Social media is a beast that I’ve been struggling with ever since I started this blog.
On one hand, it’s amazing that we can easily connect with anyone around the world. We can spread our messages and ideas at no cost and get daily doses of inspiration and knowledge in condensed forms. Anyone can have a voice.
On the other hand, we’re bombarded with tons of different feelings upon scrolling through our feeds. Even if some of us think we’re invincible when it comes to advertising, we’re typically not invincible when it comes to the subliminal messages that come through statuses. And everyone has a voice.
I’ll be honest: if I didn’t have a blog, I probably wouldn’t be on any platform besides Facebook. That’s only because I understand the ‘business’ value of having a presence on these platforms.
But I’m often conflicted about how to use social, mostly because I don’t want to contribute to the clutter that’s already out there.
There are clearly a lot of ups and downs to social media, so I figured I would explore them more in-depth to see if I can reconcile my feelings on it. (Probably not, but it’s worth a try.)
Before we continue, I want to define social media, in this sense, as one of the following: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. I know that other mediums (like YouTube) can loosely be considered social media, but for the sake of this exploration, that’s what I have in mind.
The Obvious Benefits of Social Media
I think the biggest benefit to social media is the power to connect.
Granted, sometimes the ease of access can be a little creepy (and I imagine if you’re a celebrity, it can be tiring), but I know so many people who have formed friendships over social media, and others who have even received job opportunities from it.
Social media can also allow us to maintain relationships once they’re formed, or simply check-in on people we care about. Oftentimes, we find out about major life events through social.
Along with the power of connectivity comes the power of being able to spread ideas quickly and effectively. As writers, we’re told not to expect people to come to us. We have to make people aware of the fact that our work exists. Doing that on social media can be hit or miss, depending on your following, but it allows us to build that following – one we otherwise wouldn’t have.
You can curate lists of people to follow to check up on news or read blogs. In this way, social can sometimes be a good ‘keeping-up-with-the-world’ tool. Sharing information with others is quick and simple.
You can also follow artists you care about to see when they’ll be in your area for an event, or if they’ve released something new.
Pinterest is its own beast – you can use it to plan for basically anything: home renovations, weddings, parties, meals, fitness routines, outfits, travel – you name it, they have it.
Last (but probably not least), social media exposes us to second-hand experiences. I enjoy seeing people share their travels because it gives me ideas on where I’d like to go…without having to go there!
The Downsides of Social Media
Sometimes I feel like there are more downsides to social media than upsides.
It doesn’t even need to be said, but many of us end up feeling worse when we look at our social media feeds because people tend to only focus on the good that happens to them. Most people aren’t posting about their bad day or what went wrong. (And if they do, they’re labeled as attention-seeking, so there’s no winning.)
I mentioned this in the beginning, but it just hit me this week: I don’t usually get bombarded by a lot of advertisements because I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, and I have AdBlocker on most of the time. I, uh, also don’t get out a lot.
But…looking through social media is almost as bad as consuming commercials or ads because other people’s statuses have the power to influence us a lot. More than we probably realize.
Maybe you see that a friend got a new car, or maybe a family member is on an awesome vacation, or maybe a co-worker received a raise and they’re celebrating with a nice dinner.
In any one of those cases, these thoughts may creep into your mind:
Jeez, my car is more than 10 years old. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade (even though nothing is wrong with it). If they deserve it, so do I!
Aw man, I haven’t taken a vacation all year. I’ve just been working away. I should plan a cool trip and just put it on my credit card. A break would be so nice.
I’ve been making all of my meals in an effort to save money and be healthier, but I could go for some lasagna right now…
None of us are immune to these thought patterns. We end up feeling jealous, resentful, bitter, ungrateful, or downright depressed after going through our feeds because we’re only getting a super small snapshot of someone’s day. And these thoughts – and messages – can influence us both financially and emotionally in ways we never realized – even days later.
Social media also has a tremendous impact on society as a whole. I don’t like getting into politics for obvious reasons, but it goes back to my point before – everyone has a voice. And it’s very easy to abuse that.
Unfortunately, social media doesn’t ask you, “Hey, do you really think it’s a good idea to say that?” before we hit ‘send’ on a status or reply. (Even if it did it probably wouldn’t matter…)
Since we’re not actually face-to-face with the person we’re corresponding with, it’s much easier to be hostile – I’ve seen Facebook and Twitter wars break out over difference of opinion.
Anonymity also makes it incredibly easy for people to hide and say hurtful things. It’s almost too easy for anyone to have their say, and everyone is always trying to get the last word in.
Not only that – and this might be an unpopular opinion – but social media contributes to echo chambers.
Think about it: you’re way more likely to follow someone who shares your opinions than someone you disagree with. When you surround yourself with like-minded people in every corner of the internet, it’s not far-fetched to say you might adopt their mindsets or viewpoints on certain things…and never get exposed to the counter-view.
It wasn’t until I stepped back from blogging and immersed myself in more real-life relationships that I realized there’s more to life than money. When you live and breathe personal finance every single day, and when you’re constantly exposed to the idea that you must be hustling at all times to make every moment count, you almost forget that there’s an alternative.
In my opinion, that’s not healthy.
And while social media is like networking on steroids, these connections aren’t always deep or genuine. Some people follow others back automatically, some people think messaging is a good substitute for a coffee date, and some people get too attached to their follower numbers. Still, others who are lonely in real life look to social media as a friendship simulator.
The last downside I can think of at the moment is that there’s a lot of unnecessary mental clutter that social media contributes to. There’s almost an over-saturation of ideas and messages out there.
I barely use Twitter because I can’t keep up with my feed, even after deleting a bunch of people. The same goes for Facebook. Instagram’s algorithms are crappy and I always seem to end up seeing older posts. There’s tons of spam on Pinterest. It takes too much effort to keep up on any platform.
We only have so much time in the day, and so much mental energy. Social media can be a resource hog, which is why I avoid it more often than not.
My Personal Take on Social Media
Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert (even online), maybe it’s because I’m jaded, or maybe I’m just too private and guarded about my life, but I’ve never really understood the point of social media at its core.
Like, what am I supposed to share with the world? I can never, ever think of something that’s so significant that people would actually care about. I end up feeling silly about anything I post. I second-guess my status updates every single time I go to post them because I feel this weird pressure to be funny, insightful, or worthy enough.
So of course, my solution is to just share adorable images of my pets, because who doesn’t like animals? (And then they can take the blame for lack of likes and shares.)
I also feel weird about promoting my own stuff on social. Going back to what I said before, I know I can’t expect people to simply find me, or expect others to share my work, but it still seems so self-serving and off-putting to me on a personal level. I have no issue with others doing it, of course, but I personally feel like I’m contributing to the clutter every time I post something.
I know that not everything needs to be super meaningful, beautiful, or entertaining, but if it isn’t…then what use is it?
The obvious solution is to not use social media, I suppose, which some well-known ‘minimalist’ and hard-core focused folks have done. Just because we’re told we should try and build a following doesn’t mean we need to follow those so-called ‘rules.’ Especially if our mental energy is drained as a result of all the pressure surrounding it.
But that doesn’t feel like the solution, either, and I can’t explain why.
Maybe I need to let go of whatever weird expectations I’m holding onto here. People can always choose to unfollow me if they don’t enjoy what I’m sharing. Or they can scroll right past the update.
Or maybe I need to do more digging to figure out how to use each platform in a non-business sense. That sounds so lame, but I’m lame. #Isuckatsocialpleasesendhelp
The Authenticity Movement
I’ve seen a shift in social media use recently thanks to the trend of being more authentic. Instead of sharing “omg look at this awesome cookie I ate!!” updates, people are sharing deeper thoughts that resemble mini journal entries.
I admire people who can open up like that. Those types of updates don’t typically breed jealousy or resentment. Instead, they’re often thought-provoking. At the very least, they usually make you feel less alone in the world. That’s something I think we can all use more of.
I’m still on the fence, though. Opening up in a public forum other than my blog doesn’t come naturally to me (weird, I know). That’s probably because maybe 10% of my real-life friends and family read this, but the other 90% follow me elsewhere, and I like to be selective with whom I share my thoughts.
I keep approaching things with a “let’s experiment” mindset, and I don’t see why this should be any different. So that’s what I’m going to do.
If you want to share how you view and use social media, feel free, as I think additional views could help this lame-ass figure things out. Or maybe I’m hopeless. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯