September 5th, 2020.
Article by Hannah Fellerman.
I hope you're all safe and well.
Welcome to this month’s article. We were not able to publish it last month due to the recent passing of my grandmother.
Below is part one of a two-part series, discussing my journey with social media, my reflections and how I’ve changed my online habits.
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Take care and enjoy this month's article!
What I have learned from Social Media (part one)
In the last two to three years, I have been reflecting on my use of social media and how I perceive it. I have come to the conclusion that social media has the potential to do more harm than good, but I also believe you can gain more positives to this contemporary construct, if used in a certain way. So far, according to my observations and experience, it is quite easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of it and I have experienced it causing damage in varying degrees. This harm is mostly psychological.
I have experienced both sides of the coin (positives and negatives), and as a result I have slowly been changing the way I use social media. Moreover, it now holds less value in my life than ever before.
Additionally, recent conversations I’ve had with friends, family and my husband have all reinforced my belief that social media can both do harm and good but it is largely used in a negative way which can have detrimental effects on a person’s life and well-being.
In this two-part series I will delve into my own journey with social media and how I’ve come to the above conclusions, as well as my thoughts on why and how I’ve chosen to use social media now.
What sparked this change?
Five years ago, my mobile phone had to go for repair for two weeks, and was replaced with a non-smart phone. I experienced withdrawal effects (especially before bedtime as I could not use my laptop). Every time I picked up my replacement phone I wanted to check one of my social media accounts but all I could do for entertainment was play ‘snake’. This at least gave me some comfort by bringing back nostalgic memories, but I knew this was the start of my realisation that something needed to change for me, even though I was far from ready.
Studies show that smart phones can be addictive, and I was certainly addicted to mine.
“Smartphone addiction developed from the introduction and extensive usage of smartphones in modern society. Many studies have examined smartphone addiction [4,6,9,10,11,12]. Given that behavioral addiction is associated with negative notions and outcomes, smartphone addiction [4,10,13], problematic smartphone use , and compulsive smartphone use [15,16] have been used interchangeably to describe the maladaptive behaviors or psychological impairments caused by the excessive use of and over-reliance on smartphones.” (read more)
As time passed, I began to reflect more on my attachment to social media in particular.
It is without a doubt that any activity we partake in will ultimately influence us in one way or another. To an extent, we can control how much or how little we are influenced, by choosing how and when to carry out the activity. Take Television as an example; you can control what TV channels you choose to watch and when to watch them. At the same time, we have no control whatsoever over certain variables and their outcomes on us. Variables such as adverts that play between shows, or the dialogue of actors, or in fact any scene on the screen. When analysed, we really have very little control over what we consume through this particular screen, or the feelings that may arise as a result.
Another example we can look at is the realm of fitness. I have personally been in the gym and experienced both negative and positive feelings because of who I saw around me. I have felt both inspired and inadequate from seeing those who seem to have more experience than I do, and also even felt a sense of competitiveness from seeing those who seemed to be struggling a little. The reasons behind these feelings may stem from the level of self confidence I have on any particular day, or the way I view my abilities in general, either based on my own assumptions or the comments of others, or even what I have seen in fitness advertisements. My feelings have both led me to give up and boosted my motivation.
Similarly, on all the social media platforms I use, accounts and content are automatically recommended for me to view or follow based on the visuals I interact with. The more I discover, the more I start to see a curated display of what these platforms believe I’d be interested in, and for the most part they are right. Before I know it, I fall down a rabbit hole of content I never imagined I’d be seeing. Content like: “The craziest cake you’ve ever seen!” or “Cool hack to transform your bedroom.”
Over time, I realised the content I consumed led me to an array of productive and counter productive thoughts, feelings and behaviours which I will explain in more detail.
Virtual life vs real life
As I’ve gotten older, social media platforms have somewhat shaped the way in which I believe I should be using them, but also the way I live in ‘real life’ and the way I think to a certain extent. The more I’ve experienced, the more I’ve re-examined my actions and the more my perceptions have developed.
It is commonly known that we emulate the five closest friends we hang around with. In the same token, I evaluate that the same principle extends to the content we regularly follow online. This point alone can be discussed at great length but to highlight just one aspect; there are countless niche communities which exist online and once you become part of any of these communities yourself, the way you think and act can modify. For example, if you regularly read about, watch and post about makeup, chances are you will be buying and applying makeup regularly and may even aspire to be a makeup artist.
I had a period of my life a couple of years ago where I was very interested in a specific psychological study of personalities, and I spoke about this topic with friends, family and new people I met. I did not go as far as wanting to work in this field, however I did sometimes post about this topic and discovered that there were pockets of this community on every social media platform which produced various types of content including specific memes which only this community could relate to. These memes were one of my favourite things to search for via hashtags on Instagram. I was able to quite easily spend at least two hours doing this each day!
Presently, my new fixation is home décor design. How this started out was with another interest; a few years ago I stumbled upon something called Tiny Houses on YouTube. I instantly became fascinated with them and the idea of one day building my own tiny home. This soon led me to general home décor videos. I’ve now become a fan of a handful of home décor content creators I discovered via YouTube whom I have taken a lot of inspiration and knowledge from. I have developed my skills and style in the process. But I know it can easily turn into something less productive if I don’t monitor the amount of time I spend watching these videos. I’ve sometimes procrastinated on important tasks because of it.
As a result of content you consume, you are also bombarded with adverts that pop up on every one of your social media platforms, right? For me it can get quite overwhelming and I have on occasion been sucked into ads of products or services which over-promise and under-deliver; leading to a diminishing bank balance, high disappointment and waste of time and resources. However, it’s well worth doing research by contacting companies for more information or checking out reviews before you commit to a purchase and you could be surprised with the outcome.
All in all, I have learned to be more careful with impulse-buying and try to stick to the rule that items or services I purchase are necessary first and non-essential second.
I would describe myself as a ‘foodie’, and when I joined Snapchat, one of the ways I used it was to share photos of my meals. It soon became a daily occurrence for me and I didn’t feel at ease with myself unless I shared photos my breakfasts, lunches and dinners on a regular basis. One day as I was taking a photo on my phone of the plate of food in front of me, ready to post, I thought to myself “why am I doing this?”.
I did not have an exact answer, but it caused me to ponder deeply. Since that day, I reflected on all social media platforms and have been reminding myself to think before I post anything. I ask myself questions such as; what benefit will I get out of posting this? What benefit will others get? Am I wasting my time? Am I causing harm by posting this? Am I doing good by posting this? Am I just posting this out of habit?
The culture of sharing our lives through our phones for others to view, in my case turned into an obsession with sharing my own cooking and dishes I ate in dining establishments for no particular reason. In my opinion there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this but it became something I was fixating over way more than I should have. I therefore changed the way I think when it comes to this. I have not banned myself from posting photos of food and drink altogether, but now I don’t feel the desire to post them as regularly as I had done before.
By extension, I also decided to refrain from sharing images of my daily activities by myself or with friends and family as often as possible, as I now believe this fosters a culture of prying on people’s lives; just like celebrity gossip magazines were created for. I believe the more of our lives we share, the more chances are created for others to judge us and vice versa, merely based on snippets. The snippets of life you share will always create a false representation of your life. The more you share, the harder it is to show true authenticity online (especially if filters or edits are used). Additionally, people who don’t know you in ‘real life’ only see what you post online, so will only ever see a small percentage of your life.
Nowadays, I hold much less value on my ‘virtual life’ vs my ‘real life’ because of the reasons above.
I now try harder to concentrate on important events of my life than documenting them for everyone to see. Sometimes I take photos or videos but don’t upload them, as they are for my own memories to look back on. I therefore don’t feel the need to get the perfect angle or lighting or capture the ‘right’ moment. For me, feeling the need to create social media content makes it harder to focus and be present in the moment.
Therefore, I’ve decided to limit what and how I post on my personal social media platforms.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with sharing life moments online, or even reaching out for help and advice from time to time. But in my opinion, to fixate on social media daily is damaging to our psyche and sense of self-esteem. Likewise, limiting yourself from viewing other people’s posts can stop you from comparing your life to theirs and possibly judging them on what they present to their online audience.
To follow this, there is a famous quote that comes to mind which is claimed as being by many authors:
“A flower does not think of competing with
the flower next to it. It just blooms.”
At the same time, I don’t think it is a good idea to delete all social media accounts, because I do get a lot of benefits from them such as inspiration for my work, gaining knowledge which I can share and simply entertainment.
I no longer put pressure on myself to create regular posts, and concentrate on creating content which is more meaningful to me now and again. For example; this could be my hobby photography, quotes I resonate with or the occasional life moment or thought I wish to share with friends and family.
Freedom of expression
The age of social media also comes with the age of limitless expression and offers alternative narratives to what we see in the mainstream media. I greatly acknowledge the purposeful aspects of being able to share findings on any particular topic, and also have access to information you may not have been able to access if it wasn’t for social media. For example, we frequently see many cases of injustices being exposed on a frequent basis (recently; the tragic murder which reignited the BLM Movement and the Uighur community being tortured in China which has almost always led to communities coming together (online and offline) to raise awareness and take action so that these wrongdoings can be rectified permanently.
However, I also found that there can be a negative side to this.
From my late teens to my mid twenties, I’d at times get caught up in online heated discussions. In an effort to educate anyone who would leave hateful or misinformed comments in response to world crises’ or social injustices on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, I would respond by trying to provide information which I’d hoped would allow these individuals to contemplate the false narratives they had been led to believe in order to conquer the root cause of their hate. In the end it would not be productive.
Discussing prominent current affairs with these strangers would end up with me feeling highly infuriated and saddened at the amount of hatred and ignorance that appeared to exist in the world. I would also spend a lot of time reporting comments for hatred and bullying. I soon realised that anyone with no desire to learn, would never be able to receive the message I was trying to portray.
After a while, I also concluded that this was not the best way to go about trying to change destructive perspectives and I now consider online platforms like podcasts and blogs to be better suited to this cause. If somebody wants to find something out, they will search for it. Before the launch of Ezelle, I knew that I wanted to use my brand’s platform as a way to educate those who may be misinformed or wanting to know more about various social and global issues and I hope Ezelle’s blog is becoming one way of doing that.
To be continued…
Please tune in next month to read part two (all references from both parts will be provided).
In the mean time, please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
Hannah Fellerman is the founder of Ezelle, who started the brand to combine both design and social change as these are two of her biggest passions; you can read more on our about page.
All photograph based images used in this article are Royalty Free.