It’s a mindless routine. Unlock phone. Find Facebook app. Scroll through thousands of posts. Suddenly HOURS of your life are gone. You aren’t getting those hours back. Those are lost. But, did you gain anything?
There is good and bad to everything. We all know that. But, what, exactly, are some of the pros and cons of social media? Let’s start by pointing out that social media is still in it’s infancy. It hasn’t been around for very long, so there isn’t any long-term research on the pros and cons and the impact it has on humans.
However, initial studies have shown a link between social media and depression. That’s a scary thought. Why are people more inclined to be depressed as their social media intake increases? We have all heard the adage ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and social media provides a platform for us to constantly compare. If you are looking at other’s lives on social media and feeling as though yours doesn’t hold a candle to theirs, you have just compared a snippet of someone’s life to your whole being. That isn’t going to feel good to anyone. No one lives a perfect life, but often it isn’t portrayed that way on social media. Everything looks perfect in one single solitary post. It isn’t fair to compare your whole life to the moment someone has chosen to post on social media. But, that’s exactly what we do! We create stories in our head based on the posts and the snapshot of information they provide.
Try this. Next time you see someone’s post about a fancy car, for example, and it makes you feel like your car isn’t as fabulous, stop yourself. Has your mindset shifted to a place of ‘they must be happier than me because they have a gorgeous new car?’ Now ask yourself this question, ‘what am I making up about ______?’ Do you know that they are happier because they got the new car? Do you know if they can afford the new car? Is the anxiety of the payments keeping them up at night? Was the car a gift and now they feel negatively tethered to the giver? These are all very real possibilities. The truth is, we don’t know and we make up what we THINK we know in order to fill in the story.
Another con of social media is that social media is taking the place of actual human interaction. When we are scrolling through social media apps looking at pictures of our ‘friends’ we aren’t actually connecting with humans. Our brains are tricked into thinking we have connected and socialized with these people because we are seeing pieces of their life, but that connection is superficial. Without creating a deeper connection through actual human contact, we start to believe that the ‘friends’ we see on our social media account day in and day out are our actual friends. This leads to another problem…we feel left out. How often have you noticed a group of your ‘friends’ are all out together socializing, and you weren’t invited? Likely you feel much more connected to these people than they do to you because you have become a voyeur into their life on social media. You were never really connecting with them and thus you were not on top of mind when they created plans.
While these are some pretty big social media cons, there are also some pros to social media that are worth talking about! One of the benefits of social media is the way it can connect people. Looking to find people with the same interests? Social media can connect you instantly. Have a long-lost high school friend you want to track down? It’s likely you will find them on social media. For this reason, social media is great at building community and bringing people together. Using those connections, we as a society, can do some pretty amazing things…like locate lost dogs, solve crimes, and reunite people with lost treasures.
Social media also provides a platform for exceptional marketing and involvement in social activism. With the use of social media, we can reach an extra-large amount of people quicky, therefore spreading our brand or message rapidly. The power of this is insurmountable. Brands can take off and incredible change can be made using social media as a platform. This is social media at it’s best!
Clearly there are some major drawbacks AND some major benefits to social media. This discussion isn’t all encompassing…there are infinite pros and cons to social media, but here we will discuss what we see as the most vital in terms of the mental and emotional aspect.
What’s important is that we recognize social media for what it is…and that is by no means perfection. As you engage in social media, make sure you are mindful of how it’s impacting you. Is it creating positive energy and fueling your desire to change the world? Or is it creating anxiety and depression through comparison and feelings of isolation? Only you can decide the impact it has and how much or little belongs in your life.