There are 7.5 billion people around the world. 3.17 billion use the internet. 2.46 billion use social media. 1.32 billion people sign onto Facebook every day. Over 95 million photos and videos are posted on Instagram every day. Over 400 million snaps are posted on Snapchat every day. Over 500 million tweets are tweeted on Twitter every day.
Social media: beloved, hated, supported, denounced, necessary, pointless—controversial. Is it the holy grail or the bane of our existence? We can’t seem to agree, or even decide ourselves, on the answer to this puzzling question. Still, most of us have or utilize some form of social media, as we can see from the mindboggling statistics above, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. We’ve become obsessed with plastering our pictures all over the Internet, sharing our relationship status with strangers, and showcasing our daily activities to the world. Let’s face it, even those of us that condemn the obsession can’t fall asleep without first scrolling through our feeds—we’re hooked.
While we’ll likely never reach a general consensus on whether social media is a godsend or a mistake, most of us can agree that there are both benefits and drawbacks—even if we can’t settle on which outweighs the other—as well as healthy and unhealthy social media habits. So we asked some social media pros, from social media coordinators to experienced social media users, to highlight these positives and negatives. And hopefully they will help you decide, for yourself, how to best utilize social media going forward.
The Harmful Drawbacks
Social media can lead to feelings of low self-worth.
Let’s be honest—we use social media to promote the very best version of ourselves. We don’t typically share our imperfections or our setbacks with the world; instead we post only the most flattering of pictures and good news about getting that job or having “the best” significant other. And this has an unintended but very real effect on our friends and followers: they come across these picture-perfect photos and statuses and close out of the apps feeling insecure about their own lives. Social media content creator and influencer Latasha James says that she stays away from social media, especially Instagram, when she’s feeling down. “Because Instagram is all about beautiful images, when my confidence is low, it can sometimes make me feel like I am not enough.” She advises others to “take breaks, set limits, say no to obsessive scrolling, and remember that everyone puts the best version of themselves online.”
Social media takes away from other aspects of life.
Social media can become completely engulfing. Without even thinking twice about it, we’re reaching for our phones, sorting through Snapchat stories, reading about what our old high school teacher is saying on Facebook. I mean, what? I don’t care to watch Tom screaming about finding a frog in his shower or read that Mrs. Johnson is going out of town for the weekend. So why do I keep clicking on these apps and sitting in front of my computer screen for hours on end? When I should instead be studying or cleaning or spending time with people that don’t exist behind a screen. The truth is, a lot of us have to make a conscious effort to put our phones down and focus on other aspects of our lives—but when we do, it’s worth it. Teana McDonald, President of social media, public relations, and event marketing boutique agency 3E Connections, Inc., may live and breathe social media at work, but she says that, “less social media brings more value to [her] life” and “limiting time on social media actually makes [her] happier.”
The Saving Graces
Social media serves as an expressive outlet.
The first social media platform I ever experimented with was Myspace. And I absolutely loved it. Not because there was this new digital social world but because it presented a creative opportunity—I signed on weekly just to change my wallpaper, update my profile song, and test out funky new layouts. Myspace is obviously no longer a major social media platform, but others now serve as that expressive outlet. Latasha, who spoke earlier about Instagram taking a blow to her confidence at times, loves social media for the creative opportunities it offers. “On my YouTube Channel, I post weekly updates sharing my favorite things, experiences I’ve had, and sometimes—issues I’m facing,” she says. “The feedback is usually overwhelmingly supportive, and even when it’s not, it is typically constructive criticism that allows me to take a step back and reevaluate things from a more objective point of view.”
Social media connects billions of people around the world—some who wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Perhaps the reason so many of us signed up for Facebook or Instagram in the first place: to more easily connect with and communicate with others. These platforms allow us to share updates and information with other users immediately. Did you get a promotion? Let all of your family and friends know by simply making a Facebook status about it. Just married? Share all of the beautiful pictures from your big day with those who missed it by uploading them to your Instagram. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Furthermore, social media provides us with the means to connect with new people too. Avid social media user and self-proclaimed Twitter expert, Alex Cooper, is thankful for Facebook for this very reason as he “has made real connections online that he otherwise wouldn’t have,” and that includes his wife! So exploring the “Explore” page on Instagram and checking out other Twitter profiles just might be worth your time. Hey, it could even end in holy matrimony!
So, should I or shouldn’t I use social media?
That, my friend, is up to you. But considering the feedback from the social media pros, maybe you should be asking yourself a different question, like how much time and effort you should invest in social media instead. Because at this point, you’re in, we’re all in—whether we log into Instagram once a week or quite contrarily upload a picture every single day. Either way, your social media habits are up to you. If you don’t find that social media is negatively affecting your life, then there might not be a need to make any changes. But if you feel your self-esteem diminishing or want to give more of yourself to other areas of your life, maybe you should make a change. CEO and Founder of digital storytelling agency Pink Graffiti, Cole Hernandez, offers those who do want to make a change some tips: First, pick a couple days to completely shut off your access to social media; secondly, don’t rely on social media or “illusions of the perfect lifestyle” for inspiration; thirdly, only follow those that lift you up in one way or another; and lastly, give yourself some time constraints in order to avoid being sucked into the time warp that social media can be.