By SIMONE YU
GASP! Someone liked your post! You scramble to open your phone, scroll through your friends’ flattering, feel-good comments and observe how many followers you have gained. Swiping past, you glimpse at photos and videos of your friends laughing and squealing. Surrounded by all this positivity, shouldn’t the world be a better place now?
To put it bluntly, no. It does the exact opposite.
Firstly, nobody posts about their personal family problems, stress from work, a dying dog or a selfie of themselves weeping from a breakup. Instead, we see pictures of smiling faces, beautiful groups of friends at a formal, breathtaking landscapes and impressive accomplishments. When we are in this cheerful environment, this “positivity” may seem contagious and uplifting, but the truth really is not there. From Twitter to Youtube; Pinterest to Tumblr; and Reddit to Snapchat, social media’s heavily filtered platform is simply toxic and addicting, for it compels us to compare our lives to others.
Take, for example, a popular social media platform that has been rising in the last few years, Instagram, which has been rated by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) as the worst social media platform for teen’s mental health. With complex algorithms specifically designed to reward users for high-quality photos, Instagram encourages millions of people to compete against one another for the most liked photo, most comments and best hashtags.
Adding on, our obsession for likes and comments on our posts cements an illusion of popularity as well as a constant desire to be “popular.” Consequently, we tend to judge others based on their social media profile and not their actual self. Additionally, as we sink into a negative cycle of comparison, we stir up deep-seated envy, regret and insecurity. These cynical effects end up digging more intensely into your skull, leaving a permanent mark in your brain. Seeing others laugh, having so much fun at a party and posting about their impressive accomplishments makes you reflect on your own life negatively. Under the false belief that what you see online is genuine, you hopelessly ask yourself: why are you not having this much fun?
And once you scroll to the end? You repeat the cycle with Twitter, Snapchat or another social media platform. Thus, social media not only causes long-term stress and jealousy, but also leads to less sleep over a period of time. According to studies conducted by the Simple Sleep Center, 68% of boys lost an hour or two of sleep using social media, while girls lost around 60%. At the rate, social media even destructs your physical health.
On the other hand, social media has propelled our generation to an incredibly advanced era. Hundreds are doing what they love on social media platforms, making businesses, creating engaging entertainment for the world while earning money at the same time. Additionally, social media does in some ways bring people together by providing a platform for people to make friends, share interests and bring our talents to light.
Nonetheless, there is an overwhelming blanket of toxicity prickling under the waves of shallow photos and videos. For example, most Youtubers—Liza Koshy, ‘Pewdiepie’, Elle Mills, just to name a few—pour their hearts into making youtube videos, but often deal with negative opinions online, gradually damaging themselves without realizing. In response, our beloved celebrities have come forward in talking about their mental health and a break from the internet.
To set an example, I had a negative experience with the toxic side effects of social media. In the past, I would open my phone every few minutes throughout the day for the instant, temporary satisfaction of absorbing what others were doing with their lives, but unconsciously I was comparing myself to others. My admiration was laced with stabs of longing, anxiety and prickly envy. I became extremely unhappy without realizing social media was the problem.
Finally, I realized how this application had negatively impacted my self-confidence, time management, happiness and so much more. After deleting the social media apps on my phone, I felt panicked and even found myself opening my phone several times instinctively, but after realizing how I had nothing to go to, I willingly closed it and let go of my unhealthy habit.
It seemed ironic that deleting something that is supposed to boost our happiness and self-esteem does the exact opposite. However, I no longer compare myself as obsessively to others or obsess over how people think of me. Instead, I started to do the things I actually wanted to do to improve my lifestyle and let my mental health heal after years of constant social media usage.
So disable your accounts for awhile and spend some time outside. Take a break and relax and set your priorities. There are so many opportunities and experiences that you are missing out on because of those endless, cute cat videos!