Mental Health and Social Media: What is Our Responsibility?
Obviously loves social media- obviously. Aside from it being our business, we truly feel that it builds community, connects people across borders and languages, and allows us to express ourselves in ways never available before. Because you’re here, it’s pretty safe to say that you love social media too. But we’re also aware that overexposure to social media can have negative effects on mental health. In fact, Instagram, our all-time favorite social network, has been reported to be the worst offender in terms of causing insecurity, FOMO, and feelings of depression. Users, especially younger users, run the danger of comparing their own lives to what is inevitably a highly-edited highlight reel of someone else’s life. While insecurity and the tendency to compare-and-despair are nothing new, they are brought to new heights by the near-constant surrounding of social media.
There are many ways in which influencers have…um… influence in this area. We are the ones who do social media well, who know how to use those filters, who know how to capture that light to make that image just perfect. We are the ones that people compare themselves to, whether we like it our not. We’re also particularly vulnerable to the social media blues, as we inevitably spend more time on social media than just about anyone else. Unlike others, however, we don’t really have the option of simply turning social media off. This is our thing! It’s what we do. So what then, is our responsibility to others and what is our responsibility to ourselves?
While we certainly cannot be personally responsible for every one of our followers’ experiences, there are some simple things we can do to make sure our impact is continuously positive.
1) Be real
Let your followers see the real you. Maybe consider posting a photo of yourself without make up. or without filters. Some influencers have even posted images of themselves on Instagram vs In Reality, just to show what happens behind the scenes. If you’re comfortable with it- and only if you’re comfortable- it can also be helpful to share a little about what isn’t so great in your life. Some of the post powerful content I have seen online is where influencers open up to their followers about a personal struggle or an obstacle that they are working to overcome. Although I wouldn’t suggest you do this in an #ad post, as that can ring doubly false.
2) Be Kind
Look out for small ways in which you can be encouraging and promote self-esteem. If you notice that someone who follows you is just starting out as an influencer, maybe give them a follow or a shout-out in your Story. Respond to compliments with compliments. Also if you operate a blog, remember you have the authority to shut down any bullying or nastiness that shows up in your comments.
3) Keep it in perspective…
… and encourage your followers to do so as well. We all love social media, it’s not the end-all-be-all of life. If anything, it’s a way to share and celebrate the moments that are truly special to us. So make sure you make a point of keeping your in-person relationships healthy. Don’t let documenting a moment become so essential that you miss out on the moment itself. And remind your followers to put down their phones every once in a while… you’ll be there when they get back.
Social media has so much potential to affect good in the world. However, it is important to keep in mind that there can be unintended consequences. Obviously believes that influencer marketing is a huge step in the right direction, away from distant unattainable celebrities as roles models and towards real people. The more honest and authentic we can be, the better for the world- both online and off.
How do you keep your social media use healthy? Leave your advice in the comments!