Social media has to be one of the greatest developments of human history. It has connected humanity like never before. It has changed the way that people do business, with companies maintaining their own social media accounts to interact in real time with customers. We can quickly see what’s going on in our communities and around the world. It is also fitting that the social media revolution would even affect how people learn about social issues and even organize protests and revolutions.
It also has made it easier to maintain relationships. There was a time not too long ago that as people grew up, they’d drift apart from friends and family as a natural consequence of moving on in life. With social media, we never have to be out of the loop as it were. We can share our lives with people thousands of miles away with pictures, statuses and the highlights of our lives. With the ability to stay connected to our loved ones, it seems like our quality of life would be on the rise.
However, there are studies that strongly suggest that with all the benefits that we get through social media, it’s also the cause of some serious mental health issues. Despite being constantly connected, people are still feeling alone. So what gives? With the ability to keep in touch with all our loved ones, why are people lonelier than ever?
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”— STEVEN FURTICK
The problem with social media is the fact that people only share the good things about their lives. This constant barrage of good news causes a vicious cycle in which people post the great things that are happening, which causes their friends to only share the good things that happen in order to keep up. This kills any sense of vulnerability, of genuine shared experiences that were so crucial to emotional closeness between friends. Allowing someone to see you embarrassed/vulnerable actually makes people like you; but with that being a social media no-no, how will people ever connect?
The reality is that there are many people who purposefully craft an image of themselves that they want the world to see. This can cause a rift in relationships as the lack of openness can lead to bonds not being fully formed, as the pressure to keep up the façade prevents people from truly getting to know each other. This kind of posturing often leads to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that can cause anxiety over the need to be on the “cutting edge” for fear of becoming irrelevant.
The solution then would be to reduce the feelings of alienation that permeate social media and eliminate the atmosphere of one-upmanship that breeds cyberbullying. How to go about this is a question that is difficult for researchers to answer, as it’s only natural to celebrate the good things in one’s life and to shift focus away from the bad or unfortunate events. The traditional remedy to loneliness – to make more friends – seems to exacerbate the problem. While social media helps alleviate loneliness in seniors, the benefits are far from uniform. Despite the social connectivity that social media provides, some people can still feel socially isolated.
Strategies to reduce loneliness that focus on eliminating negative thought processes are the most effective. Helping people link up with others in person and encouraging people to develop more robust social skills reduces loneliness. It may be more difficult for those who have been alone for a long time as they may be more distrustful of people as well as having a longer way to go to develop social skills.There needs to be programs and support groups for those who face social media anxiety and loneliness.
If you feel like social media is getting you down, know that you’re not alone. Seek help as soon as you can. Unplugging for a bit and actually picking up the phone to connect will go a long way to helping.