Netflix recently released a documentary movie called “Social Dilemma,” which explores the impacts of social media and social networking websites. Although the creation of these websites has brought benefits to our world, it has also brought about many unexpected negative consequences.
Without a doubt, the various platforms of social media have changed the way we live. In the documentary, former designers of these platforms discuss that the creation of these platforms came from a positive place of a desire to connect people more easily. These platforms have made the world seem a lot smaller, helped us reconnect with old friends/family, brought some common humanity into all of us and brought a spotlight onto individual lives.
However, these platforms have also exaggerated our desires for this connection to others and have led to an increase in mental health concerns globally. Humans are often in a mode of comparing ourselves to other people and psychologists believe a key reason is that it helps us create the self we want and helps us examine discrepancies in ourselves. Social media platforms have provided the perfect medium to fulfill this internal drive. Unfortunately, metrics of these systems have also been created to analyze and maximize one’s engagement to the platforms and hence, gear information towards what a person seems to find of interest. A mere ‘pause’ to read a post leads to an assumption of interest and further information is directed to us based on an ‘assumption.’ Some comparison of self to others is necessary and healthy, however, as with any behaviour; an extreme amount of comparing ourselves to others is detrimental to our mental health. To help manage this comparison drive, a way to understand relationships is to recognize and accept differences among people and to acknowledge that positive and respectful relationships develop when we can work with each other, despite our differences.
Social media platforms have also impacted our ability to think, impacted what ideas we have, and fed our desires to a detriment. In the video, they speak of the ‘Existential Risk’ of social media and note how the technology itself is not a problem rather how it is utilized and how it impacts the ways we behave, the ways we think and develop ideas, and what values we choose to follow for our own existence.
Tracking cookies on my computer may seem to make my shopping experience more efficient (and in ways, more enjoyable) because I am easily finding what I want. However, this can bring challenges too when it may also ‘manipulate’ my brain to then go about purchasing things that ‘peak my interest’ rather than merely purchasing what I need and was initially looking for. A key reflection point of the movie is to reflect on what is a personal choice and what is an influenced choice and encourages us to think about ‘what are my ideas’ and ‘what ideas have been placed into me by others.’
One suggested solution to the challenges of social networking sites is more regulation and control over how information is utilized. When these platforms are impacting our abilities to think and create ideas, it can get confusing what thoughts are our own and what ideas have been placed into me based on my circumstances and situations. Every individual needs to develop and gain awareness of their value systems (what is important for my life) to follow, which in turn, will lighten the path towards creating a life that they desire for themselves. I think that an awareness of personal systems of regulation can be one way we counter the influence of social networking platforms.
To help you start developing and gaining awareness of your regulation systems, I encourage: Self-reflection – constantly utilizing moments of life to reflect on:
o What is important in my life?
o What do I want in my life?
o What don’t I want in my life?
o Why am I doing what I am doing? What do I get out of it?
It is also important to bring a curious and non-judgmental attitude when reflecting and examining our personal decisions. I also encourage everyone to reflect on their own personal practices around the usage of social media and to assess one’s own relationship with social media platforms.
Counselling can also be an avenue one takes to gain more inner awareness and reflect on one’s being. If you are interested in exploring further, please feel free to contact Ride the Waves Counselling Service.