I grew up in the 80’s and went to junior high and high school in the 90’s and back then, the internet was considered a new thing. There was AOL chat and maybe chat rooms, but nothing Facebook or Twitter today.
Social media is a fantastic thing, but it can be pretty toxic for mental health too.
If we wanted news, we turned on the tv or read a newspaper. Celebrity gossip, we read a magazine. Beauty tips, we may peruse a magazine at a book store. Smart phones weren’t really a thing until I graduated high school in 1996, but even then, you had to be pretty special to be able to afford one. We didn’t have the ability to tweet our every thought or post a status on what we were eating right at that very moment.
The thing is, bullying and negative news has always been around, but the thing about it is that a lot of younger people, and even older people, didn’t outright bully one another as much as they do on social media due to the fact that it’s so easy to hide behind a computer screen. I was never as bullied as a kid as much as I was when I was in my 20’s due to the immediate ability for someone to say something hatred instantly and you and everyone you know seeing it.
With the technology of being able to make a profile on social media, inputting any info you want into those “personal information” fields, you don’t even have to be you. This makes it much easier for anyone who wants to be hateful to do it very, very easily.
When I was growing up, everything was said through word of mouth. News, who’s friends with who, what tv show was on…it was all about speaking to one another and while bullying was always around, it wasn’t quite as easy to verbally crucify someone and share it with thousands, millions of people in the touch of a button.
My point is this. I go on social media daily. I have to due to blogging, but I will estimate the number of negative ads, news articles or just nasty posts that I see there are probably around the 90% bracket. I rarely see good stuff and the hardest part is that when you “unfollow” someone or something, something else just as bad or worse pops up in its place. Social media has a brain now. It can basically know what you chat with or post about and then suggest ads for products, pages, articles or even other people’s posts that may interest you. So, for instance, if you talk about being bullied, it may give you some good resources for support, but it may also suggest really sad news stories or even posts that someone made public of them bullying someone else.
Impact on Mental Health
How is this good for our mental health?! Well, it’s just not. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned to stay off of social media as much as possible and not post too much personal stuff, even to close friends or family. The thing is this, anyone who thinks what you say isn’t agreeable, can instantly share it. What is put on the internet, is there forever. There really is not a permanent way to get anything off the internet. No pictures, no words, nothing because you have no idea if someone shared it, screen shots it, or sends to another person.
Now don’t get me wrong, social media is fabulous for so many things. Peoples lives have been saved on social media. Charities helped. Lots good stories out there from sources like the http://www.goodnewsnetwork.com, but there’s so much that gets slid in between the good stuff that is just purely toxic to our mental health.
So, how do you stay on social media without being exposed to all the negative stuff out there? Well, you don’t, but you can lessen your chances of seeing what you don’t want to see.
- First, simply don’t engage. Unfollow people you don’t feel are healthy for you and stop being afraid to unfriend people. This is social media, not real life. It seems these days if someone is unfriended, they are immediately offended and take it personally. While I admit, it’s never fun if someone you thought was a friend decides not to be your friend, but why do we have to have our relationships online?
If someone offends you and you know them personally, have a calm chat with them. Talk to one another like grown ups and figure out the issue. If you can’t, unfriending is the best way to fix that, isn’t it?
- Next, unfollow people. You don’t have to unfriend people to unfollow them. They won’t even know you unfollow them either. You can just simply not see their timeline, but remain “friends” on social media.
Unfollow and unlike pages that are turning out negativity. If a news source makes you feel depressed or anxious, just unfollow it. Just don’t torture yourself and your mind with the toxic words or images coming from that news source. Remember: Not all news is newsworthy. Not all news is truth. A lot of news is written for headlines, not facts. They don’t really care if you don’t follow them, so just don’t.
- Lastly, if you want to only follow cute cat pages, crafts pages or product hack pages, then that’s your right as an internet owner. You are paying for internet after all, you have the power. The power to NOT see what you don’t want to see. NOT read what you don’t want to read. If you don’t want to be on social media, then don’t. Put you first. Think of your mental health and use the internet for healthy stuff like https://themighty.com/ or https://cuteness-overload.com/.
- Also, be a part of the “i am a witness” campaign. Shut down bullying if you see it by simply typing in an emoji. You can show everyone that you see bullying and it can shut down the bully because they know a lot of people see what they are doing.
Don’t keep it inside. If you are being bullied, reach out. Stop Bullying has a ton of resources for help and info on how to stand up to it. Text for help, for free at 741-741 and get help for any crisis. I’ve used it and it’s a great service when you need someone to talk to for any reason.
People bully others because they feel awful inside. They want to get the misery out onto others, so that they don’t have to feel it anymore. The best way to feel better when you are depressed, is to make others feel good. If someone is being bullies, be their friend. If someone is bullying you, don’t stoop to their level by letting yourself say nasty things back to them. Do something good for someone else. One thing every day. Smiling at an older person sitting on a bench, holding the door open for someone at the store, letting someone skip in line at the grocery store. Those tiny things can make someone’s day and they may remember forever and you can turn your day around by being the better person and absorbing the goodness that is within you.