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Unmasking The Illusion of Social Media

An image of a phone with the Facebook splash screen logo and someone scoring it out with a stylus.

The dark side of social media's impact on mental health

We know that social media isn’t indicative of real life. Despite that, we are continually bombarded with an endless barrage of hyper-realistic images that depict perfection in the form of filtered faces, photoshopped celebrities, and oversaturated landscapes. And that’s before we even get into Photoshop’s generative fill tool which allows users to distort and deceive the reality of what we see before us.

Social Media in its infancy felt much more authentic and I don’t think we truly understood what was unleashed on the world until a decade later which was a mutation into a platform that breeds insecurity, body image issues and a range of other issues as well as a targeted effort to keep us engaged and outraged.

Social media tends to act as a sort of highlight reel in which individuals only document the highs and never the lows, this leads to us comparing the reality of our own lives to the curated presentations of others. We can’t help but compare our own lives to others and social comparison isn't a new thing either, but the introduction of social media platforms has enabled the ability to compare much easier.

Nostalgia and the decline of facebook

I lived through the birth and death of Myspace and Bebo. While it was sad to see them go at the time, what replaced them was something much worse. Facebook has become a rotting corpse that refuses to die and while its attempts to stay relevant by adopting popular features from other platforms have prolonged its lifespan, its decline in the younger audience has proven that it won’t be around forever and that’s a good thing. However, a mental health crisis is taking place on the image-sharing platform Instagram now owned by parent company Meta (Formerly known as Facebook Inc)

Instagram now acts as a competitor to TikTok with the recent addition of reels, moving away from being a predominantly photograph-based app (much to the anger of photographers). It has been a platform that in recent years has come under repeated fire for the negative effect it has on teenagers as discovered from its own internal research and claims that it is actively attempting to take steps to keep the platform safe for young people.

In 2017, The Royal Society for Public Health published a campaign detailing some of the issues young people face on social media, embracing a call to action from the government, social media companies and policy makers to help promote the positive aspects of social media.

Social media can be seen as a breeding ground for inadequacy and insecurity as people often compare their own lives to the lives of others on their screens, whether they are friends, celebrities, or influencers. Fear of missing out (FOMO), self-esteem issues, being targeted by cyberbullying and enabling triggering content about self-harm, suicidal ideation and eating disorders are some of the problems that have plagued Instagram and had a severe impact on users.

This issue isn’t going to go away any time soon and it’s high time we take steps to manage our own social media use and demand better checks in place to help protect the younger generations and make sure their mental health isn’t a detriment to their wellbeing and success in life.


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