Over the past couple of weeks I’ve come to realize how harmful social media, in all its forms, is to my mental health. For all the connecting it claims to do, it also does a lot of tearing apart.
I wasn’t allowed to have social media until I was a freshman in high school and I couldn’t wait to download the apps as soon as my parents allowed me to. I dove in head first and started my Snapchat streaks and my Instagram page.
Those were the two most popular platforms at the time and I would say that they still stand the test of time. Today, I don’t find myself asking for people’s phone numbers until I know them well; it feels too intimate and I almost always start by asking for their Snapchat.
Today, Snapchat streaks are a thing of the past for most people and it seems silly to Snapchat the same person a picture, often a black screen, for over 100 days. Instagram is still mostly the same but, for me, it seems too intimate to share my life with the followers of my page.
The problem with how the people around me mostly use social media is that they showcase the best parts of their life, and this is not a new thought. However, after years of seeing the same people living their best life online, it begins to become more difficult to see the good in your own life.
I suppose the opposite might be able to be said and that people are more apt to find the positive in their own life if they see what other people consider good, but for me that isn’t the case.
I wanted to investigate a little bit more of what some of the most popular social media sites’ mission statements were, and here’s what I found:
Instagram claims that their app is, “bringing you closer to the people and things you love.”
I think that’s definitely what Instagram is intended to do. I’m not sure it holds up in the hands of actual people, their pages and their activity online.
Think about your Instagram page, does it bring you closer to the people you love? The answer is probably yes, and it most likely brings you closer to some of the people or things you enjoy following as they live their lives and the things you enjoy continue to thrive.
Now, I want you to think about what you do when you’re waiting in line for coffee. Maybe you check your Instagram stories for a quick fix on what everyone is up to. When you get to the front of the line, have you actually learned anything about the people you “kept up” with while waiting?
Maybe you have, and if so, Instagram is doing a great job of connecting people, but personally, I wasn’t making a meaningful connection with any of the stories I was watching; I was just filling the time.
Because I wasn’t making a meaningful connection, I felt like the stories and posts were becoming performative. People were performing the best parts of their lives, their peak happiness of the week on their reels, stories and posts.
Let’s take a look at Snapchat’s mission statement. They say that Snapchat is “the easiest and fastest way to communicate the full range of human emotions with your friends without pressure to be popular, pretty, or perfect.”
I like this mission statement in theory, however, the last part of the statement is far from the reality I’ve experienced. The fact that one of Snapchat’s biggest selling points is their filters to make you look more perfect seems like a direct departure from their mission statement.
I feel like this furthers the performative aspect of social media and the guise of connection that social media claims to enact. However, Snapchat is still my main form of connection and I don’t see myself leaving it behind.
Because of this, I would say that they have been extremely successful in connecting the world; snapping is the new text message and recently, even Snapchat video calls have been something I’ve used.
The topic of social media can often be divisive because it is so interworked in today’s society. Everyone is on social media for hours throughout the day without even thinking about it.
I think as we continue to have conversations about the areas in which social media is being more harmful than helpful, we can start to curate social media platforms that are more true to what they claim.
We can start to address our performative tendencies on social media and attack the root of that topic, creating a world where more people feel included in spaces across social media.