Firstly I’d like to introduce a good friend of mine called Oliver Campey who runs ‘olliecampey.com‘. We got our heads together late last year and have decided to get started with a series of social media related blogs/vlogs. Our first blog will focus on the perception vs reality aspect of social media and the comparison factor and you can find Ollie’s written analysis with his thoughts embedded below.
In an age where social media has intertwined itself with almost every aspect of our daily lives, it would be fair to assume that as a population we have acclimatised fairly well to the psychological challenges that come with opening up our world to the public.
The use of social media grew at a far faster rate than anyone could’ve ever predicted and not just from a personal perspective, in business too, social media has now become one of the most powerful tools for marketing your products, creating customer engagement and promoting your brand. There is no doubt that the birth of Social Media has introduced some incredible platforms into the world
Instagram – Being able to visually present your life to the world has put everyone back in touch with their inner creative (optimisation tips available here)
Facebook – Being able to connect with friends you’ve met around the world so you don’t lose touch and share all types of content
YouTube – A platform for masses to create, absorb and share video content
And these are just a few examples…
However, whilst Social Media continues to develop and we continue to improve at marketing our personal and professional journeys there is a much darker side to the all of this. I feel it’s important that it’s brought to the surface so that younger generations can develop the correct coping mechanisms for dealing with the negative implications that can arise when Social Media is misinterpreted or misunderstood.
One of the most widely talked about side effects of Social Media is the ‘comparison factor’. Particularly amongst people in their early teens, the upward comparisons being made against content posted by they’re friends/peers is leading to a reduction in self-esteem, higher levels of jealousy and in turn higher levels of depression amongst teenagers.
However, the problems run much deeper than this and only now are we beginning to see more and more cases of the vicious circle that is consuming many young people in society. The ‘comparison factor’ can often be the trigger point that sets off the cycle of negative thoughts although there are many other reasons and external circumstances which can influence the mood of a person when engaging with Social Media.
One of the biggest issues is a chemical called dopamine, often referred to as the chemical behind all of our sins and secret cravings. In it’s simplest form dopamine is a chemical that acts as a messenger between brain cells and is responsible for things such as movement and speech.
However, it also plays a role in addiction due to the heightened sense of satisfaction we receive when the brain receives a so-called ‘fix’. You see it most amongst smokers (nicotine), alcoholics (alcohol) and gambling, now it’s beginning to take effect on Social Media too, particularly when people receive a ‘like’ or positive comment. It’s been proven amongst various research articles that dopamine triggers the ‘reward molecule’ in our brain and this okay for people who live with a very low level of stress and in broader terms are on good terms with the way their life is being played out.
Where the problem needs addressing is amongst people who suffer from depression, sadness, mental trauma or even temporary stints of unhappiness. The reason being is that people are turning to Social Media to get the ‘likes’ which as we know triggers the reward system in our brain leading to a feel-good factor. As we are aware with the other types of addiction, if this is prolonged over a period of time then the reaction becomes hard-wired in our brains and lo and behold forms an addiction.
It becomes a double-edged sword on many levels. The craving to get the likes/comments places extreme amounts of pressure on people to find content that will generate that type of engagement and when they can’t achieve this a sense of unfulfillment and sadness sets in. It’s also acting as a temporary fix and so the next day it becomes a repeat process meaning people are never actually learning to deal with the root of what’s causing them to feel sad, they’re only ever masking the problems and making their life seem something it’s not to the outside world.
This is extremely dangerous because to their friends, family, employers, it will seem as if everything is great and therefore they can’t offer the kind of support and advice that is needed to help nurture them through the period of negative thinking.
When we think about someone’s life and how they’re getting on, we tend to scan their social media and from the outside everything often looks great. The pictures of nights out with friends, sunny holidays, smiley selfies but in reality on the inside it can often be a very different picture.
To conclude, there is no doubt that social media can have an extremely positive effect on both our personal and professional journeys. There does, however, need to be a greater understanding amongst society about the negative implications that come with prolonged usage and most importantly how we deal with that.