Is Social Media Bringing Out The Worst In You?

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I have thought about this question a lot this year and have come to the conclusion that for many of us the answer is yes. Now, before anyone gets offended by that, there is zero judgement coming from me and when I say ‘worst’, I’m talking about everything from feeling depressed and anxious because of what you’re seeing online to interactions that are nothing more than bullying. I am also including myself in this observation because aside from a couple of missteps along the way, I also could not be less interested in social media right now because of what’s going on.

I don’t even know what to say about platforms like Instagram anymore. I remember when I first started my beauty focused account almost five years ago it was such a great space. The skincare community was small, but passionate and as I have said before, there was no agenda beyond sharing honest reviews about the products we were using. Clearly, that is not the case anymore and while I don’t want to get into the rampant greed and dishonesty that’s happening right now, I will just say that it’s been close to a whole year since I wrote my article on The Problem With Instagram and things are worse than ever sadly.

Beyond all that, what else is wrong with social media? From what I have experienced and observed over the past few months I would say an alarming and disheartening lack of kindness, compassion and tolerance. The things I have seen in the past week alone have left me completely fed up with the current climate where drama is king and attacking those that disagree with you seems to be the “cool” thing to do for brands, bloggers, celebrities and average users alike.

I have seen a brand owner call someone who didn’t love a product a “miserable human being”, an influencer go to extreme lengths to expose the personal information of someone who left a negative comment on a post, a blogger being ridiculed for her accent and a YouTuber being told to shut up because she dared to bring up the issue of racism in the beauty industry. It has got so bad that some days I can’t tell the difference between the aggressive political commentary on Twitter and the responses to mostly innocuous content on Instagram. Also, besides being unpleasant to read, I sincerely worry about the effect this type of behaviour is having on everyone involved.

So often these days I see posts about social media anxiety, FOMO (fear of missing out), loneliness, depression and I fully believe that a lot of that has to do with the massive lack of social responsibility that is feeding this culture of over zealous drama and bullying. Social media just isn’t as much of a safe or welcoming space anymore and that needs to change. It is part of the reason I haven’t been able to get back to regular posting yet and I know this undercurrent of hate has turned many long time members of the community away from the platform. I personally find the frequent disputes a turn off and dread logging on at the moment.

Social media has also really skewed how we view ourselves and others and changed how we interact. Somehow it has dehumanized us to the point where we no longer see or care about the person behind the image, account or brand and would prefer to shoot off a snarky comment instead of being the bigger person, whether that means not engaging or replying in a diplomatic way. It is so important to think about how our words might affect the person we’re talking to or if what we are saying is proportionate to what’s happening because usually it isn’t.

I truly believe that no one really enjoys attacking others online, no matter how justified it may seem. I saw a person who had written an unkind comment on a video (about sunglasses of all things) admit that she was in a bad place which is why she had lashed out and I can totally relate, as I’m sure many of you can, too. I myself have made three major mistakes on Instagram over the years and in all three cases I wasn’t feeling my best. It’s something I try to remember any time I want to be negative or judgmental instead of compassionate and understanding. Happy people don’t troll and everyone has their personal struggles, plus returning hate for hate doesn’t do anyone any favours.

This past weekend, in response to the royal wedding, Bernice King (daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr) tweeted about someone asking her how she can be joyful about two people she didn’t know and she replied, “how can you be bitter about two people you don’t know?”. I thought that was such a great response because there is so much bitterness on social media over such pointless “issues” and it’s such a waste of time and energy.

I think perspective is needed in a lot of situations online and before we let ourselves get worked up over something we’ve seen or read. Ask yourself, is it really that bad? Do you really need to comment or get involved? Does what you’re doing make you feel better or worse? Also, and this is a tough one, why do you care so much? I have had to ask myself that more than a few times this year and the answer is I actually don’t really care at all, but like the sunglasses video commenter, I’m not always in a good place.

This year seems to have taken on some sort of contagious negative energy where so many of us are angry and frustrated, so I definitely understand how we got here and why this is happening more often, but we need to make more of an effort to be better. Obviously the internet isn’t the easiest forum to communicate in and it is all to easy to create villains out of those who seemingly “have it all” or feel entitled to criticize those who like a brand or product you don’t like, but a little more mindfulness, consideration and kindness would go a long way to making social media the much needed refuge from daily life it once was instead of the drama filled toxic space it currently is.

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