The Social Media Conundrum – and how to deal with it

Social media offers us a world of possibilities:  a series of
networks that allows us to chat to people on the other side of the
world and build future professional or social opportunities.

But like, with all good things in life, too much of it can be
harmful. A recent report estimates that 210
million people worldwide suffer from an addiction to websites such
as Facebook and Instagram.

 It’s a complex topic, and something that we’re still
learning about. 

But why is it so common?

A huge reason is the environment that we’re brought up in.

Photo by
on Unsplash

In Western society, there is pressure on everyone to keep up
appearances. It gives us the opportunity to present a sugar-coated
version of our lives to the world and make us feel good about
ourselves. Deep down, we all know that’s the reason we do it:
there’s even a hilarious #humblebrag dedicated to extreme versions of smug

Also, we just love to know what other people are getting up to.
Whereas in the past there might have been two neighbours gossiping
about the strange guy at the end of the street, now the digital
version has us looking through their pictures, reading their
comments, and forming our own opinion of them from those. Gossiping
has never gone out of fashion, and probably never will.

This is all well and good, but how does this cause problems?

Going cold turkey

A dependency on Social Media should be treated the same as an
addiction to any other vice. Studies, such as the book Addicted by Design, show that
websites, like Twitter, use similar techniques to gambling
companies to hook people into their loop. 

Pop-up notifications, like when a friend likes your post, are
believed to give you a similar dopamine hit to a small win on
online slots, for example. Such hits create
psychological dependencies, where we subconsciously go searching
for the next one by scrolling down or playing again. 

Obviously, if we don’t get that next high, then we experience
a negative, or maybe empty, feeling which can be likened to the
comedown a drug user experiences – only less intense.

Such emotions feed into psychological problems, including
anxiety and depression, which can severely affect the quality of a
person’s life.

A lack of self-esteem

As mentioned, social media is a great opportunity for us to
showcase a dream version of our lives to the world.

For proof of this just look at sites such as Instagram, which
are based on this rose-tinted view of life. ‘Look at me lounging
on this white, sandy beach – aren’t I a success?’

This is validated by ‘likes’, views, and comments. But what
happens if we don’t get those? A sense of deflation probably,
something that might even knock self-esteem.

It’s simply a reflection of the real world. Girls are
bombarded with ad campaigns instructing them to be like Kate Moss:
get that thigh gap or you won’t get likes.
Boys are told that they shouldn’t cry; that they need to ‘man
up’ and smash their way through whichever obstacle gets in their

But there are consequences to this: people often can’t meet
these expectations. It simply isn’t possible for us all to have
supermodel looks or millions of dollars in the bank. 

But with social media creating an illusion of everyone else
living this perfect life,  it’s very easy to develop feelings of
low self-worth when we feel like we aren’t meeting those high

A short attention span

We’re the most informed group of humans in history: it also
means we don’t need to concentrate on anything for too

Answers lie behind the tap of a phone screen, information is
delivered in short videos.  On Twitter, posts are limited to 280
characters; on Tik-Tok, users have a maximum of a minute to convey
their message. Entertainment is on tap, and, if we don’t like it,
we can simply jump to something else in an instant.

So, it’s natural that our attention span suffers. Why should
we spend time thinking about stuff when it’s presented to us on a
bite-sized plate? Trouble is, a lack of attention can lead to
communication problems, which also feed into feelings of isolation
and anxiety.

So, how can we deal with this?

Well, first things first, think about how much time you spend
scrolling down your feeds. Time your usage every day for a week and
take notes. If you feel like it’s too much, or it’s above the
recommended healthy amount, then take
direct action. 

The good news is we can all do it, with a little effort:

  • Set yourself daily time limits on your social media use,
    there’s even a range of apps to help you with
  • Allocate yourself media-free time slots during the day.
    Switching off an hour before bed gives your brain a chance to slow
    down and get you ready for some quality sleep. If it goes well,
    consider extending it to a digital detox of a few days or
  • Take up a new hobby: finding something else to distract you
    other than those needy notifications could mean you won’t feel
    the need to check your phone every 10 minutes.
  • If all of the above prove too difficult, then counsellors such
    as The Samaritans are proven specialists in providing

That said, breaking a habit is a lot easier said than done. It
requires time and perseverance but, in the case of social media,
the effort might be worth it. 

A study conducted by top economists
found significant positive effects of logging off Facebook for a
month, including an increase in well-being and a more productive
social life.

The key is realising that social media is a choice, not a
necessity. Only by doing this can the social media conundrum be
cracked – and our lives improved as a result.

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The Social Media Conundrum – and how to deal with it