by Melisse Ogilvie, Social Worker
“We do not have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.” Erik Qualman.
The advent of social media many years ago has been a positive outlet for all, impacting us mentally, socially and physically. The general use of social media has been beneficial for individuals, groups, organisations, communities, and businesses all over the world.
Overall, we can say that social media has transformed the way we communicate, develop and maintain relationships, stay abreast with current affairs and even establish small businesses.
We can all say that we have benefited from social media platforms either through decreased isolation, reconnection of people and relationships; provision of a sense of belonging; experiencing the shared happiness and improvement in physical and mental health.
Additionally, and indeed, most recently, we have seen social media being used in many instances to garner support against the injustices meted out on children, women, refugees, people of colour.
For all its benefits, it can also be said that social media has become somewhat of a necessary evil, or a medium used for evil.
While many, and maybe indeed, the vast majority of us use social media as an avenue to stay connected, others hide behind the medium and are empowered to be stalkers, trolls, predators and online bullies. What has been most concerning is the increase in people who use this platform to bully others, especially teenagers. Bullying takes the form of name-calling and rumour spreading. Cyberbullying affects the mental health of the victims. This has also unfortunately led to a number of victims taking their own lives.
Our mental health is affected in other ways, such as when it causes anxiety and depression. It can increase feelings of inadequacy when one compares their life to the lives of the people they follow. We spend a significant time admiring the vacations, celebrations and material things of other people, and perhaps feel that we can never measure up.
You may not know this, but the late-night browsing and texting affect sleep, which can then lead to sleep disorders.
Many experts agree that social media has hindered the development of authentic relationships, as it takes away from the person to person contact. On these platforms, we present ourselves the way we want to be seen. Therefore, it enables us not to be authentic, but rather, be a performer for social media.
A large percentage of young people use Facebook, Instagram and many other platforms for social networking. Some are very absorbed, posting an inordinate amount of information about themselves. The desire for success and admiration is a motive for the posting of everything, thus displaying narcissistic tendencies.
Most recently in Grenada, we have seen social media being used to vilify and “expose” people. It has also been used to propagate rumours and inaccurate information to push personal or political agendas. We have become so removed from each other that many of us lack empathy and do not consider whether there is truth or the potential social and professional damage that can be caused.
It appears that social media has removed our own personal commitment to be a people of integrity, showing value for close relationships and kindness. We need to treat each other with fairness and ensure that we do not let our personal feelings bias decisions about others.
I want to encourage us to use social media to reciprocate sharing and caring. Let us be genuinely interested and aware of the feelings of other people and ourselves. Let’s all be socially responsible for promoting a physically and mentally harmonious society.
We must not let the disadvantages of social media outweigh the advantages.
We must choose to do better, to be better…one post at a time.