Is Social Media Harming Us? Or Are We Harming Ourselves?
This is the question posed by Farzana Qasimi in her TEDTalk "The Dark and Light of Social Media" found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjBgonFJYU
In 12 short minutes, 16-year-old Qasimi makes a number compelling points to further explore who is at fault for how social media impacts our mental health. Qasimi notes:
- Social media websites were not created with the intention to lower anyone's self esteem, and
- Social media platforms are tools which produce an "output" based on what we "input".
With these two points made, Qasimi goes on to explain a shared experience among many social media users: our feeds overflow with posts that make us feel overwhelmed, anxious, and inadequate. However, using her input = output analogy, Qasimi states "our social media accounts have become a reflection of our darker selves".
This statement holds relevance when we consider how algorithms work to duplicate what has been viewed, shared, liked, tweeted, and posted in the past. What we put in really does become what we see suggested back to us.
Qasimi offers a number of strategies for individuals to begin receiving more positive messaging from their social media accounts:
- Stop following people who negatively influence you. Reduce your feed to people you care about you, make you feel good, and/or you look up to.
- Increase mindful social media use by considering the impact a new follow will have on you.
- If you get off track and find yourself back in negative use patterns, be kind to yourself and gently bring yourself back.
These suggested strategies highlight once again the "input" required to enact our own change. Clinically, this may hold relevance as it reminds us the we have the power to influence many of our own experiences online.