The darkest side of social media

Studies have shown that constant connectivity on social networking sites and a constant exposure to media are strongly linked with people feeling inadequate, insecure and anxious. Having to compare yourself to others and being bombarded with public broadcasts of other peoples’ ‘ideal’ lives can cause feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and low self confidence; and for people who are prone to anxiety, this can sometimes even lead to severe low self esteem, depression, and other mental issues to a point where it becomes necessary to seek help from a therapist.

We live in a strange age, where technology has made it possible to stay connected at all times, and to access information from almost anywhere, at any time. But there are two sides to everything, and it can be argued that in spite of social networking, people are far less ‘connected’ with each other than ever before; and that along with the ability to access information, it has also become possible to bombard people with constant media messages.

Connection Vs Isolation

The media is rife with advertising, and the role of advertising is to make us feel inadequate so that we may consume more. We are confronted with media messages about what to buy and how to live, almost constantly, if it isn’t from our own personal devices, it is on public ones. It is almost impossible to escape the cumulative message, and that is that ‘you’re not good enough, and you’re life is not the best it can be’. Add to this the pressures of social networking, where one’s life is showcased on a digital web page for friends to see and ‘like’.

The fact is that all these messages are processed by the brain and they have an impact on our psyche whether we like it or not. It is hardly surprising then, that an increasing number of people need to see a therapist for feelings of inadequacy. Social networking sites create a skewed, one dimensional and ‘constructed’ image of a person, and this is what children and young people use to form an opinion about them and about the world. This shapes their social interactions and relationships. Children as young as eight are having to see a therapist for growing anxiety problems stemming from social interaction online.

Isolation Vs low self esteem

Feeling constantly insecure can lead to chronic issues such as low self esteem and low self worth. For people who already suffer from these, the problem can become even more exaggerated. For those who grow up in this environment, the issues can become chronic and complex. In fact, anxiety and stress caused by technology and social networking among young people is a rising global concern.
Low self esteem and loss of confidence can limit your life in countless ways, as you automatically start to make choices that fall in with the way you perceive yourself. For those who suffer from anxiety, stress and low self confidence, it is important to talk to a therapist or counsellor who can help them overcome their fears and prejudices and rediscover their own life.

Low self esteem comes from a set of beliefs that we develop about our self and these beliefs develop over time. Different factors can lead to low self esteem. It could be family dynamics, a traumatic childhood, and trauma in adulthood, life altering events, or your day-to-day environment. When the mind is constantly sent a message, it eventually accepts it, and once the message has been accepted, the mind works to support that belief. So whatever the cause is, it is important to recognise the problem and address it as soon as possible.

Low self esteem Vs depression

Low self esteem is a deep-rooted issue, so in order to overcome it, it is necessary to understand its origins and deal with them. Speaking to someone who can support you through this journey is vital, whether it is a friend, a family member, or a professional therapist. A therapist can guide you to the root of your beliefs, and acknowledge the anxiety, pain or hurt that may lie there. It is very important to do this, in order to expose all the things that you have learnt to believe about yourself, accept them as the truth and make life choices accordingly.

The speed and nature of modern life can put an immense amount of pressure on the emotional mind. Chronic fatigue, stress, and rising levels of anxiety have sadly become the defining characters of our fast-paced lives. These problems cannot be ignored or wished away as more often than not, they lead to something more serious. When these issues start to impact on day-to-day life, it is necessary to seek outside help preferably from a professional therapist.

Images on Creative Commons license courtesy of Sean MacEntee, Photosteve101, birgerking

3 thoughts on “The darkest side of social media

  1. I have no doubt that these symptoms exist and are on the rise – but mainly in the younger generation that was brought up in this current environment of social media.
    But for adults of the ages 30 and over, being exposed to other people’s achievements, successes or ‘ideal’ lifestyles, can often result in stronger motivation and determination to change something in their lives; whether it be to finally reconsider their career paths and leave behind that dead end job that is making them miserable, make more free time to focus on those passions and hobbies that one loves but never finds time for, or seize opportunities that they would normally turn down because it falls out of their ‘comfort zone’.

    So yes, social media can certainly brew envy and jealousy in people, but those feelings are also great ingredients to motivate us and give us the push we need to do better and attempt to achieve our goals. 

    We all need an adversary in life in some form to truly challenge ourselves and be the best that we can be.
    But that’s just my opinion! Perhaps other would disagree.

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    • I do agree with you Alex, since taking early retirement and planning my ‘next step’ in the world…I have spent a good deal of time on social media and equal time thinking of the impact it is having on myself and possibly that of my friends/colleagues. Advertising and subliminal messages are having no effect on me…at 57 I disregard them fully. However, the impact of even so much as a simple ‘like’ or retweet does impact on me! Analysing the messages and meaning behind them can be useful and also quite negative! The positives I have noticed are comforting acknowledgments of my feelings, my gratefulness of life and a warmness of the human spirit from those messages sent via PMQ’s (positive motivational quotes) I’ve also felt happy to share other people’s successes and happiness and know I can be there (albeit technologically) to offer my comfort at sad times. I can also see that the obsession (and it is that for some people) would have the negative impact as stated in the article. I see a time ahead where people will need help to deal with the personal control needed to balance the use of social media and having a sound knowledge of this impact may just be what I need to help others!

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