Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, but with its increasing use, we are also exposed to various risks. From anxiety and comparison to others to bullying and other high-risk behaviors, the effects of social media on our mental health and well-being are increasingly being recognized by psychologists and human behavior studies over the last decade.
Anxiety: Social media use can lead to stress as we compare our lives to the curated, idealized versions of others we see online, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, which the constant need for validation can exacerbate through likes and comments.
Comparison to others: Seeing the highlight reels of others' lives on social media can lead to feelings of jealousy and insecurity. Comparison can be especially problematic for young people who are still developing their self-esteem and self-worth, not when they compare to their "mentors." I like to compare myself with successful people, but most don't post or don't have active (or any, for that matter) social media accounts.
Bullying: Social media has become a platform for bullying, harassment, and hate speech. Cyberbullying can have severe and lasting impacts on mental health and well-being and can be difficult to escape, as it can follow individuals online. Disturbed persons, under anonymity, can post whatever goes through their stressed minds without thinking of the consequences later on, which can lead to significant self-esteem issues, especially in teenagers, at the age of discovering and self-doubt.
Less social in real life: While social media provides opportunities for connecting with others, it can also lead to decreased face-to-face social interaction. Spending too much time on social media can lead to a reduced ability to communicate and connect with others in real life, negatively impacting mental health and well-being.
It's essential to keep in mind that only some things on social media are honest or accurate. People often present an idealized version of themselves online, using filters and editing tools to "photoshop their lives". This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a distorted view of reality.
Users' information and data on social media platforms can be collected, analyzed, and used for various purposes, including targeted advertising, political manipulation, and government surveillance. Social media use also poses significant privacy risks. In addition, social media platforms have a history of privacy breaches and data leaks, which can compromise sensitive information and leave users vulnerable to identity theft and other types of fraud. To reduce privacy risks, you must be mindful of the information you share on social media and adjust your privacy settings accordingly. This can include limiting the amount of personal information you make publicly available, avoiding sharing sensitive information, and regularly reviewing your privacy settings to ensure your information is protected.
Social media use can contribute to a show-off culture in some countries or families with limited understanding or low self-esteem. People can feel pressure to present an idealized version of themselves online, leading to feelings of inadequacy and a constant need for validation through likes and comments. This can be especially problematic in countries emphasizing material wealth and success, as social media can perpetuate unrealistic and harmful expectations.
By being mindful of this show-off culture and avoiding the trap of comparing ourselves to others online, we can reduce the negative impact of social media on our mental health and well-being. It's essential to focus on our own lives and experiences and not be swayed by the curated versions of others we see on social media.
Because of this can also contribute to a culture of consumerism and materialism, where people feel pressure to buy things they don't need to impress others and keep up with the latest trends. This can lead to financial stress, debt, and environmental harm, as people consume and discard more and more products. At the same time, also creating a fear of missing out (FOMO), where people feel pressure to stay up to date with the latest trends, events, and social media happenings, even if they have no interest in them.
In addition, constant exposure to other people's lives and possessions on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a need to upgrade our own lives repeatedly to impress others. This is especially problematic when these others are people we don't know or don't care about, as their opinions and approval are ultimately irrelevant to our well-being and happiness.
Social media platforms often operate as walled gardens, where users have limited control over their content and data. In contrast, owning your blog or personal website provides more control over your online presence and the ability to build a digital legacy.
In a walled garden, social media platforms own and control the data and content that users post and the algorithms used to surface content and determine visibility are opaque. This can lead to censorship, algorithmically-driven filter bubbles, and a lack of control over one's digital footprint.
On the other hand, owning a blog or personal website provides more control over your online presence, as you own and control the data and content you post. This allows you to build a digital legacy independent of any specific platform or algorithm.
It's worth noting that many wealthy and successful individuals have chosen to limit or altogether avoid their use of social media, recognizing its potential negative impact on their well-being and happiness. This is because social media can contribute to feelings of anxiety, comparison, and the need to constantly "keep up" with others. However, this is only true for some, especially in countries with a high show-off culture. Additionally, some individuals with a message to share or a mission to better the world around them may use social media as a platform to reach a wider audience and effect positive change.
I believe it's important to remember that social media is only necessary if it serves a specific purpose in one's life or work. If you are not an employee at a company doing social media marketing, there is no need to feel obligated to use social media. Seeking validation through likes and comments is a common trap, but it's important to remember that these metrics do not define your self-worth.
These are just my opinions. Sure, this company has a YouTube channel and a company page on LinkedIn. At the same time, I also have a LinkedIn profile, but that's where we interact with our customers or future employees, so that's meant for business. Besides, LinkedIn is the only social media platform I trust. I closed all personal social media accounts a few months ago and didn't ever consider getting back.
Ultimately, the use of social media is a personal decision that should be made based on an individual's values, goals, and well-being. By being mindful of the risks associated with social media and approaching its use with a critical eye, we can make informed decisions about how we use it and how it impacts our lives.