October 7th, 2020.
Article by Hannah Fellerman.
I hope you're all doing well.
Welcome to this month’s article.
Below is part two of a two-part series, discussing my journey with social media, my reflections and how I’ve changed my online habits. If you have not checked out part one yet, please go ahead and read it before diving in to part two!
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Take care and enjoy this month's article!
What I have learned from Social Media (part two)
Social media today is the most widely used means of communication around the world of both the young, old and those in between. I have the luxury of being someone from the millennial generation who holds enough memories to comment on how life was like before and after the introduction of social media to our lives.
I have witnessed the development of these platforms from zero existence, to it being the first thing we all check when we wake up. However, I have started to change this; I now rarely check any notifications until after I’ve carried out my morning routine and started my main task for the day. I find that this habit alone helps me to have a more upbeat and productive start to the day. Especially as someone who isn’t naturally a “morning person”.
As a child, I remember the main forms of communication with my friends were face to face or on the home telephone. E-mail, chat rooms and forums started to appear for me as a young teenager, soon followed by ‘Hi5’, ‘Bebo’, ‘MySpace’ and then the most poplar of them all; ‘Facebook’. At the time, I did not realise how much these platforms were influencing my life, but over time I started to notice how different my life had become. I was spending less time reading, doing hands-on activities or enjoying the outdoors. More time was spent glued to my computer screen and soon my mobile phone became a necessity to have with me constantly. If I ever thought I’d lost my phone, my heart would race as if I was in imminent danger! Much like a man running from a grizzly bear.
Once ‘Instagram’ was launched, and the popularity of ‘YouTube’ increased ten-fold, not only did the content I consume change the way in which I lived my life, but I also noticed a transition in thought processes of those around me. I noticed people were buried in their phones more, concentrating on taking the perfect photo for the “‘gram” or sitting silently on public transport with their phone instead of a book in their hands.
Although the internet has and always will be a great way to meet and connect with like-minded people, discover more about other cultures and communities across the world and learn new things, there can also be a dangerous side to connecting with people online.
One way I personally use Facebook is through ‘Groups’ – communities where like-minded people can share experiences and support one another. For the most part they are amazing sources of learning and support for me, and if kept within the confines of the groups, rarely will I witness or experience anything counter to that.
But it is not just children and teenagers who are susceptible to the dangers of talking to people through the world wide web and I could not write this article without highlighting the following story.
About four years ago, a fellow member of an entrepreneurial support group I was a part of offered to be my accountability buddy. I accepted this kind offer and as we conversed, we appeared to share lots of interests and values. On the ‘Facebook Messenger’ app we would often speak about many other topics and would encourage one another with our entrepreneurial endeavours as well as personal struggles. I felt that even though we were on other sides of the globe, we were genuine friends.
It was not until a few months ago, that I discovered this person held very opposing ethics and perspectives which did not align with mine and was detrimental to my efforts to making a positive change to society. They had created the impression that they shared the same core values as I had, but the opposite was true. A short while after this revelation, I realised that although I had benefited from their professional and personal support and advice and vice versa, I could not change their hostile opinions and decided to end the friendship.
Highlighting this encounter is not to say that I have not faced similar and even worse situations in my offline life, but that is a different difficulty we can face and one which is overcome in an equally different way.
As the world wide web has been around for over three decades, it’s easy to forget the safety precautions we may have taken more seriously in earlier years. But we must remember; no matter how familiar it becomes, the internet is not like real life and it is wise to be more cautious than you would do in any face to face setting, professional or otherwise. I believe aligning yourself with those who share the same core values as you is highly important to making and sustaining authentic friends and co-workers. If I am faced with a similar situation in the future, I will do as much due-diligence as possible to find out if their core values match mine before furthering a connection.
One particular positive online-friendship was during my early teenage years. We connected initially because both of us were a similar age and both owned pet rabbits. Because we had told our families about our friendship and spoke on the phone and got to know each other quite well, we felt secure knowing that we could trust that who we were speaking to was genuine. We drifted apart naturally, and not with any malice or deception. This is an example of where my awareness as a young person resulted in a fruitful online friendship.
This brings me on to keeping in contact with friends and family.
We all know how busy life gets and that you can’t always be available to answer messages or phone calls.
Still, since the introduction of instant messaging I’m pretty sure we have all been guilty of thinking someone is ignoring us if they don’t reply straight away. Because of this, we can also sometimes feel a pressure to answer messages as soon as they flash up on our screen.
I believe this way of thinking perpetuates a harmful cycle of ill or paranoid feeling towards one another.
In order to change this, we could use a slower form of communication such as text messaging or e-mail. But perhaps a more sensible and practical way, would be to acknowledge that just because the internet has made it easier and faster for us to connect, it does not mean that we have to pressure ourselves to be in constant contact all the time. Everyone has different commitments, schedules, life circumstances and communication preferences. Social media and instant messaging services have in my opinion, caused us to somewhat forget this.
Expert advice by counselling service ‘BetterHelp’ has also suggested that a lot of damage can be done by “too much contact” between friends:
“Maintaining boundaries when it comes to communication with a friend, no matter how close you are, is vital. The bond should feel supportive and open, without the obligation for contact every moment of the day.” (read more)
Perhaps by limiting contact with your phones and other smart devices, you can also be more productive in your ‘real’ life. I have found that so far, this has worked for me. I started to distance myself from messenger apps such as ‘WhatsApp’ by leaving my phone on the other side of the room and now simply learned to ignore it so that I can get on with my daily tasks. I only choose to sit down to read messages when I have the time and mental space to do so.
To me, it is not a bad thing to disregard my phone until I can bring my attention to it. Quite the opposite. It achieves more mental harmony and productivity and allows me to respond to my friends and family with the right level of attentiveness and consideration that they deserve. This is of course unless I am alerted to an emergency, in which case I always respond as soon as I am aware of it.
A long conclusion
Observing the older generation’s (such as my parents) ironic amazement at social media, just like I was in awe when I first discovered it, has also also enabled me to change my perspectives. It has reinforced the knowing that with age, I have held less value on needing to constantly be plugged in to my life online, and more value to living my life less through a screen. Moreover, as time goes by and relatives get older and pass away, I appreciate experiencing precious moments with family and friends without feeling a need to always share them online.
It is for these reasons and many more that I do not plan on downloading the current craze TikTok. To me, this is just another form of distraction and waste of time. Something else to get sucked-in to. Before TikTok it was Musical.ly and before that it was Dubsmash – both apps I had no desire of downloading. However, I do acknowledge the utility of TikTok as a platform for certain brands and people to function as an extension of their content creation. It’s just not something I feel I personally could currently make valuable use of.
As with any other industry (such as food and fashion), the tech and internet industries are constantly evolving. I’m pretty sure more apps will soon emerge and there will be new crazes to latch on to, or not. I’m far from a psychology or sociology expert, but I believe the nature of humans is such that as soon as something becomes mainstream, we want to be a part of it, even if it’s detrimental to our productivity or something we could easily live without.
In the current climate, with many countries still in lock-down or restrictive functioning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, young people especially are spending much more of their time online. I hope by sharing my experience with social media, it can inspire at least one person to spend more time exploring nature or doing other offline activities. I have also been reminding myself that throughout history, humans have easily survived and thrived without any of the technology of the 21st century. This thought alone encourages me to step away from my screens as much as I possibly can these days.
On the flip side, without social media (and the internet in general), I can confidently say I would not have accessed the wealth of enriching information I had at my fingertips, and a large proportion of it has positively influenced my life and continues to do so. I only have to ‘Google’ something I want to know and often end up learning more than I initially wanted; for example by discovering documentaries on ‘YouTube’, as well as free PDF formats of books and ground-breaking studies.
However, I can also say with confidence that another large proportion of social media has had a negative impact on my life in terms of my behaviours and the way I think. Yet, since reflecting and acting upon my reflections, I have been able to change those behaviours and ways of thinking.
To further illustrate this; when I first discovered Instagram in 2012, I used my personal account as a public platform to share my mobile phone photography and candid life moments. This soon turned into sharing photos of food and drink. I then started sharing more personal views and content on social / political issues, and quotes I resonated with. I soon made my account private and only allowed certain people to follow me who had requested to do so. I soon embarked on a new way of life by adhering to my newly found faith . I soon moved most of my pictures of foods to the ‘stories / highlights’ but then, as you know – soon decided to not post photos of nearly all my meals. Recently I have removed a huge amount of followers whom I did not relate to or wish to give access to my content since I decided my personal account would be for friends and family.
From the above, you can see the way in which I use my personal Instagram account has changed throughout each stage of my adult life and self-analysis. In the last two years I have posted even less regularly; sometimes as much as four months between posts on my ‘feed’. That’s quite an accomplishment considering how addicted I was!
Regarding Facebook, I stopped uploading photos to my personal account many years ago. This was the start of me cutting down on sharing photos of my life on social media. I also stopped writing ‘status’ updates around eight years ago and mainly use my Facebook page to share news articles I come across which I feel need more awareness.
Although I can still improve further, I’m starting to be more productive with activities like reading books and doing exercise. And since I’ve now enabled myself to have more free time, I also share artwork I do on Instagram, on a dedicated art account, in case you are interested in checking it out.
Whilst I have not chosen to quit my personal social media altogether, I understand the sentiments behind why some people haven chosen to do so, as outlined in this recent feature on BBC Ideas:
The recently released Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma has given me even more food for thought. In fact, it uncovered things about social media I’ve never thought about so deeply before! This half-documentary, half-film explores the origins of social media, the damaging social and individual effects it has, as well as what it could look like for us in the future. I highly recommend you give this a watch – even if only to understand the inner workings of your favourite social apps.
Finally, in conclusion; my overall shift in thinking has led me to find a balance that suits me with social media. As a result, I feel a HUGE sense of relief and weight lifted off my shoulders. Another key outcome I feel, is that it is now possible to fulfil my greatest potential for creativity and productivity, albeit I am still progressing with this daily.
Even though I have delved quite deeply into this topic, I feel I have just scratched the surface of what social media means to me today! There are many other aspects I could have spoken about. If you would like me to expand on anything I have or haven’t touched upon in a future article, please let me know by leaving a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the mean time I would absolutely love to hear your perspectives on what social media means to you, how you use it, and any other feedback you may have on this vast topic. Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve mentioned? Please use the comment area below to share your thoughts. It would be amazing to hear from some of the older or younger generations too.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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.
References and further reading:
Social Media and Mental Health, (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm), Lawrence Robinson and Melinda Smith, M.A., January 2020, helpguide.org.
How Social Media shapes our Identity, (https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/how-social-media-shapes-our-identity), Nausicaa Renner, August 8, 2019, newyorker.com.
Social media does more harm than good, (https://www.debate.org/opinions/social-media-does-more-harm-than-good), TheBunnyAssassin, debate.org.
'Like’ it or Not, Social Media’s Affecting Your Mental Health, (https://www.mcleanhospital.org/news/it-or-not-social-medias-affecting-your-mental-health), February 26, 2020, mcleanhospital.org.
What are the pros and cons of making friends online?, (https://www.7cups.com/qa-loneliness-38/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-making-friends-online-5941/) August 02, 2020, 7cups.com.
Making online friends the safe way, (https://www.getsafeonline.org/blog/making-online-friends-the-safe-way/), Chathurika Kahavita, 01 May, 2019, getsafeonline.org.
Snake (video game genre),( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_(video_game_genre) ), en.wikipedia.org.
Over-connected? A qualitative exploration of smartphone addiction among working adults in China, (https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-019-2170-z#citeas ), Li Li and Trisha.T.C.Lin, 18 June, 2019, bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com.
What is the Tiny House Movement?,(https://thetinylife.com/what-is-the-tiny-house-movement/), thetinylife.com.
The George Floyd uprising has brought us hope. Now we must turn protest to policy, (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/30/black-lives-matter-protests-voting-policy-change), Derrick Johnson, July 2020, theguardian.com.
China Uighurs: A model's video gives a rare glimpse inside internment, (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-53650246), John Sudworth, 4th August, 2020, bbc.co.uk.
'Adults don't get it': why TikTok is facing greater scrutiny, (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jul/05/why-tiktok-is-facing-greater-scrutiny-video-sharing-app-child-safety ), August 2019, the guardian.com.
TikTok: Way to Relax or Waste of Time?,(https://readtheforum.org/13162/features/tiktok-way-to-relax-or-waste-of-time), Olivia Katz, November 16, 2019, readtheforum.org.
Social Media vs. Reality, (https://online.king.edu/infographics/social-media-vs-reality/ ), online.king.edu.
Islam, (https://www.history.com/topics/religion/islam ), Updated August 20, 2019, history.com.
Why people are choosing to quit social media | BBC Ideas, (https://youtu.be/ij_xXZAhJPs) ,May 15, 2020, youtube.com.
The Social Dilemma | Official Trailer | Netflix, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaaC57tcci0) , Aug 27, 2020, youtube.com.
All photograph based images used in this article are Royalty Free.