For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of ideas for a social media-related topic floating around in my head. There are posts about social media all the time, people are using social media all the time, and the opinions just seem to be everywhere.
I find that most the articles I read or opinions of people are from a negative perspective, painting social media as this horrible piece of modern lives that is ripping us all apart and screwing us up mentally. I do see and agree with some of the harms of social media, but really…
I’m okay with it. I don’t think social media is all that bad.
With that said, I want to hopefully give some coherent thoughts about where I stand personally on social media usage.
The Blame Game
If social media were a person, I’d feel really bad for her. Lately, social media takes all the blame for the bad aspects of itself. Often, I read articles like this one about Instagram’s “Envy Effect,” but am saddened by the point that I feel is being missed by many.
If you haven’t read that article, it stated that social media makes people hate their lives, paints a better picture than is real, and to heed with caution. While I half-agree, I feel the title of the article alone is misleading and places the blame on social media itself instead of those who use it.
I have heard it in conversation and even felt it myself, the scenario that goes something like this: “Oh, goodness. Here she goes again, pinning the perfect house that she will never have! Wait. Is that really what she is going to do with her house, her closet, her baby’s room? I could never afford that or have something that perfect. Now I have to hate her for pinning that because I can’t have it.”
Or this… “How many times can this girl Instagram salad and avocados? Is that all she eats?”
Or this… “There she is on vacation, having fun – doing exactly what I’m not. (in fact, I am at home in my pajamas, eating a bowl of ice cream). My life isn’t like that right now, so I’m sad.”
I know the envy exists. And I know that from that, the unhappiness sets in inside all of us. But the problem is not social media. It did not create those feelings in us. Although no one wants to hear it, I truly feel that we are the ones to blame.
Our insecurity, jealousy, judgement, and bitterness about not being the best or most perfect clouds around us when social media amplifies the lives of others around us.
I feel like articles like that exist because people forget that social media is manmade. Social media didn’t just pop out of the ground like a sprout. We made it. We use it. And we react to it. But the reaction is not the platform’s fault.
I’m not saying we should blame ourselves for the way we feel. I do feel that people should be aware that how they feel when using social media is not caused by social media, but rather caused by our own insecurities.
Use with Purpose
Before blogging, social media was not high on my priorities. I didn’t even have Twitter and used Instagram much less. And Facebook was just downright annoying. I would say that on average, most weeks, I would think about “quitting” social media altogether, because it seemed pointless. And before I was a blogger – it was.
But now that I have the purpose of promoting my blog through social media and engaging with the niche community I am a part of, social media has a specific purpose for me. Since I am not just using social media to express how bored I am, complain, or try to get attention, I can actually appreciate what social media is for and how it works. I also use social media for my Mary Kay business, which I have less experience with. But again – there is another purpose for my use of social media.
But what about people who don’t have blogs, businesses, or services to offer? What about the rest of us?
I found that when I was “purposelessly” using social media, I was very unhappy with it. I didn’t know why I needed to check it. I just did. It sucked me in, like it tends to do, and I felt stuck there, wondering what the point of it all was.
Now I check social media with the intent of replying to readers quickly or giving people the information they are asking for. I feel that I’m actually using my time wisely when I say things on social media now. And because I use social media as a means to an end, my use of social media actually does end.
But before, it felt endless. Endlessly draining, endlessly wasting my time, endlessly infuriating or annoying me.
And I think that’s another reason why social media gets such a bad wrap: because most people are using it without a clear purpose, living within the grey area of usage, and getting lost because of it.
Everyone uses social media differently and will define its purpose differently based on their own needs and uses. But without defining a purpose for it, social media is going to produce unneeded addiction, negative feelings, and less communication like so many articles & research claim. But I do believe that when you start to think about your purpose behind using it, the way you interact with social media will change for the better.
Although I feel I have a more balanced relationship with social media, I am often still worried about how my social media is being viewed.
Personally, a lot has changed for my social media usage since becoming a blogger a year ago. Half the people who follow me are “real life” friends, and the other half are blog or online friends. So now my audience has changed. And in the past year or so of blogging, I’ve also taken up running and am more interested in healthy lifestyle living.
So with my audience and interest changes combined, sometimes I worry that my friends just don’t get what I post on social media, or just outright judge me. If you took a look at some of my recent social media post’s lately, you’d see…
— Melissa (@free2bimperfect) July 18, 2013
— Melissa (@free2bimperfect) July 23, 2013
But that’s just some of what I post, only snippets of my day and my life. Do those posts make me seem like a health obsessed freak, who runs all the time and eats super healthy? What if someone happens to only see the posts I make about running? Do they automatically start associating me as the annoying running girl?
The truth is, there are days I loathe running and just skip it. There are days where I really don’t eat anything healthy at all. And there are days when running, healthy eating, or anything related to it doesn’t even cross my mind. I know the truth. But I fear that others may assume the wrong thing about me or think that I idolize my love for fitness, which I truly do not believe I do.
I guess I just get concerned because I am not trying to paint my life to be a certain way. I don’t plan things in advance and craft up pictures or posts to try & deceive anyone. I simply share what I’m doing or what I like, hoping to inspire others along the way.
I suppose I view social media with a lot less seriousness. It’s just a photo or some words. To me, it shouldn’t mean so much. I’m okay with sharing what I do online. I’m okay with the impact that social media has on me because I’ve chosen to be aware of my feelings about it and how I use it. But I just don’t think it’s all that bad!
To me, social media is a fun way to see what others are doing and share what I’m doing as well. And that’s about it!
I hope you enjoyed these thoughts. I know this was a lot longer post than usual, but I just had to get that out there!
Questions for You:
- Do negative articles or viewpoints bother you or do you agree with them?
- Who takes social media in your life too seriously? Do you? Why do you think so?