How social media can impact mental degradation

How social media can impact mental degradation

How social media can impact mental degradation
June 13
23:29 2017

Amanda Dycus | Staff Writer

Whether you’re for or against the social media boom, you probably use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. Even Spotify lets you interact with friends through sharing songs and playlists. Millennials and each subsequent generation are becoming more connected through the internet. We can chat with any of our friends whether they’re living across the ocean or living in the same house as us – in seconds.

But this constant interaction with friends online can warp how we see them, and ourselves, in everyday life. One of the key things social media creates is our obsession with “branding” ourselves, or cultivating an “aesthetic.” This is great when seeking jobs through LinkedIn or marketing yourself to potential employers, but it can also portray a false sense of perfection everywhere else.

Less than two years ago, Australian teen Essena O’Neill made headlines for quitting social media. She was an Instagram blogger and promoter with over 600,000 followers, according to The Guardian. Out of nowhere, she took thousands of pictures off the site and recaptioned the rest to be honest about her “contrived perfection made to get attention.” She said she quit after becoming “consumed” by social media and she “wasn’t living in a 3D world.” Of course, she doesn’t blame anyone else.

That’s the thing about social media: when you’re in your room having a one-way interaction with someone by stalking their page, it can become unhealthy quickly. What others choose to post becomes personal once you compare yourself to their virtual lives.

According to a recent Refinery29 survey, 70 percent of women say social media impacts how they view their bodies. A Huffington Post survey found that 50 percent of the people interviewed have had friendship troubles because of social media, and 80 percent believe it’s easy to be deceived by how others portray themselves on social media. Those are all majorities, so why does social media make people feel like they’re the only one who aren’t good enough?

Everyone picks and chooses what they want to post on their Facebook page, or exactly what memes are worthy of Twitter traffic. It’s incredibly easy to scroll through someone’s Instagram and think they look that good all the time, and beat yourself up for not looking the same way. It would also be easy to pass the blame to these people for their “fakeness” and the ways in which they promote the selfie generation. 

If one end of the social media spectrum is low self-worth because you aren’t as attractive or accomplished as your peers seem to be, then the other end is an inflated sense of self by judging their “narcissism.” They’re the biggest social media fans, while there are people who don’t use social media at all because they’re above it, or it’s too superficial for them.

In her most recent book, “The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism,” author Kristin Dombek dissects our culture’s obsession with our appearance, as well as our need to place ourselves higher than over-obsessive people. She details how we curate our lives, share them, focus on ourselves and self-brand but deems those who overdo this as narcissists. In doing so, we paint ourselves as more empathetic people while failing to see, once again, what people choose to post or reveal is only part of the equation.

Maybe the problem is this lack of communication. If someone is suffering through depression and anxiety, they’re going to post about their most recent trip to Jupiter House instead of being vulnerable on Snapchat. Someone posting about exercising for three hours could eat a plate of cheese fries immediately after. A girl who always wears a flawless face of makeup might spend three hours applying it because she’s just as insecure as you are.

It’s easier to share the good news than the bad, but this focus on self-perfection hurts those posting and those scrolling. Social media shows a persona, not the whole picture but it could. It’s okay to post the bad news sometimes, and to share what you’re going through. Even as we stare at thousands of posts from other people, it’s impossible not to think about how these reflect back on you. Sharing your bad news can help someone going through the same struggle but is too ashamed to admit it. Then, you can also post that Bahamas snapshot. It’s all about balance.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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