Since it’s such a huge interest of mine, I’ve decided that every Wednesday is now going to be dedicated to a post that focuses on wellness. I’m starting off this series with something that I think is so important and particularly topical at the moment: the dangers of social media.
This might be a tough one to admit to, but we all feel the need to be accepted, in society and online. Online, this translates into likes, and followers. The more you have, the more you’re probably going to feel confident and at ease with yourself…but, I can’t tell you how warped and wrong this is. The amount of people who follow you or who like your picture does not define you. It does not make you a better person and it certainly should not affect your self esteem the way it does for so many. Seeing people buying followers or buying engagement (likes & comments) on their Instagram account just instantly tells me how unhappy in themselves this person could be. We need to have confidence in ourselves that doesn’t stem from how strong your online presence is.
All those hours with our heads in our phones can often see us missing out on real life moments. I found this first hand the other night. I saw something online that really stressed me out and I ended up barely sleeping a wink because of it. My whole next day was spent catching up and I missed out on something that I really wanted to do because I ended up being too strapped for time. This was all because I was lying in bed too late with my head stuck in my phone.
As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of all joy. You must, must, must remember that comparing your life to someone’s Instagram feed is like comparing your day-to-day normalities to their highlight reel. No one ever sharers their money worries or how unhappy they are in their job on Instagram, so you shouldn’t ever forget that every single person deals with their own issues and problems behind closed doors. If you ever feel overwhelmed or upset about personal things that are going on in your life, then I urge you to not turn to Instagram to preoccupy yourself, it will drive you crazy. Make sure you have plenty of other hobbies or activities that you can turn to when you need to.
Focus on real life issues
We’re all guilty of checking our Instagram feed sooner than we would turn on the tv to watch the news. Social media can be such a massive distraction at times but it’s so important to keep up to date with what is happening in our country and all over the world.
Quality of friendships
Social media makes it so easy for us to check in on one another and make a judgement on how someone’s life looks as though it’s going. So much so, that you might feel less inclined to pick up the phone to properly catch up with one of your friends. I mean, if it looks as though she had a great holiday in Spain last week, then I’m sure everything is going smoothly in her life, right? No. This false sense of reality can potentially really weaken the quality of friendships. We have to all make sure that we’re checking in properly and regularly with the people who matter to us.
It’s a time suck
No explanation needed here, we all know that we spend far too much time on social media. The “Moment” app is great for setting daily time limits on your phone which are great reminders to put it down.
Sharing certain aspects online can be risky business depending on your profession. We’ve all heard stories about people losing there jobs for taking inappropriate photos in their work uniforms. You need to be aware of whats acceptable in your workplace before you share anything. Similarly, don’t expect potential employers to not snook around your social media if you’re applying for a job. Either make your profile private or delete anything you wouldn’t want shared on the 6 o’clock news.
This may seem a bit over the top, but look at what happened to Kimmy K. You never know who might be watching your social media channels at a given time. Sure, it’s nice to show off every now and again if you own something really valuable or have a particularly gorgeous home. I would worry though about keeping sensitive information like your address and phone number very safe. Someone could see you off on the other side of the world on a family holiday and think it could be fun to break into your home that looks so fancy on your Instagram feed. This won’t be a problem for everyone, myself included. But it is definitely worth acknowledging.
Compromising someone else privacy
The risk of sharing someone else sensitive information is probably not a huge concern for many, but it’s definitely still there. Be it someone else’s address or credit card number, or potentially someone could be changing their clothes in the background of a video or photo. You can never be too careful.
Predators & Catfishes
It’s particularly topical in Ireland at the moment and for a very good reason. This is a point that we are all familiar with but it’s worth mentioning for the sake of awareness. If you have children or younger siblings then you need to either monitor their online activity in a sensitive way so that they don’t feel violated, or else make sure that they are crystal clear on the dangers that they are at risk of. There are some seriously twisted people out there who are predators and you just never know how close to home it might end up being for you. Similarly with online dating, Catfish is one show that really makes you think about who that person that you matched with on Tinder really is. Just use your common sense in situations where you don’t know who a person really is.
Distortion of values
Getting “that” shot can often become a priority over enjoying yourself in a given moment. I’m definitely guilty of it and I’ll put my hand up and admit that straight away. It’s of course different if Instagram or social media is part of your full time job, but even if it isn’t, it can still be a priority for people. And it really shouldn’t be a priority over enjoying yourself in a moment in a beautiful place surrounded by people who matter to you.
Bullying for me is whenever someone posts or shares something online with the intent to upset or hurt someones feelings. Be it by sending direct messages to the individual or sharing cryptic posts on your channels that you know the person will see, it’s wrong. If you see it, you should either report abuse, say it to the person who is doing it, or better yet, reach out to the person who is targeted and let them know that you are there for them. If you feel as though someone is bullying you, then I urge you to not retaliate online or in person, you never know what these people are capable of and it could make the situation much worse. Barnardos share some useful information on this topic HERE.
Now let me just finish by saying that I really hope that if you’re feeling vulnerable on social media, to try and take heed of these points. Because I promise you wholeheartedly that what you see is NEVER what you get. I’m going to just use myself as a prime example. I often wonder how I’m perceived online because I know that I put myself out there quite heavily. But just incase you don’t know, I’m a completely normal, hormonal, moody, at times obnoxious and impatient person. I fight with my parents, my sister, cry over stupid things more regularly than I want to admit. I’ve made questionable decisions through the years, hurt peoples feelings, failed exams, I skip the gym, eat so much that I can’t stay awake or physically move, suffer from chronic hangovers, I have stretch marks and cellulite on my legs and bum, edit out spots if I’m conscious of them in a photo, I’m incredibly untidy, lose things regularly and am so accident prone that it’s gone beyond a joke…and I’m absolutely freaking out over where my life is going at the moment too. I don’t say these things to be hard on myself or be mean to myself because you should never do that, but I do want to make it clear that people online that you don’t personally know are all painfully normal and more often than not, quite boring. BUT while I’m trying to be honest about who I really am as a person, I also know that I’m a really great person too and I’m not afraid to say it. I’ve had the same group of friends since I was a tot who I can rely on through hell or high waters and my family and dogs think that I’m fabulous. All of this keeps me sane and with a smile on my face.
It’s so strange for me to say this and not something that I expected but something about this topic does make me feel slightly emotional. I can’t stand the thought of someone feeling upset over social media or one the reasons that I listed above. If you ever find yourself feeling isolated and don’t feel as though you have anyone to turn to, then turn to me. Send me a message on Snapchat or Instagram and I promise I’ll write back straight away.
Photos by the wonderful Bríd O’Donovan