A Complicated Question
Social media has positive and negative aspects that represent a tradeoff requiring wisdom and responsibility. Here’s the thing about the internet generally: owing to ubiquitous anonymity, it’s possible to say anything to anyone from anywhere for any reason. Online, people have an almost subconscious habit of being “raw” in terms of how they communicate.
The mildest person in real life might be a rampaging tyrant online typing in capitals continuously and terrorizing all manner of remote communities. Meanwhile, the most beefed out steroid monster might be a little lamb online. The majority of people tend to be closer to their actual personality when presenting themselves digitally, however.
Here’s the issue: owing to anonymity, virality, and algorithms that demand engagement to satisfy those who fund varying social media sites (primarily advertisers), much of social media totally eschews mental health, instead fostering endless interaction at all costs. Part of that means stimulating base elements of humanity, like vanity, or tribalism.
Part of that means excluding folks based on personal preferences or ideologies as concerns varying trends in politics locally and internationally. In a phrase: the game is rigged. Now this means a few things. One, it means it’s not worthwhile to take anything at “face value”. Two, it means you can “game the system” in a mentally “healthy” way. We’ll explore that.
The Domino Effect
Because social media involves too many people to manage individually, algorithms are used like automated robotic channeling levers on an artificial canal. Certain “thresholds” of activity initiate algorithmic response, either spotlighting some content, eschewing other content, or imposing restrictions. Shadow banning is real, and Google results are “curated”, if you will.
However, because people release their subconscious self—their “Id”, as the psychologists might say—you can reach out and interact with them at a very ideologically intimate level. Accordingly, you can stimulate a domino effect with one sentence, sharing a meme, sharing a link, liking a picture, or just posting your own picture.
While virality isn’t as “organic” as perhaps the concept is sold by the media, it is something over which the powers that be have less control than they would prefer. You can initiate such domino effects by understanding algorithms, what restricts content, what gets it blasted, and where the truth lies beyond the bluster.
For example, “natural” beauty is always at a premium; but filters applied via software can make a picture more “viral” regardless. So instead of fighting this, lean into it and have some fun. Check out this link about Instagram makeup to help give you an idea of what’s possible. Even if you’re not an “IG model”, you could use IG makeup as a social statement, and initiate a domino effect by incidentally starting a trend.
Direct Health Effects
Because social media is a double-edged sword, it can be very bad for your mental health, or very good for it. The key is recognizing this technology for what it is and using it accordingly, rather than being used by it. If you’re used by it, that will initiate dependence and depression. However, if you’re using social media despite itself, that’s going to make you feel good.
When you can actually influence real-world events through digital activity, that feels incredibly good. However, regardless of whether you are taken advantage of by algorithms and advertisers, or you leverage their own system against them, there is a final mental health issue that needs to be considered.
No matter your attitude or how well you use social media, it is unhealthy to spend too much time in front of a screen every day; whether or not that screen is large.
So finally, even if you’ve learned how to leverage the reality of social media against itself for your benefit, find time to take a break from the screens as best you can. You can’t get rid of them, but you can take a break; even if only for a day or so.