Enjoying social media, keeping your self mentally healthy

It’s 2019 and Social media is prevalent. It’s hard to keep up!!! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat plus Youtube are all now in mainstream use and everyone is updating. I’ll be honest I never really check stories on any of the platforms but I do regularly check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As an adult I’m not of the social media generation, it was thrust upon me around 15 years ago when MySpace and then Bebo first exploded. Both of those are now long relegated by the now dominant Facebook but those were the early seeds of what we have now.

What that means is we now have a generation of teens who’ve grown up in the social media world. Their baby photos would have been shared online most probably and they are well aware of friend counts on Facebook and follower counts on Twitter and Instagram plus subscribers on Youtube. They’re also well aware of likes on social media too.

Social media cops for more than it’s fair share of blame for mental health worries and in my opinion this is totally unjustified. The concept behind social media is nothing new, it’s just a new way of doing things. Years ago people would show their holiday snaps they’d recently had printed, they’d write, email or call their friends and family and tell them their news. Social media has just enabled us to do all these more efficiently and instantly in an online world.

Problems are said to be two fold, people worry about their friend/follower counts and their post likes and people also make ridiculous comparisons and these are said to affect their mental health.

As someone with a 4 year old child he is not yet ready for the world of social media but I also have a teenage Godson who has Facebook and Instagram and does have a (now inactive) Youtube channel. When he got all these I sat down and chatted seriously with him knowing that some young people can’t handle the pressure of living in the online world.

The conversation we had centred around maintaining a clear difference between the real world and the online world. One is real, one is not. If you post online and get 1000 likes that’s great, but if you get zero likes that doesn’t matter in the slightest. What really matters are your real connections in your real life; the connections between you and your family and friends. Subscriber counts, friends, likes and followers are nice but not essential.

Think of it simply, real life is like the gift and social media is like the wrapping paper on the outside. Real life is the cake, social media is the icing on top.

The second issue is comparison. People use Instagram as a platform for comparison but approach this in a very wrong way. And by wrong I mean in two reasons.

Let’s look at the first reason. Instagram developed as an app to share filtered photos. Snapchat took that to a whole new level with its filters and lenses that make you look nothing like yourself. But the crucial word here is filtered. On Instagram you’re looking at life through a filter, you’re not looking at real life.

Instagram “influencers” have often been exposed as heavily editing their photos before sharing with the world. My creative strong point is audio but even still I know enough about Photoshop to be able to alter an image. I’ll fully admit my radio promo shoot I airbrushed to make me look younger! I know people who are not Instagram influencers who still take the trouble to stage every photo they take to make their less than perfect lives look perfect.

WIth filters, especially on Snapchat, I’ve met people and not recognised them as modern day photo sharing apps can make people look so absolutely different than they actually look.

The thing is that we have to accept that the online world isn’t real! It’s full of heavily staged, massively edited or filtered images. As we are all real it’s unfair to compare real with this fake material. If we do then it’s likely we’ll all come off second best!

What happens on social media is nothing new, it’s just a new way of doing what’s always be done. People have always taken holiday photos, people shared their news recanting their year, telling of promotions at work, pregnancy news, new animals or new cars. It’s all just done in a different way now.

To blame social media for bad mental health is harsh. Social media is just a faster and more public way of doing what’s always be done in more traditional methods. Did we blame our friends in the past when they showed photos off their holiday from somewhere hot and exotic with gold sand and blue skies or told of promotion or a new car? Of course not, yet now some blame the platforms that have modernised these age old happenings.

Social media isn’t going away. We, as society, need to adjust, toughen up and be sensible. The important thing to remember is social media isn’t compulsory so if you find you can’t handle seeing other people’s successes or heavily staged and edited/filtered photos delete or deactivate your accounts and solve the problem that way. You could just remove the apps from your mobile also!

For people of my generation we had this social media phenomenon thrust upon us. It’s us that need to make the adjustment to the way things are done now but for our children or those that look to us for guidance we have a chance to educate them on the role of social media so they don’t struggle with viewing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Youtube. People need to differentiate between real life and online life. The important ones are the ones in your real circle, your family and your close friends. Anything that goes on outside that circle just shouldn’t get to you. Yes, it happens but as it’s not within your real circle it just shouldn’t matter.

Go and enjoy these social media platforms. Post until your heart is content and if each photo or status gets a thousand likes then brilliant, but if it doesn’t does that really matter? Go follow people on Instagram but what they post, while it may be aesthetically pleasing is largely irrelevant to your life and should never form the basis of comparison.

Spend time with your children and teach them how to enjoy social media. Teach them not to be stressed out by jealousy over heavily edited or blatantly staged photos. Remember someone with adequate photoshop skills or even Snapseed on their mobile can edit virtually any photo to show them exactly how they want to be shown. Impress that on your children so they’re not jealous of a virtual reality world.

Ladies in particular are said to struggle with the body image issues. They see Instagram filled with tiny models but with careful airbrushing you can totally alter the body shape of anybody. Besides it’s not essential to be a size 0 to be beautiful so if Instagram is full of people who are scrawny or edited to be small sizes does it matter to you?

Off topic but worry about your size if it’s affecting your health. If you’re obese and struggling with mobility and obesity related health issues get up and lose weight! If you’re healthy but not a size 0 embrace it and be happy!

One more thing, be careful who you connect with. Why would you accept friend requests on Facebook from people you don’t even know? If you share a lot of personal stuff on Twitter or Instagram think about making them private too and be careful who you accept as followers. The responsibility to keep yourself safe lies with you.

One other thing, while reading this may help you protect your own well-being remember your responsibility to others. Use Social Media as the fun tool it was intended for, by all means debate issues but don’t use it to attack people or spread hate! Then you become part of the problem.

Finally, if you really must make comparisons then make realistic comparisons. Compare yourself with yourself. Are you a better person today than you were yesterday? Are you in a better place now than in your past? Are you making progress towards your goals? Those are the questions you should ask. Judge yourself against you if you must judge. Do not ask yourself do I look as beautiful as someone online or does my life compare with what someone has chosen to stage and filter then share online but ask yourself am I the best version of me that I can be irrelevant of what others are doing online.