• Becky Whittaker

Social Media Part 1 - The Good, The Bad and The Very Ugly; The Numbers Game.

Through my work, I am so often aware of the negative impact that social media can have on the people that I work with, and sometimes on myself too. In this new series of posts I want to explore some ideas and share some observations on social media and how it does truly affect people in our modern world. This is Part 1 and it is all about the numbers game.........

Whilst on the subject of social media, I am predominantly talking here about people's personal profiles, rather than business pages. By way of disclosure, it is important to mention that I really do see social media as a positive way for businesses and so called "Social Media Stars" to reach out and connect with their customers or demographic. I believe that for these types of pages to be safe, they need to be well contained and monitored carefully, but with these careful boundaries in place they can carry a positive message and I really support this if it is done in the right way. As the title suggests, I don't see all social media in a negative way, as I believe so much positive can come from it too.

The Numbers Game

When social media first became a big thing, I clearly recall people that I came into contact with talking about how many "friends" they had on Facebook. Even though some of these people might have been very loose acquaintances or perhaps someone that they had sold a washing machine to the year before, what was seemingly, most important, was the quantity of "friends" and little thought was being given to the quality of the connections on their Facebook list. This would potentially leave people vulnerable to sharing all sorts about their personal lives, with people that they barely knew.

Essentially we were being validated by a number, and for me, this was where I was seeing the people around me not feeling good enough or not being popular enough, especially as they might have compared themselves to someone else. For the purpose of this post let me introduce a man that I will call Fred. This guy had 600 Facebook friends so he must be so popular right? However, people may not have thought about the idea that Fred might have 600 connections on his friends list, but actually only 40 of those people genuinely cared for him, the other 560 people would probably barely recognise him in the street - it was totally quantity driven!

As I look back on this time and reflect, this is where I wish alarm bells had started to ring, after all, surely it is not good for anyone's mental health to compare themselves to another person simply by the number of people that were listed on their profile! I believe that this was the beginning of social media comparisons, and the start of additional potential problems in terms of self esteem and emotional well-being.

As time has moved on, people are no longer caught up so much on how many people follow them, but are instead caught up on how many reactions they receive when they post a photo, a video or a post, it is just a different numbers game!

I am sure many of you can relate to the feeling of checking your newly posted photo every few minutes to see how many comments, likes or re-tweets it has. I suspect you also can relate to the feeling that follows, when no-one reacts or comments; this is where people can begin to feel their self esteem dip, thoughts like 'Do I not look good in that photo?' or 'No-one really likes me' commonly come out in relation to social media, especially when we see our friend Fred has also posted a photo today and he has got 15 likes on it!

Social media is by it's very nature supposed to be social in joining people together, however, so often the opposite is true, people can feel isolated and not "good enough" when they are comparing themselves to others. In the next post, I will talk some more about the filter of social media and how it can be a very skewed image of life; but I am also interested in giving you some tools to help. If you find yourself being affected by validation in the form of likes and comments on social media, here are some tips to try...

1) Instead of seeing social media as a platform for others, why not start to see it as a space for you to collate aspects of your life. Try to visualise social media as a place to group together memories so that you can re-visit them at a later date. Your social media page is all about you, it is bit like a digital scrapbook that you can look at and revisit whenever you want.

2) If you notice yourself thinking thoughts like "People must hate this photo of me" or "My family must not be interested in me" stop for a moment and ask yourself why you are talking to yourself in such a negative way. Imagine, your best friend or family member saying these negative thoughts about themselves, what would you say to them? I suspect you would be much kinder to others than you are to yourself.

3) If you begin to feel like people don't care about you or don't like you based on not getting much reaction on social media, challenge yourself to think about real life evidence, social media is not real life, so think about your relationships in the real world, do you feel loved, supported and wanted in your real face-to-face interactions with people?

4) Remember that social media is based on some serious technology, algorithms change and manage who see's our posts and when they show up. Perhaps your post hasn't popped up on other peoples news-feeds today or maybe your real life supporters have not been online much.

5) Lastly, do not be afraid to do a social media detox, take time away from it whenever you can, let yourself have a rest. Also consider the people on your followers list, are they people that you would choose to socialise with? If not, maybe it is worth making sure your list of friends and followers are genuine people in the real world as well as in the world of social media.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, if you found it helpful please share with others, look out for Part 2 coming soon.

#MentalHealthAwareness #selfesteem #mentalwellbeing #socialmedia

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