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Social media: friend or foe?

Posted on Jul 20, 2021 by

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” You seem to hate social media”, a friend told me after a few discussions in which I was explaining to her the basics of Instagram and coaching her on how to use it to achieve her goals. The statement took me by surprise, as I consider myself a fan of social media. I even studied about it and I chose it to be one of my lines of work. I have multiple accounts, I enjoy maintaining them and I look at social media as if it were a game: creating content for people, starting dialogues, creating communities, all these are exciting to me. Then why did my friend understood that I hate social media, from my speech?

Maybe because she is a friend and I’ve felt I could pour my frustration in our talks. I’ve been very frustrated with social media recently (particularly with Facebook and Instagram), and that frustration shows in how I talk about it. The never-ending change of algorithms, the monetisation of it all, the constant struggle as a creator to bring my creations in front of people — they took their toll on me. All social media platforms are becoming better at being instruments for companies to advertise, and I could even accept that if they wouldn’t make it so hard for people to connect to what’s interesting for them. I could accept my feed to be interrupted by commercials, as long as I can also see the posts from my favourite creators, and not just a handful of posts, many times wrongly chosen by the algorithm. I hate what YouTube is doing right now, ruining the experience of watching a beautiful video by interrupting it many times with commercials. I hate that my Facebook posts are shown to only 10% of my followers (even less sometimes). So yeah, it feels like I arrived at the point where social media feels less and less my friend and my playground, and more like an annoying thing I have to deal with.

Social media

All social media platforms are transforming into virtual billboards for companies to advertise. And that can only go so far, in my opinion. People will leave the platforms (as many of my friends did), because what was supposed to be a way to connect with your friends and the people/companies you admired, is now a boring online space, devoid of any sentiment. And you can tell me that there are ways to see the posts from your favourite pages and people, if you click here and there, do this or that. But not everyone wants to have a training in order to use a social media platform. Not everyone has the time to learn about how to change their settings to get the best functionality. Disappointed, some people will leave the platforms. The ones who will stay will do so because they ”need” to and will find ways to deal with the annoyances. It’s incredible to me how we find resources inside us to keep going. For example I find Instagram requires so much work to put your content out there, and we are still doing it, spending hours moving pictures from one device to another, from one app to another, until they finally can be uploaded in the glorious feed (or even worse, just in the stories that disappear after 24 hours!). But, as a creator of something, you have to be on a social media platform, you have to go where your people are, so we keep going.

Fake smile

Anyway, venting my frustration wasn’t supposed to be the point of this article. The thing I wanted to discuss was if social media is our friend or our enemy. If it makes us so frustrated and it generates anxiety and stress (as studies have shown), should we keep using it? If we feel down after watching perfect lives and perfect people online, should we not stop it? For me, social media brought a lot of joy, connection to people; I met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, I found collaborations, and I discovered artists. It also brought me moments of anxiety, doubt and sadness. I used to have to take breaks from it, constantly, so I can come back and find some pleasure in it later.

It’s impossible to imagine a world without social media. The Pandora box was open, and we can’t close it back. But I think that for all the damage the social media is doing, there is also a lot of good. Bringing this good more to the surface is what we have to strive for (personal users AND business users alike), if we can’t delete our accounts and live happily ever after in a world where likes and follows don’t have a meaning.

We are now, as a society, in what regards social media and the Internet, like monkeys who discovered fermented fruits under a tree and started eating and inebriating themselves. We have no control, no one taught us how to do it responsibly, and we care little about the devastating effects. It brings us dopamine and we like it. We focus on the numbers of likes and followers more than on the meaningful interactions that social media can bring. But if we were to learn how to use social media responsibly, create best practices around it, we could get so many benefits from it! Although not much can be achieved if the companies owning and developing these platforms are not willing to do the changes that are required to make them not only profitable but socially rewarding too. I have hopes that that will happen in the future, and I think we should start doing our best to try bringing on that change.

Once I realised the size of my frustration regarding social media, I implemented a few changes that help me have a healthier relationship and bring back the joy of using it. I don’t need to take breaks anymore, to keep my sanity. Don’t think I am on social media day and night — it’s just that breaks are not absolutely necessary as they used to be. But about that in another article.

I am curious how you feel about social media: does it benefit you? Are you happy or frustrated about it?

If you want to watch more on the subject: The Social Dilemma on Netflix and this speech from Tristan Harris.

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