10 Pitfalls of Social Media
There is nothing inherently “bad” or “good” about social media. It just is. But because of the way we use it and because of the way we let it affect our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviour, it has some deleterious effects on our well-being.
Let’s take a look at some potential pitfalls of using social media.
- Distraction. This is quite alike to mindlessness. There is so much beauty, so many connections to be made, and so many experiences that are wasted in the real life you live in because of being too focused on and absorbed in the virtual world you hold in your hand. As you are distracted by the virtual world, real life passes you by and leaves you with a deep sense of dissatisfaction.
- Comparison. When you look at other people’s posts and pictures, you compare yourself to them. Am I prettier? Am I uglier? Do I have as many friends? Am I happier? Sadder? Cooler? Do I have a more dramatic story to share? Am I better? Am I worse? Comparison creates inflated feelings of superiority or inferiority, depending on how you view yourself compared to the other. These feelings lead to disconnection and separation from others and can bring about feelings of loneliness.
- Too many opinions. You are wired to belong…to a relatively small group of people. You are wired to care (to a certain degree) about the opinions of the people in that group so that you know what your group or tribe stands for and whether or not you belong. But when the group is thousands or tens of thousands of people, instead of ten or one hundred people, it can be difficult to find a sense of belonging and you can develop a sense that no one understands you.
- Lack of authenticity. You can loss yourself and your self expression because you see someone else’s self-expression being praised and “liked” more. For example, a photographer may notice that another photographer that has a different style gets a lot of followers and likes on their stuff, so the first photographer changes his style and abandons himself, trying to win the approval and the “likes” of others. It takes a lot of energy to be something you are not and eventually you become exhausted and deeply dissatisfied because no one really knows who you are - not even you.
- Emotional backlog. There are a lot of stories on social media. Some sad, happy, exciting, frightening, overwhelming, boring, angry. All kinds of stories. With the flick of a finger, the stories come faster than our emotions can get processed. This can lead to what I call “emotional backlog”. We emotionally respond to reading/listening/watching one story and don’t have time to fully process it before we move on to the next story with another emotion that doesn’t get processed before moving on to the next.
- Shortened attention span. Because there is so much content on social media, if you aren’t interested in what you’re looking at, you can just move on. And because of this, we lose the skill to tolerate the “unpleasant” or “uninteresting”. Eventually, we just don’t know how to handle the feeling of “boredom”.
- Impatience. When on social media, we get accustomed to things moving fast and to getting what we want when we want it with a couple finger moves- be it more information, or more details about a topic, or more videos like the one we just saw. We come to believe that we have control over what happens to us. So when real life doesn’t go the way we want or it doesn’t move as fast as it does online, we get impatient because real life isn’t meeting the unrealistic expectations we set for it.
- State of emergency. Dings, alarms, whistles, vibrations. They all mean that something is demanding your attention…NOW! “Look here! Look now!” Getting these notifications puts you on edge. Ever notice how your heart beats a little faster or maybe a little harder when you receive a notification? The sound and feel of it can surprise and startle you. We were not meant to be startled 50 times a day- that’s living in a state of emergency.
- FOMO- Fear Of Missing Out. This is a feeling/belief/perception that others are having or experiencing something good and fundamentally important that you are missing out on. It involves a deep sense of envy and helplessness and affects self-esteem. This is similar to comparing yourself to others, but more specifically, you are comparing yourself to others’ “highlights”. That creates a skewed sense of “normal”, where you then feel that you are lacking, or something in your life is lacking.
- Impunity. Because there is relative anonymity in a large group and because there are no significant consequences to your actions on social media, hurtful comments, bullying, and attacks on other people take place. This is divisive and creates a “lesser” humanity.
These pitfalls are not inevitable! You fall into them when you use social media without awareness. When you intentionally and mindfully use social media, these pitfalls can be avoided…and so can the stress these pitfalls cause.
Here’s to conquering stress.
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