This post does not talk about the usual “how you can ace social media”; it addresses something far more crucial.
It is no secret that behind the picture-perfect posts on Instagram and career gurus’ advice on LinkedIn, most, if not all social media platforms are agencies that make many people feel inadequate, insecure and unconfident about their bodies, lifestyles, careers, failures and differences.
In this age, when everyone turns to social media for validation, it is extremely easy to fall into traps of self-criticism and let one’s mental health take a backseat. While I wish otherwise, I believe that it is impossible to create a mechanism covering such a large spectrum that can filter out all the above without taking away freedom of speech and media autonomy.
That being said, I think the gamechanger on how social media affects humans can be — humans. We can all make a personal effort to co-exist in the virtual world and live in peace without pulling each other down and help each other rise. Honestly, it can’t be that difficult. We manage to do it all the time in the real world, don’t we? And we are all the better for it.
I have been a user on four social media platforms for the past 1 year. I am no influencer, just another average person trying to navigate my way into communities that interest me and conversations where I feel I can contribute.
On many occasions, I have found myself stressed due to peer pressure, ridiculously unachievable career advice by influencers and seemingly unreal physical appearances (I know most of the time it is just filters, but we leave no opportunity to self-doubt, do we? The mind wants what it wants) — none of which I can achieve in a hundred years.
And I am not alone. I personally know so many young people who go through similar tumultuous emotions, some more than others. However, I make a constant effort not to get overwhelmed by what I view on social media and via this article, I would like to share some of those ways in the hope that it might be beneficial to those who read it.
To begin with, it is of utmost importance that you don’t blindly create profiles on all social media platforms. Instead, choose a few — as few as possible — which you believe can benefit you in some way. The benefit a platform offers should always be more than the cost. The benefit here can be academic/career-oriented/networking/communication with family, and the cost is simply your time (and money in the case of paid platforms).
The next step is to make whichever platform/s you choose a comfortable space for yourself. Before you follow/connect with someone or send friend requests, take a look at the kind of content that person posts and whether it resonates with you or not. If it is irrelevant or makes you feel uncomfortable/stressed, stay away.
Remember — how much value you get out of social media is completely unrelated to how many connections or followers you have.
It is also imperative to understand that every platform is created for a different purpose. Try to figure out if your requirements/interests fit in with the platform’s purpose; otherwise, you would simply be wasting your time. For example, LinkedIn is a professional networking platform for employment-oriented information, not a dating site.
Once you have understood your choice of social media, do not be afraid of sharing content. Unfortunately, especially when it comes to platforms like LinkedIn, young professionals often hesitate about their posts, debating if they have enough experience to share their opinions on any matter.
If you feel you have something to share, go for it, irrespective of whether you doubt you are “qualified enough” or not. Social media is made for human users and every human has different stories and perspectives. There is no right or wrong, bad or good in sharing what’s on your mind, as long as it’s not intentionally hurtful towards another person.
Accept that there will be people who won’t agree with you and write opinions or share pictures that you won’t agree with. Differing opinions are not a crime — they should be treated as conversation starters and push buttons towards building interesting connections.
Do not be nasty on social media — not in the comments sections, not in DMs. I wish people would understand that social media is already triggering for many people to begin with, without getting trolled for sharing what they believe in and how they choose to live their lives. Also, please have the courage to call out and report all trolls/abusers you encounter.
No matter how active you are, normalise taking breaks from social media. I would go as far as saying incorporate breaks into your calendar. Lots of breaks. As many breaks as you need. As many breaks as you want.
Lastly, I can’t emphasise enough on how imperative it is that you practice self-kindness and don’t force yourself to participate or harbour undue stress to keep posting on a platform. Instead, prioritise more tangible entities in your life like your family and friends, work and hobbies. And never forget — social media cannot compensate for the pressure it puts on your mental health, which is why you have to put yourself first.
At the end of the day, it is just a virtual world and it does not define your worth — unless you allow it to.