Trolls, fake news, pressure and addiction – there’s alot to hate about social media. But could social media actually be good for you?
At the beginning of lockdown a well-meaning friend gave me some well-meant but unsolicited advice. Amongst other things they told me to stop reading children’s stories on Facebook live and to get off social media.
There are many occasions when ‘getting off social media’ might be good advice -indeed I often take a self imposed break for a few days. If you find yourself unable to switch off from your social media feeds, if you’re receiving online abuse, or if it’s making you feel unhappy then you should definitely switch off. But I think it’s short sighted to portray social media as the boogey man, a causer of problems and never a friend or a solution.
So often people assume that social media is something that breeds insecurity, unhealthy comparisons and unrealistic expectations. But in contrast I’ve found social media to be a comfort in times of trouble, an outlet and a way of creating order from chaos. Here are a few reasons why I think social media might actually be good for you.
1. The Anti-Echo Chamber
We tend to be friends with people who think similarly to ourselves. You like the same things, think the same way, even vote the same way. It can be very easy to find yourself in an echo chamber.
The same can be true of social media of course. But using social media to venture outside of your immediate group of friends by joining a local area Facebook groups, a common interest group or the big wide world of Twitter, gives you the opportunity to share the opinions, knowledge and experience of a whole range of people that you wouldn’t normally meet.
It’s sometimes uncomfortable but allowing yourself to be exposed to people whom you wouldn’t normally come across, helps you to be more open-minded, understanding even. It’s stops your world becoming small and gives you a better understanding of current events.
2. Always on-call.
One of the negatives of social-media is that it’s always there, so if you’re having a hard time online, you don’t get any respite. This is when a social media break is wise.
However the 24 hour nature of social media can also be a positive. Feeling lonely at 1am in Manchester, with a baby who likes to breastfeed all night? Don’t worry, it’s only 5pm in LA and the Mum’s Facebook group is full of life and ready to offer support.
If you’re having a crisis, if you need a boost of confidence, if you have an idea, if you just can’t sleep, there’s always somebody there if you need them.
3. Routine and schedules.
Do you want to set yourself a goal or a challenge? Do you want to create structure for yourself? Why not come up with a regular post?
My friend Jenny collects smiles. Every month she posts a selection of her favourite pictures on the Brick Castle’s Instagram, with the hashtag #tbcsmiles.
My friend Maggie shares a daily post on Facebook detailing what has made her happy that day, even if it’s just a decent cup of tea.
And for the first three months of lockdown I read a children’s story on Facebook live every lunchtime. For me it created a deadline each day by which I needed to have my sh*t together. It gave me a sense of normality when I couldn’t go to groups or volunteer at our local Book Cycle and a sense of community when the same names popped up to watch every single day. When it stopped being a positive thing for me, I stopped doing it.
Perhaps you want to commit to an excercise plan, maybe you need a regular event to look forward to. You can easily create routine with social media.
4. Kindred spirits.
The right common-interest group can be a joy! I’ve met some of my dearest friends in Facebook groups. Whether you’re interested in vintage style, eco friendly living, sports, decorating or keeping chickens. You needn’t ever feel like ‘the only one in the village’ 😂
There’s a group and a hashtag for everything. I’ve gotten so much from comparing notes with other foragers online and at least weekly I’ll have occasion to both give and receive support with fellow Ehlers Danlos Syndrome sufferers.
From online weigh-ins to decorating advice – you’re never more than a hashtag away from finding your tribe and doing so can have a big impact. It reduces loneliness and helps you to develop your ideas and interests.
5. Be heard and be seen
It’s easy to feel invisible. Even pre-Covid there were people who felt ignored, trapped – for whatever reason. Used well, social media can be the great leveler.
The thoughts of Bob from the corner shop have as much chance of going viral and making an impact as anyone else’s. And although it’s not infallible, the anonymity afforded to social media users allows you to be yourself in a way that might not be possible at home.
What a relief it must be for those who feel trapped, to be able to speak freely.
Of course there are those who misuse this perceived anonymity and choose troll others. This is the main problem with social media in my experience. There are some people who seem to go through life with fists clenched or red faced and furiously tapping at a keyboard.
No not that sort, more like this.
A troll is someone who is using the internet to be mean. There are many reasons why a person may do this, none of those reasons reflect very well on them.
The thing to remember about those people is that you get to choose how much of your energy you give them – whether you ‘feed the troll’ or send them back to their bridge where they belong. You can engage or be free and easy with the block button and poof! They’re gone. And you can go back to finding other people who live what you love, finding healthy debate, inspiration, support or education.
It’s all there, 24 hours a day.
And if you’re really desperate, you can always just head to TikTok for a laugh 😂
Love Rachel ❤️