Social media is often heralded as the new frontier for human connection. It has allowed us to connect with people all over the world at unprecedented rates. Social media has created a system in which connection can be maintained at the click of a button. At the same time, it is also at the center of a plethora of issues, especially concerning younger folks and self esteem.
The issue I have with social media is that it doesn’t often show the downsides of being a human being. People often post what they want people to see, giving social media an inherent bias. We are not always so inclined to take pictures of our overdrafted accounts or a breakup text as we are to post about our new job promotion or a weekend in the mountains with our significant other.
Constant exposure to stimuli that seem like our lives seem less meaningful than our peers’ can make us feel as if our lives are inadequate. According to a 2016 study published in “Computers in Human Behavior,” those who use various social media outlets are three times more likely to develop depression or anxiety over time than peers who were not using social media.
Humans have almost a natural defense mechanism when it comes to the negative parts of our lives. It’s not common to see posts about mental disorders, health issues or our general problems, since they prove that our lives may not always be so glamourous. We want people to think that we are successful and worthy of praise, and so most people cater to this kind of thinking. We tend to post what we think will make others find us more attractive, interesting and intelligent. It’s an obsession with hypothetical lives, rather than the ones that we’re actually living.
We are exploiting the happy moments in our lives, as if the only way they are valid is if a grander audience tells us so. We are obsessed with becoming more like the happy, successful people that we see on our newsfeeds, rather than the flawed human beings that we see in the mirror. Happiness will not arrive through the opinions of others, but through the truths that we see in ourselves.
The truth of happiness is that it is a deeply personal thing. Joy through validation is a fleeting form of happiness, and it won’t bring anyone closer to the deep-seated contentment that we crave. Real happiness does not live in the amount of likes we get on our photos; the real joy is found in the moment that was so worth sharing. Allowing the perception of a moment to be influenced by the opinions of others will only take away the value of that moment. And while social media usage is completely valid and often a big part of a person’s life, it is important that we don’t allow the sharing of a moment to become more important than the moment that we are sharing.
The insecurity and rising rates of depression amongst young people clearly cannot be totally upon the influence of social media. Yet for many, social media has fed into these more negative emotions when they believe that their lives aren’t as wonderful as their peers’. What we have to remember is that the moments of our lives are not for sale. They don’t have to be validated or confirmed, so long as they feel important to us. Connecting with friends should not have a negative influence on our lives, and if it does, perhaps it’s time to log off and enjoy something different for a little while.