Social media, its wonderful. You can share memes of cats doing ridiculous things, organise raids of top security bases and inform the world of a predatory seagull. You can share the greatest moments of your life; weddings, births and new relationships. It seems that everyone in the Western World has an intimate relationship with some form of social media, whether it be Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or any of the other countless sites.
However, there’s also the dark side to social media that many people are unwilling to talk about, which is slowly starting to get acknowledged. The North West and Lancashire is leading a charge on mental health in England.
At the foundation of the entire problem? Addiction. Now, when I write this article, I’m not claiming to be immune. I love a like as much as the next man and any time a photo or a status reaches over 40 likes, I feel like a celebrity. However, unfortunately we are seeing the impact on our young people, particularly in the ages of 16-24.
People are now only going on trips to take the perfect photo that will get the most number of likes on the ‘gram’, with Russian officials struggling to keep Instagram influencers away from a severely toxic-waste laden lake that has turned a shimmering blue, inspiring hundreds to enter the dangerous water to get that all important picture.
There are those who spend more time adding to their Snapchat story than their life story, choosing to take the perfect selfie, or body shot as one person I know seems to spend at least 6 hours taking the perfect one for her story or individual followers.
This raises the question of how important a like, or acceptance of a post or picture is on an individual’s mental health. People feel validated if their post is endorsed, but lost and alone if it is ignored or goes unliked. This culture of validation through ‘likes’ sets a dangerous mental health precedence. Never before has being popular meant being healthy. But this is the possibility that may lay before us.
Whether social media is used as a tool or a weapon, it is an instrument that must be used carefully, or at everyones peril.