The rapid growth of social media has made it an integral part of most of our lives. Social media platforms have become an increasing source of individual validation & reassurance, but maintaining a healthy relationship with social media requires a good dose of self-awareness, self-confidence and personal purpose.
How has social media changed our world?
There are many possible responses to this question, from the good, the bad and the plain ugly. One of the biggest impacts of social media is the ability to communicate instantly with others across numerous digital platforms. We are now able to build entire global networks including people we have never even met or spoken to, be politically and socially active, play interactive games with groups all over the world, meet the love of our lives, all without even leaving the house. Whilst the criticisms of this advancement are many and varied, the unarguable benefit is our increased capacity to think big, to communicate and interact on a global scale.
According to Facebook’s own statistics, there are over 2 billion monthly active Facebook users as of June 2017, up 17% on the previous year. If you consider that the earth’s entire population is only 7.5 billion, this is pretty impressive. In fact it’s huge in terms of engagement levels and symptomatic of modern society’s embrace of all things digital. Not only have powerful communication platforms such as Facebook become part of our daily lives, they are showcasing new technology as a whole new industry and career sector in the IT and creative worlds. So fast is the pace of change that university students are currently studying for jobs that haven’t even been created yet.
Let’s also not forget the power of social media in helping entrepreneurs to start businesses via personal and professional platforms. For a business to launch successfully in the present day, it almost certainly needs a social media presence, such is the scale and reach of this medium. The marketing potential is phenomenal, with a constant evolution of apps and streams to propel businesses into their ideal catchment markets.
What’s the impact of social media on the individual?
For many of us, social media has become a genuine hobby, our go-to medium for unwinding, perhaps replacing or at least complementing our previous pastimes of watching TV, reading or socialising with real life friends. In a best case scenario, social media allows us to rekindle old relationships, maintain friendships across different time zones, providing an instant source of communication for the time-poor who otherwise would miss out on all the latest happenings of their friends and acquaintances.
On a professional level, the numerous work-based platforms have opened up job opportunities to a far wider audience and allow candidates to browse potential opportunities without committing fully to a job search. Sites such as LinkedIn have been a real game changer for recruiters too with candidates posting their full credentials online, making the headhunting exercise a whole lot easier. There is also a wealth of information available to enhance professional skill sets and boost credibility, from the many articles published for free by industry gurus and respected authors to the informative and relevant blog posts that might just give you the edge at that next meeting or interview.
But as with most things, there are some drawbacks. It’s fair to say that there is a real dark side to social media. At its worst, social media has been held responsible for rising divorce rates (as people reconnect with former partners) and for zapping our time and capacity to concentrate on a real-life conversation for more than a millisecond without checking in or posting a photo. Whilst much has been made of the humorous side of people glued to their phones out in public, there is a very serious element: mental health issues are on the rise, in part due to the daily slew of glossy selfies posted on social media and the battle to recreate airbrushed images of perfection in the real world. Social media offers us a window into the lives of the rich and famous, making it possible to send a direct message to celebrities – possibly even getting a personal reply. This unprecedented access can be confusing because it makes us believe that the rich and famous are just like us (this is quite possibly precisely the aim); that their appearance is just due to a dab of make-up, not a 3 hour styling session; that the picture has just been snapped on a whim rather than carefully engineered. Comparing ourselves with these images can eat away at our confidence levels, leading to low self-esteem. Even when following friends in real life, it’s easy to forget that they are only posting the best bits of their lives, the most exciting, newsworthy, dramatic or fun, leaving out all the mundane happenings in between. Social media presents a snap shot of life’s highlights, not the whole truth. It’s like looking at the corner of a photograph without seeing the full picture.
Then there is the quite basic question of what is appropriate to share on public forums: how much should be posted to a potential audience of millions? Whether or not it is possible to ever really erase one’s online past is an anxiety which usually arises in the aftermath of an ill-considered post or a regretful remark. There are safety concerns resulting from social media; predatory grooming; bullying or ‘trolling’; revenge porn; sales of illicit items; suicides on YouTube; links to terrorism. The list goes on and it begs the question, “What next?”.
Very few of us know what the future holds for social media, how its capabilities will evolve and how it will shape our lives down the line. But many people are beginning to recognise the importance of finding a healthy balance between being active in the digital world and engaging purposefully and confidently in the real world. And the key is in the words ‘purpose’ and ‘confidence’, because, given the slightest chink in our armour, social media has a funny way of feeding the tiniest of our insecurities and turning them into perceived inadequacies, calling us to question ourselves and create unhealthy and unrealistic comparisons with others.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with social media
It’s important to recognise that there are both benefits and drawbacks to the digital side of life, but a healthy relationship with social media is about creating and maintaining balance, perspective and self-awareness. Here at FindMyWhy, we understand the impact that social media has on modern life and how important it is to use it, but use it responsibly. With FindMyWhy, we have created a completely free personal purpose project which will help define your own personal unique drivers and motivators, building your confidence in both your personal and professional lives. The ‘Psychological Selfie’ has been developed by our team of expert psychologists and is presented like a social media profile, starting with your main profile and providing various albums that add context and insight into the different parts of you as a person; your values, your drivers, your personality and well-being. FindMyWhy will build your self-esteem from the inside out by helping you to understand your unique values, building confidence in who you are as a person and leading you on the journey to becoming the best version of you, with real clarity of purpose. FindMyWhy will enable you to break out of a cycle of comparing yourself with others or defining self-worth by how many ‘likes’ you get, by taking time to understand and value who you really are, so that you can truly be real, be you and learn to love you. If you’re ready to get started, at no cost, visit our website