Social media: How bad is it?
My social media feed is, quite ironically, littered with posts about the apparent trash-fire that is social media. I get it. It’s not all sunshine and roses. I would know, having spent far too long in the stranger corners of it in the name of research and morbid curiosity. I’ve been in Facebook groups for Doomsday Preppers, groups devoted to vicious arguing under the guise of debate, Flat Earth groups and more. There are many hours that I’ll never get back, reading forums, tweets, posts and pins peddling conspiracy theories, fear, pseudoscience and dangerous quackery.
On the socials…
On social media, I’ve been threatened, harassed, stalked, propositioned and abused by strangers. It’s not even a little bit surprising that parents are concerned about their kids using social media. The reasons are valid and there are documented cases where social media has been used to bully kids to the point of suicide. Teenage girls have had nude pictures shared widely on social media without consent. Grown women are send dick pics by random strangers. Is it any wonder that people have a somewhat jaded view of social media?
But it’s not all bad!
I know Mark Zuckerberg and his mates don’t need me to stick up for them. I’m sure they don’t care all that much about what one social media user thinks. They’re happily rolling around in all their advertising cash and whatever else and good luck to them. This is just me reminding you (and myself) that social media can actually be pretty amazing. Yes, it can be misused. It can seem negative and detrimental, but that’s only one side of the coin.
Through parenting forums, I found a community of women who kept me sane when my youngest was on the way. When she was born, they helped me troubleshoot and navigate my way through those early months. I could turn to them for breastfeeding advice, tips on sleep and even things as mundane as dinner inspiration. These women were only known to me online and yet, we laughed together over the absurdities of life. We cried together over tragedies no one should bear. We talked, debated, compared, supported and cared. To this day, I am still friends with some of them.
Through Facebook groups, I have learned and shared knowledge. The people I’ve encountered have made me a better person. I’ve learned so much; about politics and personal responsibility, about writing, about so many things that matter to me. People have shared their experiences, opinions and ideas with me and I have done the same.
I can jump onto Twitter, where I don’t tweet nearly as often as I read things, and learn about the life of a person halfway around the world.
Even Instagram has connected me with like-minded people who have inspired me. Not because they have a perfectly curated picture roll showing a life that I am nowhere near organised or motivated to replicate, though. Instead, I have found people who use it to share their own stories, their art, their passions. SO COOL.
Maybe you Snapchat or use WhatsApp or something else entirely. Whatever platform you like, I bet you’ve found like-minded people there.
Through these various groups and platforms where I’ve found community, I have also found the most kick-arse groups of friends. I have friends who challenge my perceptions by sharing their own views. Others are simply my people and we have gravitated towards each other like magnets. Some of my most supportive friends and confidantes are people I’ve met online and perhaps rarely see.
And the socials let you keep up with your old friends too. People you actually did like in high school but that maybe you don’t see in person. Maybe you live far away or your schedules are conflicting. Thanks to social media, you can still keep in touch. You can share a laugh or see their achievements or just admire what they had for dinner. I love that.
That quote from this most excellent piece by Jessie from Near As Dammit called “I like to read your facebook statuses”
We all lead busy lives, whether it’s because we work long hours or have kids or study or whatever. And all too often, we are surrounded by people but still feeling lonely. It’s easy to say we should just talk to those around us, but that’s not always easy to do. If you use social media, it can help. In reconnecting with old friends, making new ones and finding communities, we can forge meaningful connections with other people. Meaningful connections help to give us a sense of belonging within a group. Connections help us to find a sense of our own identity and gives us a way to seek support. And with meaningful connections, we don’t have to feel isolated or alone.
And that is no small thing.