If you’re reading this, then chances are that you, or someone you love, spend time interfacing with social media on a regular basis. How does this impact you? I like to think of it how Brene Brown describes in her most recent book, Braving the Wilderness– “I’ve come to the conclusion that the way we engage with social media is like fire- you can use them to keep yourself warm and nourished or you can burn down the barn. It all depends on your intentions, expectations and reality-checking skills”.
Researchers have become more and more interested on the impact of social media. A recent study showed that adolescents in particular are highly impacted by images that they believe their peers have liked, even if those images depict risky or dangerous behaviors (Sherman et al., 2016). The simple thumbs up icon is thus a powerful social motivator that can result in greater brain responsiveness and potentially the greater likelihood that we are influenced by the perceived popularity of an image that we see.
So what does this all really mean when it comes to your use of technology and social media? It’s a matter of both attention and intention in my opinion. Whether you’re a mental health professional, a parent, or a teen working on your relationship to social media, approach it with mindfulness. We are impacted, on a neurological level, by what we spend our time looking at and interfacing with. You can take a deep dive on social media comparing yourself to others and you’ll likely feel dissatisfied, inferior and potentially even a little depressed afterwards. On the flip side, if you choose to follow people that inspire you, that are positive, that are motivating and that are supportive of you, then you can reap all the rewards that social media has to offer. Furthermore, you can also pay it forward by posting content that is meaningful and positive as well. To end, let’s heed the words of Monte Eliastam.
“Imagine if social media became a place where we shared our dreams instead of hiding our faults, where we collaborated in conversation instead of trolling anonymously, where we felt included instead of excluded. We need to reinvent the online community to cultivate a safer, more diverse, more welcoming environment where we value people for generating thoughts, not likes…We have an incredible tool in our hands, we need to use it to change the world.”