Social media is a powerful tool that serves a good purpose of connection.
However, it can also lead to a culture of comparison and manipulating the emotions of a vulnerable generation, notably the young.
Social media has raised the bar in our own critical self-assessment and young people who may not necessarily be discerning in evaluating the feedback, or realise that much of it is highly edited and curated, can be particularly vulnerable to its negative impacts.
I am a part of the i-Gen (born between 1995-2012) who have been brought up in the world of internet and social media. And, if I am honest about my own personal experience, I would say social media has had moments where it has bred complacency, conformity and comparison. It has made me complacent in soaking up time by unnecessarily scrolling through newsfeeds when I could channel my energy into far more productive things, led me to try and conform to the culture of ‘cool’ and negatively compare myself to others who seem to be far more successful.
As society, particularly youth, continually navigates the potential side effects of social media, there are three things that I think could help us.
First, demonstrate digital discipline – be mindful of what content you are feeding your mind and monitor how much time is spent on social media. Research shows that all screen activities are linked to less happiness, whereas non-screen activities are the reverse.
Secondly, activate affirmation – affirm your own strengths but also focus on ways to encourage and affirm the strengths of others, offline and online. Everyone can be empowered to step out and shine with their individual gifts and talents.
Finally, curate a culture of celebration. Why not take a celebratory approach, where we rejoice with our Facebook friends and Instagram followers, as opposed to comparing? Next time you feel bad after seeing someone else’s post, make a conscious effort to flip the self-judgement into an authentic appreciation of their achievement. This can make our mood more positive and benevolent.
Comparison can have an upside when you use it as motivation and inspiration. Let others’ achievements serve as examples of where you want to go and be encouraged to take the steps to make it happen.