Since its humble beginnings, social media has gone through a whirlwind of evolutions and challenges, each more formidable than the last. Social media was designed first and foremost as a series of platforms that allowed individuals to connect and communicate around the world, no matter where they lived. This instantaneous connection has been proven to be the foundation that millions of people needed to forge and maintain connections across oceans with their loved ones. Unfortunately for others, social media has proven to be the exact opposite; instead of connecting them to their loved ones and people they want to go out of their way to stay in communication with, social media has become the breeding grounds for imminent cyberbullying and abuse that has become virtually inescapable. The obvious consequences of instances like this on social media is that users feel an increased sense of sadness, despair, and loss. Loss of the self, loss of their dignity, loss of their sense of belonging. These feelings have ultimately led to a near-epidemic of mental health instability among social media users, and we must hold ourselves – and the platforms that are the home for such despicable actions and behaviours – accountable for the way we conduct ourselves and interact with others.
What seems like a small comment to one person, can ultimately be the straw that broke the camel’s back to another. Countless social media users report investing in therapy because of their experiences using the communication and connectivity platforms. While these therapy assets have been monumentally useful since social media’s global popularity has soared beyond initial expectations, there is still some hesitancy among those experiencing cyberbullying or pressures at the hands of other social media users. Even as users experience cyberbullying or other pressures at the hands of their fellow social media users, they also experience a kind of lure to social media use that is not always easily explained. While there is not yet any conclusive research that definitively proves whether social media is addictive or not, there is enough cause for concern that therapy methods are being rolled out on an almost global scale. Whether these forms of therapy are within a brick-and-mortar office, through a support group, or through honest and open communication with loved ones, it has been found time and again that engaging in therapy of some kind has significantly assisted those that have struggled because of social media.
The countless and seemingly endless horror stories of social media use gone cruelly and horribly wrong continue to pour in, and there is little to nothing that has been done about it by the creators of such communication platforms. Our actions and behaviours online are often bolder than they are in person, owing to the sense of anonymity that comes with social media use. This increase in bold behaviour can be a positive thing, but the sad reality is that for so many social media users, this increase in emboldened behaviour proves to be more negative than positive – sometimes significantly so. Social media use comes with an unspoken sense of accountability for the way we present ourselves, and yet there are those that choose to ignore this accountability and instead opt to be cruel, unaware – or uncaring – of the potential consequences that our actions and behaviours online have on not only ourselves, but others. The mental health of those that use social media – no matter how little or how often – must be a top priority of everyone, including the creators of such social platforms.
Social media has come to be thought of as a kind of double-edged sword. Users can either limit their time on social media platforms (or entirely sign out), or choose to brace the turbulence, never knowing when – or if – it will come to an end. Either way, there are negative implications that come hand in hand with their chosen method of coping. Signing in less often is less than often an effective method of coping with the negative influence of social media, because users are still engaging in the very same platforms that have caused them evident and significant damage over time. Opting out entirely is more beneficial, and even then, there are documented cases where users that chose to delete their social media altogether were then abused or otherwise bullied in person, with the negativity spreading into their lives in real-time, making it impossible to escape. Those that instead choose to stay active online and deal with the bullying as it happens risk increased exposure to negative behaviours, leading them to feeling even more lost than ever. It seems that, no matter which way one turns, social media implications can be horrifically negative for some unlucky individuals. The solution differs for everyone, and sometimes it takes trial and testing to find the right solution for the specific individual.
Social media is a fantastic invention. Not only does social media allow us the opportunity to stay connected with those we love and respect, but it has also grown to become a hub for marketing, businesses, and global awareness of issues that news could not reach to the same extend. Unfortunately, social media has also proven to be a hub for negativity, leading to the downfall of the mental health of countless individuals who use social media. Thankfully, there are therapeutic outlets and professional and personal support systems in place that aim to assist those suffering in every stage of their experience, but the bottom line is that self-awareness and action in the face of unacceptable should be the front line of defence against such actions. Social media is (mostly) a wonderful tool; let us go out of our way and fight to bring it back to that happy place that it started out being – for everyone.