Pros and cons of social media

9 October 2017 by
First published: 20 October 2017

Pros and cons of social media

We assess the pros and cons of social media and whether it’s doing more harm than good in an age of Twitter and Instagram obsession.

Connecting with the world

We live in an age of constant social interaction. However, the meaning of the word ‘social’ has evolved over the years. Being sociable used to mean meeting up with friends, whereas now it’s come to mean a lot more. You can have an entire conversation with someone without saying a word out loud and find out what your friend’s up to on the other side of the world without leaving your bedroom. Social media has transformed the way we interact with one another and how we present ourselves to the rest of the world. It’s absolutely incredible, but can also have its drawbacks. We don’t have to stop using social media, but we need to learn how to become aware of what’s real and what’s not. So, where do we start?

Long-lasting effects

Continuous use of social media can cause a variety of mental health issues. We’re exposed to images of flawlessness everyday. Every single person who uses platforms like Instagram and Twitter has their own insecurities. However, when all you see online is people with perfect lives, you’re led to believe that you should aspire to be like them. The inability to achieve perfection can then impact your mental health. ‘Mental health is something that can affect all of us at any stage of our lives and it’s important for us to raise awareness on this issue, especially if it’s being increased through social media use,’ says Mike Bandar, co-founder of Hopper HQ. In September, Instagram scheduler Hopper launched #RealMeDay, an initiative to encourage people to go filter free. This raised awareness for mental health issues caused by using Instagram and helped people be the truest versions of themselves.

Looking back

Realistically, we’re not going to stop using social media, even though we know it can be harmful at times. What we can do is start conversations about mental health issues, body positivity and how we interact with one another online. After all, humans have always had a penchant for documenting themselves. Social media just created a new platform to do so.  Cal Strode, Senior Media Officer at the Mental Health Foundation, wrote about the evolution of self-documentation in an article for the Huffington Post. ‘The social desire to document and communicate positive identity is well established…’ he writes. ‘…keeping diaries was all the rage for millions of our Victorian predecessors. Social media is the latest manifestation of the desire to document and communicate the self…” Cal argues that human beings haven’t really changed, only our technology has.

Changes for the future

When discussing social media-related mental health problems we need to ask ourselves what’s at the root of these issues. Is social media the problem, or is it only the tool used to perpetuate the problem? If it’s the latter, then we need to change the way we use it, not stop using it altogether. ‘If we’re serious about improving young people’s mental health, we need to move the debate beyond asking if social media is the problem…’ writes Cal. ‘After all, the screen is just a shiny surface.’ Social media can be used as a powerful tool for good, which is what Hopper did with their #RealMeDay campaign. Their initiative has helped people embrace their individuality. When you’re scrolling through Instagram in future, do so with a pinch of salt. Remember that you’re looking at your friends’ highlight reels, not their behind-the-scenes moments.

Sometimes the use of social media can take its toll. Find out why this model quit Instagram in tears.

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