My Relationship With Social Media? It's Complicated.
Does anyone else feel like social media is crazy?
A schizophrenic hodge-podge of the confused and the know-it-alls, who wreak havoc in the lives of the unassuming daily? Well maybe not unassuming, because if you have been entrenched in any one of the platforms for even a little while, you have witnessed the chaos. Even as a bystander, who just wants to get smoothie recipes or see one-too-many photos of your friend's new baby, you probably have sat stunned, mouth agape, staring at a screen in complete astonishment of the offensive post. Twitter, Tik-Tok and Instagram have started to represent a place for those that are completely unhinged, but actually do not seek to heal or resolve the issues that make them appear to be mentally unstable.
It's because of this that I have developed a complicated relationship with all of the social media platforms.
I created a digital space on Instagram that highlights the importance of literature. My goal was to encourage people to read. Not just because it's a relaxing pastime, but because with ignorance at a seemingly all time high, people can really stand to educate themselves. And what a more rudimentary, but accessible way, than to read?
In that corner of Instagram, I found my people. The like-minded introverts, who would rather curl up with a book than spend countless hours online. The critical thinking, social justice warriors who amplify the voices of Black, women, and queer writers, as well as actively promote banned books. And while even that niche isn't without occasional drama, it was refreshing just to find people who actually study before stating their opinions.
However in all of that, the pressure of engagement and follower numbers hovers above the book Instagram world like a knitted blanket. While it can be comforting, it can also be smothering, but provides just enough light through the holes to offer some hope. Unfortunately, the expectation to post regularly along with the maintenance of it all can be overwhelming.
Twitter equals word attacks. Instagram is a photo assault. However recently, it has evolved into a barrage of long form videos from the so-called experts. Those who spend more time dissecting others’ lives than truly living their own. The rude commenters are vying for affirmation through likes. Leading them to just spew hatred, often from accounts without avatars and invisible followers. And let’s not start with internet sleuths and spies. Someone with a lot of time on their hands can know your entire life, or so they claim, from tracking your every post, like and follow. In my opinion, a botched method of getting to know someone, as opposed to learning about them through invaluable conversations.
On one hand, I do like to see pictures of my friends on vacation, updates on my nieces, and watch the occasional live runway show during fashion week. I learned how to do my hair and makeup from social media. I also appreciate the renegade chefs who craft restaurant-looking dishes in their bright and colorful, but cramped kitchens. However, let a tragedy strike or a scandal be exposed, and I am almost immediately exhausted by the inundation of speculative information and various camera angles. What makes matters worse is that there is no way to filter it out.
I found a way to mute my apps. I find myself using that function whenever a celebrity dies. It just becomes too much to emotionally process, nonstop.
I question if the value of social media outweighs its toxicity whenever people become the judge and jury of someone else’s life choices. First off, because we all make poor decisions. Thankfully they are not all documented and broadcast for the world to see. But also because the humanity of the people involved is often disregarded in favor of entertainment. This was very clear in the case of Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion.
The court case resulted in Tory Lanez receiving a 10 year prison sentence for shooting Megan Thee Stallion. But the events that led up to his sentencing were menacing. Despite video evidence of a clearly limping and bleeding Megan, people actually debated who was at fault. There was rationale being presented online, where people were defending Lanez and blaming Megan for her own shooting. One on side you had people proclaiming we need to protect Black women, while the opposition responded with ‘only if the Black women are deemed worthy’.
Don’t drink too much, don’t be sexually free, and definitely do not challenge men. Because doing so takes you from under the veil of protection—a punishment for stepping outside of the female box. And while that may be an extreme side effect of social media, it’s actually worse. What may have started out as a creative space for connection has become very unsafe. And this case is even worse for young people.
Social media is playing a role in the increase of depression and suicide among young girls.
Everything viewed on social media is captured and then generates your preferences based on something called an algorithm. It may seem harmless and helpful even, to have your timelines and feeds curated to your liking. But what happens to a young person when they get sucked into diet culture, consumerism, and the lifestyles of blemish-free celebrities? They become obsessed with crafting the perfect aesthetic for their existence, and when they cannot achieve those things, they feel like failures.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
It is hard to resist seeing how you measure up in relation to others. This is especially the case for a young person. That age is the time when you are more heavily influenced by your peers than your parents. But social media starts to blur those lines and the people we follow start to seem like friends.
We know where they vacation. What they do for a living. Where they live. Where they shop. What their favorite food is. We know who they are dating and when they break up. We see the inside of their homes. Their closets. All of the free swag they receive from brands that seem inaccessible to us. They sit front row at the fashion shows, or courtside at the basketball games. They have luxury cars, but rarely drive because they are chauffeured in blacked-out SUVs. They have no acne, no stretch marks, no extra weight and seem so self-assured through their perfectly-veneered smiles. But what young people have yet to figure out is that it is all smoke and mirrors. They will never achieve what these idols have because even the icons themselves have not truly achieved it.
And since social media usage is not well monitored, there is no one to tell youth the truth.
Sadly, it's not just the young people who are affected by this. These platforms have been known to create unnecessary friction in our relationships or those we desire to have. And they also encourage excessive spending because yes, you need that neutral colored Stanley cup to go with your carefully curated, muted living room decor. Because who wants to live in color anymore? We pine for luxury handbags we cannot afford. Our shelter feels inadequate next to prime real estate featured in Architectural Digest. We covet bodies that are not our own. And all because we cannot stop scrolling.
It's programming at its finest. Or worse. It’s the experiment gone awry and even the creators cannot stop it.
© Evangeline Lawson August 17, 2022