A Closer Look: Is Social Media toxic?

We’ve seen it all over the internet and we’ve seen it on those Arial text phone cases: “Social Media seriously harms your mental health.”

As someone who works in the media field, it’s essential to keep up with social media and understand the analytics and trends. What’s more clickable, what do people like to see, and what content appeals to everyone. Personally, to expand my portfolio, I must look at all the platforms, analyze and posts my work catered to my demographic. The problem with this is escaping all the negative things that come hand in hand with social media.

I’ve decided to break up this concept into different categories and go into why and how these traits make social media more harmful for the mind. All opinions are my own.

Your worth is valued by number of likes
The concept of likes is nothing new here. We see it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tik Tok. When you receive more likes on a post, the connotation is that people like the content you produce. But what if your photo or video is of your face or your outfit? How can that tie in with your self worth?

Photo from ZDNet

I’ve had friends where they post their photo of their outfit with no face and compared it to a selfie they posted. I’ve had them look over their phones and say, ‘what wrong with my face?’ And the answer is: absolutely nothing. The algorithm sometimes pushes out content of what people want to see. An #OOTD is more like to be pushed over #SELFIE, especially if they don’t know who you are in real life. People are now associating their worth and value with a like button.

Instagram tried to fix this but removing the number of likes on everyone’s post in certain areas of the world. Although this does help the toxic comparison idea (comparing your likes to someone else’s), you still see the number yourself. You can still compare the interactions within your own feed.

The happiness portrayal
If you go on any content creator platform with over 10k followers, you’ll notice the feed is completely themed and curated. These creators are travelling everyday, they wake up to sunshine, all cute and kissy with their significant other, and to top it off, they have some sort of positive grind caption on the photo.

 There’s nothing wrong with positivism and optimism. But if that’s all you see; it seems like these people never had a bad day in their lives. You are having an off day, you just want to relax and pull out your phone but all you see are these influencers living the life to their fullest.

To be clear, I’m not bashing influencers who are just doing their jobs. No one wants to follow a negative Nancy, you want to see people thrive and you want to see the over saturated photos. The problem that lies here is the idea of someone having a ‘better’ life then you are living. These comparisons can be so harmful to the mind. Another problem lies when influencers posts themselves travelling or doing something extravagant every single day, when really, you know they saved all those posts in drafts.

I think we all understand that no one’s life is perfect but it’s also hard to believe that when all you see on your feed are lives that you want to live.

Unreachable beauty standards
Are we going to blame the Kardashians/Jenners for this one? I don’t have the answer to this but I can just go with my experience and what I’ve noticed being on all social media platforms. Kylie Jenners, Alexis Ren, Emily Ratakjowski and many more are some of the beautiful women thriving on this platform. I unfortunately cannot speak for any male models because I don’t follow many. No doubt, these women are beautiful but I do take issue with filters, face tune, photoshop and any other editing filter.

I believe in the United Kingdom, there’s new laws that state influencers within the country must say whether a photo has been edited. This may only apply for creators who have brand deals and partnership, but it feels like a huge step for the influencer industry.

I have nothing against photoshop or editing or even plastic surgery. I think it’s important that the new internet generation (gen-z) should have an understanding that not everything you see online is real. One of my favourite accounts on Instagram is called @celebface. They show the before and afters of an edit, zoom in on pores, with or without make and so on. For a long time, I really thought no celebrities have pores and I’ve been insecure about it for a long time. The editing has gone too far to the point where girls are wanting bodies of celebrities that even celebrities don’t have!

I wish more celebrities would disclose the editing on their posts, show more realistic body shapes and understand that they are influencing today’s youth and you don’t want them growing up with a messed up body image complex.


The Flexing Epidemic
I am so guilty of falling into this toxic trait. Sometimes it’s clear and sometimes it isn’t. Some influencers I follow have beautiful OOTD (outfit of the day) and I would tap to see who is tagged and it’s usually Reformation or some other expensive brands. Some influencers just straight up show off their Lamborghini, with their birken bag and write: “headed to the grocery store”.

Now why would this be toxic? Someone flaunting their wealth shouldn’t be ‘our’ problem, they’re just showing off and being proud to show off what they have. I’ve never gone as far to purchase any of these things but I know people who has. We are trying to reduce the consumer culture and not promote it.

The mindset when producing flex content like this, are as follows: “Oh wow, she looks so beautiful in these nice things…and she has so many followers…if I have nice things maybe I can have as many followers as her.” It’s sad but it’s true and I’ve seen it with so many people in my life.

I’ve seen people have $3 left in their bank account after spending money on Gucci slides because it was for the gram or for the video they were about to produce. There are people out here leasing cars they can’t afford just so they can show off to their audience that they have these material things.

Being a consumer of these things, putting so much value on material items makes you lose track of what really matters in the world. Money cannot make you happy but it can make you feel safe and secure. It’s sad to see how people can lose so much just to show off to others what they have.

All fame is good fame
These seems like a recent epidemic to me. I think this concept has been around for a while but recently, I’ve noticed social media stars rising for no good reason. Some examples: lovelypeaches, Kanye West, NELK, Ace Family and so much more.

Everyone listed above is known and famous but not for talent or any positive reason, in my opinion. Kanye West is a mentally ill man who has been exploited by his family. He needs to be off the internet because he’s not in control of his own mind and of his own words. The people he influences hype him up and cause more harm than good. I honestly feel so bad for him. Lovelypeaches is someone who gained notoriety to eating her own poop, tampons, even threatening to harm her 8 month old child. The NELK boys have recently put many people in danger and haven’t been promoting or participating in social distancing as well as promoting problematic Tekashi 6ix9ine. Lastly, Ace Family is known for exploiting their own children for views and I don’t sit well with that.

Although the above seems like they should be cancelled, they’re actually thriving on social media. Their fans and influences on the world have been nothing but massive. As an influencer, I believe you have a duty to influence what’s right in the community. If you have trouble doing so, get off the internet. It’s sad but true, the internet is shaping the youth and it’s sad to know millions of people look up to influencers to know what’s right and wrong. When you see your favourite creators gain notoriety, you can’t help but think, ‘wait, everyone else thinks they’re awesome, they must be doing something right’. Even people who ‘hate’ watch these negative influencers give them money and fame.

Conclusion
I could’ve gone more in-depth with each point but this would be longer than a 3 page word document. I do believe social media can be toxic and can seriously damage the youth’s mental health. I think what’s important to note is that there are positives to social media.

I’m planning to make this social media and toxicity into a series as I’ve been on multiple platforms for a long time. Stay tuned for my next part on this where I talk about how to curate your social media feeds to a more positive space.

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