Mental Health, Reading & Writing

The Positives and Negatives of Social Media, and How to Maintain Balance

Let’s talk about social media a little bit.

I have been on social media much more in the past few months than the last few years, honestly. Since starting a blog and working on a novel I have felt motivated to connect with the writing community far more, and likewise with the fitness community because of my weight lifting and yoga. So, where is the best place to do that? Online, of course. I also believe that with everyone being shut down for the majority of the past year, many people have taken to connecting online since it’s what they can do.

I’m sure we can all agree that social media is a very powerful tool and there are many great benefits to it. In the same token, I’m sure there is much agreement that it can also be very detrimental to our mental health (if we allow it to be). 

Naturally, I took to social media with an abundance of questions to figure out exactly what people thought about it, what platforms they enjoyed, and why they use it. Within my quest to gain insights and information, I found that most people claimed they are here for the same reasons, just using different platforms and (mostly different) people.

So, what are most people using social media for? 

That’s a fairly easy answer. 

Connectivity. Inspiration. Motivation. 

The vast majority of people simply said they enjoyed connecting with others of like mind and sharing things that might inspire others (or looking for their own inspirations). A sense of community is something that came up quite often, and I have personally seen (especially on Twitter) within many platforms. There were mentions of “escaping daily life”, “interacting with people who are outside of their bubbles”, “helping further their career” and “keeping in touch with distant friends and family”. However, there were also plenty of negatives – everything from disingenuous people to the consistently aggravating political woes – which gave many pause when it came to sticking around social media for longer times. A few people also mentioned how tedious they found it to consistently plug in to their various platforms daily and keep up with whatever they were doing. 

Overall though, the results were pretty positive. 

Something that surprised me by only showing up once: dangerous. I’m sure we’ve all learned that social media can be a dangerous tool. Some people go too far with their photos and words, and those that are powerful in their platforms especially have the ability to suggest things (what to do, who to follow, what to buy, etc) simply because they can or they have the numbers… and some people will simply go online and do exactly what they say because they are popular. It can be downright nasty at times, and we’ve all known or been victim to a “keyboard warrior” at some point (I personally have been a time or ten)… which was certainly brought up once or twice. I’m not really here to debate those topics though. If you’re reading this then you know social media and you’re well aware of both the good and bad parts, so we can move on.

So, what about platforms?

Ironically, each platform was asked the same question “what platform do you like best and why?”, and each one of them answered with the platform that the question had been asked in. Most people seemed comfortable in whatever it was they were using, and the answer to why always seemed to be “ease of use”, with a little “less drama” thrown in for good measure. I suppose it makes a bit of sense that if I asked you a question on Twitter and you answered there, that would be your chosen platform. The most common were Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. It was rare that anyone mentioned the use of multiple platforms, which is also something I found interesting. 

I myself have three platforms that I use consistently: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are kept fairly separate – with Facebook being for close family and friends (often with my most personal shares – photos of children and family), Twitter – likely where you’ve found this blog – for writing and the writing community, and Instagram being where I share most of my photos and videos on fitness related things. 

I have to say, I love all those platforms – not really finding one any greater than the other. Although, if we are being completely honest, I’m not sure where my writing/blog reach would be without Twitter. The sense of community and connection there has been an incredibly positive tool for me, and I have certainly “met” some inspiring people and authors. What makes that platform particularly great (at least IMO) is that it’s writing forward, so you know that what you say is going to matter most (not how you look). It was Ray Price (Twitter user @raymondaprice) who put it best: “I enjoy the creativity in just the little amount of characters we are available to use.” This is undoubtedly my favorite part about Twitter, followed by the constant thought provoking questions and their subsequent answers.

I try to use them all equally though, without overdoing any of it. What I find the most tedious is trying to find a balance between posting too much and not enough – though I often ask, does it matter? There were some interesting insights into this particular question. The constant back and forth between posting too much or not enough, as well as wondering if you will lose “friends” or “followers” if you bend a certain way. I’m sure we’ve all had these questions or more from time to time. You might find that if you’re using social media as a tool to build a network or a “following” this question haunts you at times. To all of those who have, I ask this… do those people really belong within your circle and platform? If I don’t post today – and a person unfollows me – it is my belief that they don’t belong in my coveted circle. Think about it this way: in our day to day lives, we have friends that we talk to daily, some we don’t speak to for months or years, but you maintain that friendship anyway. Suddenly, you encounter them in a supermarket and it’s as though you never stopped talking. But online, if you don’t share enough, or you share too much, they leave. 

Why do you suppose that is?

I think the easiest answer is that they can, really. It’s that simple. However, for some in particular, especially in an age where anxiety and depression run high, and many people don’t yet know how to shrug things off, these things often play into our fears and worries, causing us to share more and more. But, by sharing more online are we taking away from those that are with us in the present? (Oh, the questions that often plague my mind… maybe I should have studied Sociology after all.)

I’ve fallen victim to wanting to share more and keep things up to date so that people won’t unfollow me, particularly when I started out the blog. In the end though, whether they stay or not doesn’t hold as much bearing for me, and if they leave it’s okay. I 100% need a break from time to time and that’s not a bad thing, so if a person isn’t okay with that, they weren’t meant to be here to begin with.

And so, I want to share a few tips that I’ve come to learn (and of course I still work on consistently):

Don’t put too much stock in social media. This one in particular is geared toward those who use it as a platform, like myself, to network and inspire others. And this can be very hard to follow, especially once you get a negative review or comment, but try not to take too much stock in how many people follow, like and comment on your stuff… because what I’ve learned is that it’s not always about the number. Quality. This is the key (again, IMO) to it. I have a handful of people who are consistent when it comes to following me and interacting with me – and I’d rather keep that smaller number of people who truly connect with me versus a great number who don’t benefit from it.

Stay small with your platforms. I know that sounds a bit strange since I’ve got three of them, but, all of them connect together which means I don’t have to spend a greater amount of time online. Putting more focus into one thing (or connecting them together) allows you to put more quality content out there. Plus, the less time you can spend sitting on your electronics, the better, because life happens in your present moment, not on a screen.

And with that last one… schedule time away from it. Yes, it’s a wonderful place to escape from reality (or if you’re sitting around bored), but pick a day each week and disconnect from it all if possible. No scrolling, commenting, liking, etc… take a family day, an active day, a rest day. Try to do it mindfully, and know that if you come back from a 24 hour period and people are gone – well, here and now are still there, and that’s what is most beneficial.

So tell me, what makes you appreciate social media? What makes you dislike it? What advice do you have for the younger generations that are beginning to flock to it?

Drop a comment and share your thoughts!

3 thoughts on “The Positives and Negatives of Social Media, and How to Maintain Balance”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your insights on social media. I only ever use social media now for my blog and never for personal use. It’s come to a point in my life where I’m no longer scared to lose people for “lack of connectivity, updates and photos of a new car/holiday.” As you said, those that mind are not your tribe. Everyone who matter to me I communicate with via phone calls and text messages, which, personally, is a more genuine way to connect. And as soon as the lockdowns are over, it’s all face to face catch ups for us!

    Like

  2. You know what’s ironic about the internet? It was invented to save time. Now I find that I waste a lot of my time on it. I feel like, if I didn’t use social media for my writing I wouldn’t even be on the internet 10 minutes per day. For me it’s bad for my mental state because I waste so much time on it and then I feel guilty.

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely understand this, and the irony that I took to the Internet and social media to write it is not lost on me either. It’s a constant back and forth of being productive and wasting time.

      Like

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