Opinion

Why Social Media Is Toxic.

Recently after being able to take a second and observe the social media that surrounds large chunks of the world’s population today, I have realised that social media (when used the wrong way) can be extremely toxic. Notice how I said ‘can be’. By this I mean if you use social media too much and are not careful. Now there are a number of reasons why I think this:

  • Comparative Reasons
  • Missing moments in life
  • Addictive
  • Privacy
  • Impersonation

I will explain this five reasons with as much detail as possible in order to explain my point of view (but I love discussions – so leave some comments on your thoughts below). I also want to explain that

Comparative Reasons

Social Media Vs Real Life (30 Pics + Videos)
We all have bad days! Credit: Pinterest (Sorry Mila Kunis)

This was the first in my list of reasons why social media is toxic for good reason. This is arguably what frustrates me the most about social media, as people that I know and the general public in general compare themselves to ‘influencers’. They always believe that they don’t look good or that they are behind in life, as a result of the fact that these influencers flaunt seemingly perfect figures all the time, as well as seeming so successful. While these influencers are successful in their own right, people need to understand that many of the photos are edited or taken in the so called ‘perfect lighting’. If I took a load of photos I’m sure that I would have at least one where I would also look decent too! (Hopefully). Therefore, you shouldn’t try to replicate this sort of figure, it isn’t achievable for the vast majority of people, as a lot of the time, it isn’t real.

On the other important topic that people ALWAYS discuss when they think about influencers is their finances. I always hear “I wish I was as rich as …..”. Along with the wealth that many of these influencers accumulate from a young age, they have to take the fame that goes with it. “But that’s not bad”, you are probably thinking. Wrong. The issue with fame is that you are constantly under the limelight. You need to have thick skin as people will constantly judge you, and if you do something illegal (small things as many teenagers do), you would get berated – by MILLIONS of people. While on this topic, it is also important to remember that with an audience of that many people, you will be recognised in a lot of situations. You lose the ability to just walk around and enjoy a place, as whenever you do you are swarmed by people.

So one of the reasons that social media is toxic is that people find themselves constantly comparing themselves to these influencers. This creates the thought that you are not doing as well as others, but the majority of people never achieve that. These influencers are a minority and you only know about them as a result of algorithms behind popular social media behemoths like Instagram and TikTok. No one needs to compare themselves to people they see online as it is not a fair comparison due to all these factors. It’s like an average footballer comparing themselves to the professional footballer Lionel Messi.

Missing Moments in Life

What big data uncovers about how people use their city centres ...
How much do you miss when you look down instead of up? Credit: Centre for Cities

This is also a big one. I really didn’t realise this until recently, and once you realise that each and every moment only happens once, you learn to appreciate each moment just a bit more. As I previously mentioned, it is too much of social media that is a bad thing. This one makes sense – if you are constantly on your phone, you don’t get to enjoy the moments that are constantly going on around you. Seeing the people that you love in person and enjoying those special moments with them, or just taking in the experiences of the environment around you (as each experience is a unique one). Do you truly see everything if you are just stuck staring at a phone screen scrolling through instagram?

You will also end up regretting those moments just on your phone liking photos. Especially if you are with family such as grandparents (who unfortunately may not have as long left as we all may like). Time is valuable and each time we aimlessly scroll is time that is being wasted in my opinion. However, let me make an important clarification – wasting time is not a bad thing, it only is if you do it too much.

Addictive

The secret design tools which Social Media apps are using to ...
Social Media is addictive. Credit: Medium

EVERYONE knows how addictive social media can be. You can scroll and scroll for ages through an endless feed. One that’s made even worse by TikTok due to the large organic reach that they give their users. Other users will keep seeing videos of users without following them, creating this so called ‘endless feed’. Social media apps want that the most. Your attention. Since social media is free, the have to earn a profit one way or another to continue operating as a successful business, and this is because us as users, are the product. These companies want us to spend as much time on social media as possible as the longer we scroll, the more that they can show ads to you.

The concept of likes is like a drug. A like is simply a positive affirmation given by someone else who is classified as a ‘friend’, on whichever social media channel you want to think about. This desire for positive affirmation is what becomes addictive. The desire to show off what you are doing, and ensure that you get that positive reinforcement. It has been scientifically shown that going on social media has the same effect as when you take an addictive substance. If that doesn’t explain how addictive social media can be – then unfortunately you are the lost cause (I’m joking – partially….).

Privacy

SWIPE is Set to Reimagine Data Privacy and Monetization as We Know ...
Your data is at the heart of it… Credit: Medium

When thinking about privacy, most of just think about switching our instagram account from public to private, however there are many more privacy settings that most people never even see. The settings that I recommend people to alter are all here on Facebook Support (Official Website). Here they allow you to control exactly what people can see on your account with regards to all your profile information or your posts that you have made in the past.

In a world where data privacy is getting taken more and more seriously, social media is the most likely collective of powerful companies that will ensure that they still are able advertise using your data no matter what. At the end of the day, who really would want to take away Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, etc.? These companies rely quite heavily on ad revenue, and thus it won’t disappear. Although, at least protect yourself from others so they cannot see your data – which leads me on to the final point…

P.S. I know Facebook owns Instagram and Whatsapp by the way.

Impersonation

Social Media Impersonation: Don't Become A Victim - Business 2 ...
You should always be on the lookout for fake accounts. Credit: Business 2 Community

Now this one is very dangerous, and has a lot of negative potential. IF you don’t have the privacy settings correctly set on your accounts, then anyone can just look at them. Everyone knows how easy it is to save a photo on Facebook or just copy some text on a laptop. This ease allows people to take the photos you have uploaded with the captions that you have used, and post them on a new account with your same name. The profile will look exactly like you.

Now all you need is a little sprinkling of ‘I forgot my password and had to make a new account’, then you are straight into friend requests. Many of the original people’s friends will accept the friend request and all of a sudden it is possible that the impersonator can message friends of the individual being impersonated. This could lead to things like sexual harassment or just straight up bullying. Since the messages ‘appear’ to come from the individual, people already trust them and wouldn’t even think twice about meeting up with them. Anything that the impersonator says or does online under the fake account, would be seen to be the original individual – but it isn’t.

If someone does make a fake account for you, report it and then get all of your friends to report it too. Then the account will likely be removed from the platform. If you yourself receive a friend request from some you thought you already had on the platform, check these things. First go to the account and check for typos and number of friends (if this is low then could be a scam). The best thing to do is clarify with the person over text or in person whether or not they created a new account. This will ensure that you (hopefully) never run into problems of this kind on social media.

Conclusion

Social media is a great tool to have at our disposal, and it allows us to do things that a few hundred years ago you would have been burnt at the stake for. However, since social media gives everyone equal power, there will always be some that abuse it. Even to the extent of harassment. The tendencies that one develops on social media tends to be negative ones, so just think about when you actually NEED to go on social media and when you WANT to go on social media. Both of these are fine but recognising the difference enables you to see things more clearly.

Social media might be toxic in some ways but it doesn’t mean that you have to completely cut it out. The best way to put what I want to say is, “use social media consciously, rather than sub-consciously’ (I don’t think that one has been said – so that’s my first unique quote on the website!)

I know this was a very different style of writing to what I usually do, but I have really enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to share your opinions in the comments, and let me know if you like this style of writing. I believe that it enables people to be more active in the discussions rather than with a review which most people don’t have much of an opinion on. If you enjoyed it feel free to share and join the mailing list if you wish.

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