by Uzma Chaudhry
Social Media is a fantastic platform with a mindboggling myriad of functionality. In the past year alone, we’ve seen social media bring criminals to justice, provide ordinary people with extraordinary job opportunities, been a means of free chicken nuggets for a whole year as well as my personal favourite, given us the meme calendar(!) with monthly updates telling us the meme of the month. For the majority of us, social media is mostly a means of expression from voicing disdain at South Western Railways, to solidarity with grassroots political movements like #BlackLivesMatter. You simply cannot fault the overwhelming positive impact sites like Twitter, Instagram and (sometimes) even Facebook have had socially, economically and politically especially for POC (people of colour).
Somewhere along the way, within the lines of coding, the creators, developers and engineers, forgot to add that algorithm that helps us navigate through social media when things get a bit too much. The constant scrolling, continuous absorption, endless streams of information (good and bad), fruitless comparisons is surely having effects on us in ways that we perhaps never prepared for. The digital world, and the technology in it, is still relatively new and one of our oversights as a species is underestimating the potency with which social media taints our wellbeing. Consumption of information feels to have dramatically shifted our attention span limiting our availability to ten second videos (fifteen if you’re on Instagram). It’s so easy for us to go from one tweet informing us of the meme of the month, to the next showing graphic images of a bomb blast in Kabul. This constant feed of information combined with our own outrage through our tweets, statuses and ‘grams’ has led to a somewhat unhealthy addiction to the euphoric high of instant gratification coupled with downward spiralling self-worth. The more you absorb, the more you compare, the more you soberly look to your own life, searching for the perfect angle, striving for the hottest take, building up to a perfectly curated version of yourself, and the more frustrated and hopeless you begin to feel. Does it ring a bell?
According to a study done earlier this year, British millennials have the “second worst mental wellbeing in the world”, following Japan by levels of stress and anxiety. I’m not by any means reducing the research to a direct result of social media because I don’t believe correlation is causation. I simply recognise that there’s an added layer of difficulty and coupled with my own experiences of falling victim to the cycle of narcissism in pockets of social media, I offer a few pieces of advice to successfully steer murky waters.
Don’t compete with anyone online
As tempting as it is to compare yourself with peers that are buying their first house, publishing a book, or being quoted in Forbes – don’t! I can almost guarantee that you’ll wake up feeling more satisfied if you’re able to take a step away from the urgency of knowing what everyone else is doing and focus on how you want to improve on the person you were yesterday. That’s how you make waves.
Measure your own success by the process, not the results
In a relentless rush towards the finish line, you lose sight very quickly of the importance of the journey. You may never even arrive at the finish line, and that’s okay! Take comfort in the warmth of the process, celebrate the small successes and appreciate that you’re human with limited capabilities on rainy days as well as the oomph you radiate on the sunny ones.
Take a break from social media every 3 months!
Perhaps you’ve a personality that remains bulletproof from the narcissism projected online, but for everyone else, a couple of days away from the chaos of internet personalities shouting for your attention allows you an opportunity to recuperate and reenergise. This is wholly important for activists who feel like their purpose online revolves around correcting, advising, and re-claiming their narratives, because it’s more tiring than you may ever allow yourself credit for.
Adopting subtle changes in your day-to-day existence online will allow you to feel liberated and allow you the room to breathe in an increasingly suffocating and connected world and importantly give you the strength to fight your battles with enough vigour and resolve because Lord knows we’re relying on you!
Uzma works full time in business sales at Telefonica. She is studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics part –time with Open University as a means to make sense of the world in which we exist! She is a v·inspired ambassador whose work revolves around empowering young people into volunteering and leadership. In her spare time she enjoys musing in her blog and has writing pieces on faith and race, offering a more holistic perspective on current affairs. If she has any juice left by the end of the week, she creates Youtube videos for her channel Caruzmatic as well as run a small venture in selling her bespoke art for ucdesigns.co.uk