Social media: Friend or foe

Studies show that Facebook depression is caused mainly by passively browsing; in other words, social media will make us feel better only if we actively engage in it

The past few weeks, I have heard people say they were deactivating their Facebook accounts. The reasons had to do with certain negative effects it had on their emotional or mental health.

 

Social media is huge nowadays; it is touted to be the biggest thing to happen in the 21st century. Facebook has a reported 1.55 billion active monthly users and Twitter has 255 million active monthly users. And then there’s Instagram and Texting, among other social media forms.

 

I personally find that the benefits of being an active social media user far outweighs its possible detrimental effects. Social networks are projected to have a 25 percent annual growth over the next five years, so I believe it’s to our advantage if we make one of the fastest growing industries in the world work for us.

 

Studies show that Facebook depression is caused mainly by passively browsing; in other words, social media will make us feel better only if we actively engage in it. Here are specific ways that I actively use or don’t use my social media, which allow me to derive much good and limit the hurt they can potentially cause.

 

For Facebook, I only accept Friend requests from people I personally know, or those who I have mutual “real friends” with, and whose persona and credibility I check out before accepting. For Instagram and Twitter Followers, I check the Follower’s account if I don’t know them, and make sure it’s a legitimate and worthwhile person or business.

 

I mainly use my Twitter account to Follow my favorite people, for insights and entertainment; thought leaders for knowledge and inspiration; and media outlets for breaking news.

 

I am more of a Facebook user and admittedly find Instagram a bit redundant at the moment.

 

I don’t care for so-called IG influencers, but I do intend to use IG more actively for my professional business in the coming days, as it has a business version which I recently switched to.

 

In Facebook, if somebody’s posts tend to annoy me, or seem habitually put on or drama-laden, or too crassly angry and negative, or too inane and inconsequential for my taste, depending on the level of actual friendship and the nature of aforementioned content, I choose to Unfriend, Unfollow, or Hide the person’s posts from my newsfeed. This is the easiest way to clean and lighten up my feed, and to protect myself from unwanted negativity and drama.

 

I use my social media platforms as a Personal Brand of sorts, so I keep my posts in line with the things I do and stand for as a person, my work, my hobbies, and my values. It gives me an opportunity to share what I know and what I want to be known for.

Social media can gnaw at our insecurities and bring about bad effects, but all the harm can only stem from the way they are used, and the way we let them affect us personally.

I post to either “document” my social and career-related happenings (the journalist in me instinctively documents) for my personal enjoyment, or to share things that I find interesting, useful, entertaining or informative that my Friends can derive value from.

I do watch what I post, and keep stuff that I consider private, well, private. Selective posting is not about hiding things, or just posting the happiest, braggiest stuff. For me, it’s about keeping a healthy sense of privacy, and although the standards for this may have significantly changed over time, and also be different for each one, for me it’s as simple as posting only what I’m willing for the “whole world” to know and see.

 

I don’t engage in arguments online. And I don’t start or seek them out either. I veer away from making statements that are provoking or judgmental. I find all these inherently wrong, stressful, and a monumental waste of time and energy. The few times I vent, it’s on things that have a social or business-related impact, such as a company’s very bad service or perhaps something political. However, I find the latter too stressful to be posting about through social media lately, and would rather talk about it with people in person, if at all.

I give genuine reactions, or don’t react at all. I use social media as a means to exercise my integrity, and to practice being myself.

 

If I find myself minding that a certain post of mine is not getting the reaction I want or expect, I remind myself that it really doesn’t matter. Of course I feel good when people react positively to what I post, but the truth is, other people’s reactions or lack of them really have no bearing on my self-worth and self-esteem, so I simply move on.

 

When I’m scrolling down my newsfeed, I allow myself to be entertained, to be amused, to learn, and to be moved by other people’s posts. It’s a way for me to get to know my contacts more, to interact and improve connections with them, and to get today’s pulse and learn more about humanity.

 

When I see something that triggers some “envy” or unhealthy comparison in me, I take a moment to recognize the feeling, then turn it around by blessing the person and giving the post a Like when I mean it. I go by the adage, “Bless that which you want,” and that way the blessing comes back to me. I don’t give in to FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, or any other kind of anxiety. I focus on my own life and goals, and take everything else in stride.

I have a number of Facebook groups that I derive good material and/or entertainment from. I choose the groups I belong to, and allow these to provide me a sense of belonging, as well as useful information. I appreciate Facebook groups for facilitating connecting people who have shared interests and concerns.

I use social media to increase my professional network. I have an active Facebook page for my Life Coaching, for example. As for marketing and promotional activities, I honestly don’t mind, because that’s how these social media make money, and we are not forced to subscribe to sponsored ads. Our role is to keep vigilant about the information we do put out and protect our account as much as we can.

 

I do use social media to “investigate” people when the need arises. Social media provides readily available and accessible information, which is all fair game for research.

 

I make sure I don’t spend too much time on any social media to the point of addiction. How do I measure this? Simply by ensuring that my usage doesn’t get in the way of my to-do list on any given the day, or take away from what should be rest or sleep time.

 

I appreciate social media for allowing me to connect and communicate anytime with my contacts. It’s so convenient for communications, which far outweighs the possible downside of being eternally connected. Anyway, I don’t always have to reply or to reply right away to messages that I get myself. And there’s always the Block and Mute functions I can use when these are called for.

 

In the end, no amount of self-presentation can hide or disguise who or what we really are.

 

Social media can gnaw at our insecurities and bring about bad effects, but all the harm can only stem from the way they are used, and the way we let them affect us personally.

 

Devoid of the unhealthy meanings and untoward power we give them, social media are really just platforms for social interaction. And used well and appropriately, these have the power to unite people, to help us accomplish work better, and to bring us face to face with our true selves.


Em Guevara, a long-time lifestyle journalist-turned Professional Life Coach, currently works as a part-time editor and writer at Asian Development Bank. As Life Coach, she loves helping women to Work Smart , and Love Smart. You may send your feedback and coaching inquiries to empguevara@gmail.com