By Anne McGrath
Like many foreign nationals living abroad, I am dependent on social media to keep in touch with friends and family. It is really something of a lifeline when you’re living so far from home. I also have friends and family who are on one platform but not another so I spend a lot of time flicking between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – and then there is also my blog, Facetime, Whatsapp and now on my Saudi phone, my new Saudi Whatsapp groups.
I am never far from my phone/tablet/laptop and my phone is the first thing I reach for in the morning to check updates, likes, comments, messages and I think that is the norm for most people.
My favourite platform is Instagram. It’s often referred to as the most positive social media platform, because generally photos are of uplifting and positive images and of course that’s what social media should be, enriching and connecting.
However, it’s not all positive. As we all know there is a downside to social media whichever platforms you are on. I follow some inspirational women on Instagram (interior design, fashion, beauty, lifestyle etc) and they have all spoken about how trolling and comparing their content to others has had a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. First there is FOMO (fear of missing out) and then the fear that your content is not as good as your peers. Even for those who do not making a living as an influencer, all those beautiful photos and insta shots of people at glamourous parties and launches can make it easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.
Most of my accounts are set to private which limits the trolling aspect but I have had some experience in the past. I received negative comments to an online article I wrote and a facebook post on a news site, related to a previous workplace became the subject of some vicious trolling by so-called key board warriors. It was astonishing, how nasty and personal it became so quickly. We had to take the post down and remove the comments. Both of these instances were over quickly and were not personal to me, but they were a glimpse into what it is like if you do become the victim of online bullying. It can be really upsetting, have a negative impact on your self esteem and can make you paranoid wondering was it the person sitting next to you in the café who posted the comment…?
However, there is always a balance, and as I started by saying social media is something of a lifeline for keeping connections while you are living away from your family and friends. It has the ability to be inspirational, uplifting and thought provoking. It is also pretty much impossible to ignore. The key is awareness and making informed choices.
Maybe for me it’s time for a digital detox??