Firstly, let’s get the irony out of the way first. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you arrived via social media link. Secondly, let me be clear that I think there is benefit to be derived from using social media. Now that these points are out of the way, I postulate that social media has rapidly turned into a deluge of information that randomly causes flash flooding of our senses.
It didn’t start out this way. In the beginning, Facebook paved the way, providing families and friends with a collaborative platform to share with multiple people at a time. We could see that Aunt Susie and her dog were alive, well, and enjoying the park. We could share in the joy of friends announcing the arrival of their first baby. And of course there were cute cats because the internet is overrun with them. We cannot forget the cats.
Then it happened. Facebook was joined by Twitter, then Instagram, Snapchat and most recently, Tik-Tok. Inherently, they all pose a risk to our personal privacy and security depending upon how much we share about ourselves. Equally important, though, and the subject of this writing is the fact that any social media platform incurs the risk of sensory flash flooding. This can take the more serious form of exacerbating depressive tendency to the more common tendency of what I would call “social de-esteeming”. I derive this term by taking the term self-esteem and characterizing how it can be lowered simply by seeing the words and behaviors of others on social media.
How does today’s social media trigger this? A few common examples are outlined below. All have been articulated to me by family, friends, and colleagues in informal conversation about social media. I group them into what I call the major, social media flood zones.”
- The Amazingly Awesome Life Livers – You know these people. They are the ones in your timeline who always seem to be seeing, doing, or getting something amazing. When they aren’t the receiver, they’re the ones delivering untold joy to others.
- The Disgruntled Grunters – These are the ones who regularly take to their timeline to express their disdain for bad drivers, pet owners who don’t carry poop bags, lack of religion (or existence of it), over-expansion of local communities, and of course, politics. Sometimes, it seems they derive joy from being disgruntled. After a while, you don’t even really “hear” what they say on social media, as it all sounds like, “Ruh, ruh, ruh, dammit.”
- The Underwhelming and Underwhelmed – These are the people in your timeline who can be sub-divided into two, smaller groups. There are the Underwhelming. These can be family and friends whom you know to be intelligent and capable. For whatever reason, they haven’t achieved the personal or professional success you believe they can. The Underwhelmed group is made up of people who seem to have achieved personal or professional success but too often only have negative thoughts to share and make you feel frustration by their lack of motivation. (Note: The Underwhelmed shouldn’t be confused with the Disgruntled Grunters, who have definable agendas of dissatisfaction to convince others to believe.)
It’s possible that you haven’t take the time to analyze your social media timeline and its potential effects on your sanity. Equally possible is that you thought you were enjoying it. If you’re anything like me, you’ve identified the people whose posts manifest your frustration or at a minimum, threaten to diminish your generally happy vibe. If you haven’t, these are a few signs to recognize.
Person X’s posts usually:
1. Make me feel frustrated
2. Make me feel physically ill
3. Make me question their ability to tie their shoes
4. Highlight societal decline in common sense & critical thinking
5. Remind me that we wouldn’t be friends if we weren’t family
To be very, very clear, the subject herein refers to social media aficionados who are only mildly annoyed with what their social media feeds have become. It does not apply to people who already suffered from diagnosable depression or have said condition fully triggered by an overage of social media consumption. My non-professional opinion is that anyone in either category should delete their social media accounts and pursue other internet interests.
For the rest, the solution to avoiding the social media flash flood is pretty simple. Either completely “unfriend” or “unfollow” the people in your timeline who cause you anxiety. If you feel badly about that or don’t want to offend your dad’s easily agitated sister, at least snooze them for 30-days and repeat as necessary. If none of these techniques are viable, you may find your negative social media feelings can be offset by an equal viewing of Tik-Tok videos featuring cute cats. If none of the above work, just turn your internet connected device off and do some yoga. You’ll feel mentally clearer and be more physically limber. It’s a win/win.
(Disclaimer: This writing is a satirical opinion on a serious and increasingly studied subject. For an actual scholarly review of the subject, I recommend reading Social Media and Mental Health, by Luca Braghieri, Ro’ee Levy, and Alexey Makarin.)