Firstly, although somewhat contradictory to the title, I want to say that I do see positives to social media. It can be a useful way of communicating and connecting with others. I have had some positive experiences of it too, but I would have to say that I have also had my fair share of negative ones, so this post is not about the benefits of the range of mediums we now have available to communicate with one another, but about the reasons that I dislike social media.
In reality my presence on social media is fairly small. I am not up to date on all of the latest platforms and I take a while to come to terms with the technical management of them. I work with teens, the social media gurus, and am always at least one step behind. In fact, I have given up trying to keep up as things just moved to quickly for me and seemed too strange. I have learnt a thing or too, though, even without downloading everything from Snapchat to TikTok to try to understand.
Social Media and Young People
Bullying and Mental Health
Social media is frequently used for bullying amongst teens. It is typical playground stuff, but multiplied and magnified in every sense. It reaches a far wider audience than ever gathered by the bike sheds for taunting or teasing, it has a far greater personal impact with its 24/7 reach than the interval and lunchtime school antics ever had, and it has anonymity which means the things said are far more cutting, detrimental and hurtful than used to happen face to face. I hate it, and I hate what it does to people.
I would argue that anyone who defends social media as not being an overall negative for young people, hasn’t seen the sort of damage that I have seen. If they had, they would think twice. Yes, we can educate children and young people in how to use it properly, but it is what it is, and it can be a vile boiling pot of bullying and hatred directed 24/7 at one person by a multitude of others, who often don’t even know them. There may be gains, but from my experience, these are far outweighed by the ills.
For young people, social feeds off existing insecurities and breeds self-doubt. It can stretch from the seemingly harmless positive elevation of one over another, to the exclusion of some from certain groups, to words and actions which are actually criminal by definition. And there are laws to protect. The issue is enforcing these regulations in a way which does not harm one child detrimentally over another. For these are all children. They all need to learn and to be shown a better way of managing themselves and their relationships. More often than not, they are simply modelling from what they have seen.
Picking up the Pieces
I have to say that now, there is very little that shocks me to do with young people and their use of social media. It has come to be the norm to see it used and abused over and over, and to try to resolve things between the injured party and the one who caused the hurt. I am saddened by the depth of cruelty towards another person, the dissociation from what their feelings about it could be, and the numbers of people willing to blindly jump on board with the passive bullying, but I am no longer shocked.
Social Media and Adults
What does shock me is the way that social media is used by some adults. I am generally a forgiving person and will make allowances for others in terms of looking to understand what was behind an action or a comment. I realise that we all have things going on for us behind the scenes, and we never know what it is like to walk in some else’s shoes. As an empath, I can find it hard not to try to see the best in people and to make excuses for them, but I have felt truly surprised by some of the nastiness I have witnessed.
I suppose I should not find it shocking that these people use the medium in the same way that kids do but I would have expected grown up to be, you know, grown up. They aren’t. They are as false and as attention seeking and as mean and cruel as the children who I think just need time to think about their actions and do better. In fact, they are worse. Most of the young people I speak to do think about their actions and when they are confronted by them, they tone things down. Not so in the adult world.
A Lack of Reflection
For adults on social media who seem to make comments intentionally designed to hurt others or elevate themselves above others, they don’t ever seem to reflect. What they seem to do is use the social media further to garner the attention of their fans who then come out in support and add their own bitter diatribe to the original slur. It is weird. I have seen this done by people I have met. I have tried to imagine them shouting these insults and comments across a room at their target and I can’t see it. In fact, I can’t even see them saying them in a more reasoned way face to face. And yet, social media gives them this nasty voice.
The Power of Anonymity
I have wondered what happens to humanity under the anonymous phenomenon that is social media. Are we all so depersonalised that we become simply an icon to hurl ammunition at? Do fully grown, fully matured, rational sensible people actually stop thinking about the fact that this is a person, sometimes a friend, who has thoughts and feelings and will be hurt? Does it unleash something dark and sinister within them that they allow to run free because they can’t feel the consequences of their actions? I don’t get it. Really, I don’t. And more than that. I don’t like it, and I don’t want a part of it.
I created a twitter account because HL said I should as it would help my blog. I didn’t get it. Twitter felt clunky at first and the whole follow thing was weird but he is my Dom and I respect him; so I allowed whatever he had read that told him this was a good idea, to lead me to create an account for submissy, or 5ubmissy to be precise as submissy was already gone. All that really happened was that I had a couple of followers and, when I worked out how to link it up, when I wrote a post it tweeted out there as well as showing here and on the WordPress reader.
After a while I started to get some more followers. I don’t know how. I don’t know who many of them are but they seemed to come and follow me. They don’t tend to read what I write. I can see from my stats that the numbers who have followed the link from twitter to come and read my posts are really very low. This has always been the case, so twitter is something that I do in a small way rather than it being a part of my life. It can be nice to publicise the memes etc and I have been able to connect with some people through the messaging, so it does have that advantage.
There are some irks, beyond the sort of full blown bullying described above, that I also find difficult to swallow. Sub tweeting. I wasn’t sure what this was to start with but it seems to be when there is a big thing going with a tweet thread and someone then says something vague which is connected. It means they aren’t linked to the original targeting, but the are passive aggressively joining in. People then respond as they are obviously in the know. Everyone watching is left wondering what is going on and then goes searching for the original tweet.
I think, if I liken it to the kids at school, it is a way of joining in with bullying without running the risk of being called into the Head Teacher’s office, because there is some detachment and some deniability. Weird! Sub tweeting is sort of more hurtful than just adding to the tweet. First of all, why bother because there is no Head Teacher to tell you off or call your Mum when you are an adult anyway? Secondly, it gives the impression to the target that their enemies are far more widespread. It perpetuates and expands the whole thing. It is nasty and I think it is even more cowardly than using the anonymity twitter already provides to bully quite openly.
The second thing I don’t get is the tweets designed to garner attention. It seems odd behaviour when likened to real life situations. If most of us were in a situation where we were going to address 10000 people, or even 1000 or 100 for that matter, we would likely be careful what we said. Would we walk into a room of 300 and announce that we were so disappointed with some of the people who we called friends? Clearly that is meant for one or two people but instead, many more are left feeling anxious and retracing their steps as they wonder if the tweet refers to them.
This can lead to anxiety for the reader but also for the writer who doesn’t know if their intended target has seen what they have said at all. Again … confused! Why not just tell your friend that you are feeling disappointed, explain why, and talk about how that happened and what you can do to fix it? In my opinion this vague tweet method is more likely to compound the negative feelings and reinforce rather than resolve them, and sub tweets and PMs then take place behind the scenes or under your nose or wherever else.
So overall, despite the positives, I have to say that there are some very good reasons why I dislike social media. In fact, it isn’t the mediums themselves, it is the behaviour and actions that being on it seems to encourage in others which I actually dislike. I don’t use it a lot for this reason and would not mind if it disappeared pretty much from my life. I prefer to talk one to one as I find it much easier to build meaningful relationships, and so I would miss something like WhatsApp far more than I would ever miss Twitter.
Ironically, the Sex Bloggers for Mental Health project linked above came under attack on social media in the ways I have described and so there is not a prompt to link up to currently. The site hosts some great posts from a variety of bloggers on the topic of mental health If you want to visit, or you might want to check out some of my other posts about Mental Health