I feel like everywhere I look at the moment, people are talking about how social media is such a ‘toxic environment’ – influences are only posting the best parts of their lives, teenage girls think they’re fat and nobody is as happy as they say they are.
But is that really the case? Is social media as awful as everyone says?
Short answer, no I don’t think it is. Yes, in some respects, social media invites you to compare your life to what everyone else is posting about their lives, but does comparison necessarily have to be a bad thing?
Disclaimer: if social media has a negative influence on your mental health and happiness, obviously it’s not good – I can only talk about my experiences with social media and it’s different for everyone so take my words with a little pinch of salt.
For one, not everyone is scrolling through Instagram analysing how every post they see illustrates why their lives are rubbish – I scroll past a photo of an influencer who’s bought some new furniture and I think ‘oooh that’s lovely!’, I’m not thinking about how my life is awful because I can’t have what they have. Does making this example about furniture make me seem really old? I don’t even know anymore.
For two, people are capable of going through social media and seeing people they admire and not comparing themselves (whether that be their body or clothes) to what they see. There’s a lot of talk, particularly with women and teenagers, about how people only ever compare themselves to others. In some cases, this is true (obviously) but in other cases, is it not just admiring someone who looks good? I follow a fair few fitness Instagrams and yes, I’d give anything to look like they do, I’m mostly just admiring how exercise has worked for them and it inspires me more than anything else.
(For the most part, on my really low days it can be depressing but those are the days I know I have to step away or look at something else)
Whether it be body image, interior design or career, social media can be an easy source of comparison but I’ve found in more cases than not, that comparison motivates people to be on the level they want to be – to work out harder, to work as hard as they can for that promotion, to be more like the people that they follow online.
In some respects, I think for us to assume that all anyone does online if negatively compare themselves to other is just that – negative, completely dismissive of how complex people are and we’re all capable of using and reacting to social media in different ways.
Obviously this is all very personal to me – as my mum likes to remind me, I’m a very competitive person so I’m often comparing myself to others and whilst it can bring me down and dishearten me, often it inspires me to be better, to be the best I can be. Sometimes it’s as petty as being able to prove to the people I went to school with that ‘media isn’t easy’ and I can and will be successful. Sure, that’s probably not the most ideal mindset but if it inspires me to work as hard as I can is it that bad?
I predominantly follow people from school to keep up with what they’re doing and watch them flourish in their own fields, because they’re so different to mine. Just to clarify – I’m not that badly competitive.
Comparison can be an awful thing and in some instances it is dangerous, social media can be an awful platform for that. But depending on who you are, how you use social media, how you react to other people, who you follow, what content you engage with and what they post, it doesn’t have to be.
For me, I find social media can be a useful tool when I’m feeling low – it helps me stop analysing my own life for a minute. It brings me out of my own head and into someone else’s world for a little bit – it’s a distraction as much as it is a motivational comparison.
But then that is just me – what do you think? Do you use social media for a particular purpose and do you find that has an impact on you?
Thank you for reading,