Recently I’ve really been divided about my views on social media. Sure, I, like many others, have accounts on a few different platforms and scroll through them routinely whenever I find a little bit of an empty space in my day. More recently I’ve co-founded an online magazine wherein most of our following and publishing is done through social media. I also love nothing more than seeing my favourite musicians on Instagram and getting a sneak peak of what they get up to in the studio, their writing process or sometimes even just their day to day. You could go on for days with positive stories about social media; reconnected loved ones, forgotten friendships rekindled and the wave of support often shown to positive causes. So with all this in mind why do I still have issues with it?
The first is one that is openly talked about; and rightly so. Whilst social media may seem like a great window into other people’s lives it is ultimately a small window in which we only see what others want us to see. We all do it; I’m not going to post a selfie of myself on holiday if I feel I look particularly fat, or my skin looks bad and so on. The picture you will probably end up seeing is handpicked; the lighting may have an effect of polishing the turd of my appearance; the background may suggest a more flamboyant and amazing experience than what was probably had. It’s natural; we all want to show our good sides to the world. This isn’t a new thing either. Think about when you see or hear from an old friend and give them the bullet points of your last few years; it’s most likely that the whistle stop tour only really stops in the nice parts of town. The thing with social media is that this has become amplified to us all. We log into our Instagrams and see people looking better than we do, people doing better than we are and people who on the face of things appear to have a life void of flaws. As we all know from our own lives the reality is very different but for someone who may already be having doubts about their looks, their career or their lifestyle a constant bombardment on social media of other people’s façade of perfection only drives us down. This is something I’ve experienced recently first hand; having graduated from university and being in my early twenties I feel a real pressure that my life by now should be heading towards something and this always gets worse when I head over to my socials. I am there met with an array of posts and pictures of people younger than me achieving their life goals or embarking on an adventure they’ve always dreamed of and of course it piles on this sense of inadequacy in my own life. The reality is of course the only real gauge of success in life is how we feel in ourselves and not a bar set by others; but ultimately when greeted with this information on a constant it is hard not to bring that bar that has been set into your own life and ultimately compare yourself to it.
My other issue is opinions. I’ve always been a fence sitter and my only political stance is that I don’t have a political stance. Whilst there are opinions or schools of thought that I tend to disagree with I also respect that the people who choose that way probably have their reasons, as I have my reasons for my own opinions. Social media has seemed to bring an end to this type of thinking though. I remember back when I was younger (typing this phrase made me feel old) and my parents taught me that asking people who they voted for is rude. It seems logical really, no one’s opinions are really more valid than anyone else’s and everyone is entitled to have one, so why start trying to dissect other people’s? The reality now is very different. I remember during the last election in the UK I actually removed Facebook from my phone for a while after becoming fed up of political posts. The reason I log into my socials is usually to relax and kill time but instead I would be met with turmoil; people engaging in arguments and accusations ultimately over opinions; the thing we all have. The reality is without social media if a political election was approaching I would seek the opinions of those I trust or care about; my family and maybe some close friends. We would discuss our viewpoints and why we take those; a political debate may ensue but ultimately, I would recognise their opinions and their reasons as I’d expect the same in return. The issue today is that going onto social media during politically pressing times is just an absolute minefield. People engage in arguments with people who they have never met; people accuse people of being certain things because of something they have said with no real knowledge of the context or reasons. I still to this day remove people from my social media network as soon as I see a post of this nature as it really isn’t what I’m there for. The truth is, and with respect, if I don’t ask your opinions it's probably because I don’t need them. I of course acknowledge whatever it is you believe and your reasons for doing so, but by forcing political stand points down people’s throats and suggesting that people who don’t agree are ‘uneducated’ and so on, you are not extending that same respect to others. What is even more frustrating about this recently is that social media platforms have too began picking sides and now instead of the once free ‘social’ media platform it was it seems to have become a bit of a machine of propaganda; only showing us what it wants whilst banishing everything else or marking them with fact checker labels which do no more than to state that whatever it is doesn’t quite agree with the opinion of whoever it was that checked it.
So what is my solution?
Social media has become a huge part of our modern society and as I stated before it does have many benefits. I think what we should do is firstly approach social media with the rose coloured spectacles firmly removed; we need to accept that not everything we see is exactly as it seems and that as with our own accounts people only display what they want to display. I think the opinions argument is a tough one – my problem is not with people having opinions or occasionally sharing them but instead when people start to get pushy, nasty or aggressive. Opinions are in their very definition someone’s own beliefs and because we all have different upbringings, experiences and personalities there are bound to be differences. People are all entitled to have an opinion and no one’s is more valid than anyone else’s; therefore, there is really no grounds whatsoever in which anything more than a polite debate should occur. We need to return to a time where we don’t all always feel the need to share our opinions all the time; if you ask I’ll tell you but I’m not sure we need to publish it to that person we met on that school trip that one time six years ago, right? Ultimately if everyone wasn’t so quick to argue about their opinions the whole platform would become a much friendlier place and this pattern of strangers bickering over something that affects each of them in entirely different ways would be removed. In terms of the recent social media bans on political figures; a lot of the people who were removed had opinions that I don’t agree with; but does that mean they need to be banned? I don’t live in a world where I want anyone who has any views that oppose mine to be censored because ultimately isn’t a good democracy based on debate, contrast and balance? In order to make social media the positive place it really has the power to be I really think we need to be more honest and accepting with ourselves and others; and we also need to learn to respect what others have to say without feeling the need to judge everyone else for their beliefs; at least not without fully understanding and empathising with their reasons.
Let's be positive on Social Media in 2021!