Social Media – A Double-edged Sword
[11 minute read]
Social Media – yes I use it. Hey! I’ve shared the link to this article via Twitter. I discovered the existence of this meme and read it’s latest prompt through Twitter. Hell, I am probably friends with the majority of people who link a post to this meme through Twitter, or perhaps they read my blog.
In my vanilla life I’ve tried but rejected Whatsapp (didn’t like Google reading my messages). I’ve used Facebook, but currently my account is more like a ‘bookmark’ since I joined Twitter.
Plus and Minus Social media sites such as Facebook have a plus side. The picture sharing, event organising, catching up with far flung friends/ relatives aspect is great. The downside is, it can be a liability, particularly for people who don’t know how to use it properly. You might share pictures while on a lovely 2 week holiday but come home to find your house burgled! Use it to invite a couple of friends round for a drink, but mistakenly put your invite on your ‘wall’, and your doorbell is suddenly ringing because you have an impromptu party on your hands! An ex can stalk who you see and where you go. A future employer could see you post inappropriate remarks or pictures and decide not to hire you.
Less obvious, but more insidious negatives are how social media can feed/exaggerate any mental health issues. For example, if you are feeling lonely or depressed, scrolling through images of people you know attending parties, weddings or on holiday can throw your less colourful lifestyle into stark contrast. People posting pictures of food or fancy drinks they intend to consume haven’t considered how that makes someone struggling to diet / stay on the wagon feel.
‘FoMO’ – Fear of Missing Out Some people check their social media feed obsessively, what are other people saying / sharing? Are their posts or pictures being ‘liked’. Instagram users might take myriad pictures of themselves, highly critical of each one as they strive for the ‘perfect’ image to share. Then they will get anxious if they don’t feel as if the usual amount of people ‘like’ them.
If people visualise themselves as ‘influencers’ they work to build their following to high figures with the messages and pictures they share. In a bid to stay relevant or make a mark, they invade their own privacy. Gradually these people push themselves to a place which seems like living in a goldfish bowl, to these types, nothing feels real unless they have posted it on-line, but they’re judged on everything. For an extreme example, think of the Kardashians.
Haters If you’re contemplating having a social media profile, it’s important to remember that as many followers as there are using their phones and laptops to ‘like’ posts and pictures, their dark counterparts also exist. We know them as ‘haters’ ‘trolls’ and ‘keyboard warriors’. Not only high profile folk – actors, athletes and politicians – are the objects of trolling and negative feedback. Any of us who expose ourselves as a persona on social media can become a victim. Negative people can get vitriolic. They don’t limit themselves to insulting others on-line but some (extreme cases) try to hunt their targets down at their jobs, children’s schools, or doorsteps depending on how (un)skilled their social media target has been at keeping their profile private or anonymous. This is tough enough to deal with by people who use social media for their job but they may have access to PR assistance. It’s much more challenging for those who use social media for fun, as a hobby. The attack will feel much more personal making you unsure which way to turn for help/support.
Recently @DeviantSuccubus was negatively targeted on Twitter and Instagram and these attacks dented her confidence. I know she would agree that it was debilitating in relartion to mental health issues.
Devie’s attacker was closer to home. A friend found her site and questioned the images she was sharing on Instagram, making critical remarks, which shook her to the core. Devie rallied by taking control, it’s her blog, her body and entirely her choice how she presented it. Devie went ahead and posted increasingly more raw pictures.
Ideally we should fight back against negative feedback by putting any attack it into perspective: these ‘haters’ are fuelled by jealousy and narrow mindedness. It isn’t always easy, however, to apply this logic, we don’t always feel strong enough to hold our heads up high and carry on regardless. If you have on-line friends you can touch base with, or use supportive loved ones to talk things over with, this definitely helps.
May wrote this in response to a rather opinionated but ill-informed troll.
Social media can be used for good This is something I suggest we all promote and encourage. Most of the people I interact with make time to support and champion each other. They link up to each other’s memes, they Share our Shit (and not always on Saturdays!) and league tables of bloggers are compiled. If someone posts about a triumph or a disaster, there will always be a flurry of responses. Equal quantities it seems to praise the success or to offer support or lighten the mood around mishaps, frustrations or fails.
My blog This represents social media but with me in the driving seat. I love encouraging guest writers to contribute posts or pieces of fiction using my blog as a platform. I predominantly post erotic fiction I’ve written, short pieces or longer serials. I share pictures occasionally, but my photographs are not very artistic! I’ll admit that I am boosted by getting good feedback from comments and folk using the like button. A post feels successful to me if it gets lots of views. Equally if one person I respect re-tweets my post, or shares its url on their blog, then I am just as happy. Better still is being put in the top 3 or top 5 of a meme to which I’ve linked.
2 Way Street I love to read people’s posts and appreciate their pictures. I make time to visit blogs and leave comments. This is a necessary flip side of attracting readers to my work – why should I expect people to read what I create if I don’t read any of theirs? Sometimes I’ll refer a specific post to other Twitter friends who I think will be interested.
Twitter – do I need it? Could I stop? Yes and yes! I specifically use Twitter to promote my writing, to keep abreast of what other people post or are talking about. It alerts me to new memes, platforms wanting articles, editors looking for submissions and places to offer my writing. When I first joined Twitter I followed just a handful of toy reviewers and erotica writers, now I have friends and followers in a variety of arenas. I’ve befriended beta readers who assist in the final stages of my writing process, subscribed to writing resources to hone my skill and I’ve discovered podcasts which provide veracity to my fiction.
If something in my vanilla life keeps me from using Twitter, the result is I have a less interesting things to look at, my notifications go down but my closer friends keep in contact via DM.
An example: unfortunately this summer I suffered a shocking bereavement followed by a critical health scare for a key relative. My resulting emotions and headspace meant I couldn’t use social media in the usual way – no reading sexy stories, or bantering with people. My fictional writing ground to a halt. I fell back on guest writers and opinion pieces to keep posting, but more sporadically. I had to pull out of judging memes and writing in marathons. Some days I didn’t look at Twitter at all, but on other days I would check and it was up-lifting to find DMs from friends hoping to support and cheer me. They offered understanding, advice or shoulders to cry on, they helped me cope in a way that face-to-face interaction could not. When I felt fragile, interacting that way was not overwhelming.
I often build a more personal relationship with folk via DM. After lengthy chats I might propose a meet-up in person if I feel we have something in common, but collaborating via cross-pollination of blogs is more likely.
On balance For me social media is a good, useful tool, it does not make me feel unhealthy or anxious. I don’t feel defined by how many followers my blog has or the quantity of likes or retweets I get, but I do feel validated by getting positive feedback from real people. Being paid for my writing or invited to contribute again reinforces my belief that my work has promise and that people enjoy reading what I have to say.
This post is submitted for sb4MH and the image used is from Pixabay, click the link to see others’ thoughts on social media.