by society and possibly lead to a rethinking of social media’s impact on our personal lives.