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Social Media: The Good and The Bad

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Social Media: The Good and The Bad

•Social media has pluses and minuses.
•There is a difference between social media and the real world.
•Understanding this difference, use a mindful, curated approach to the world online.

Social media has a huge cultural impact on the daily life of most people.  In the past year as we had limits to social interaction because of the pandemic, its influence was even greater.  There are benefits and problems with social media and how we use it.  A balanced and curated approach to social media consumption is best.
Most people have some social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok or Snapchat.  Many people participate in interactive forums related to their interests, hobbies or work.  These platforms have their own culture and rules.  We need to remember rules and behavior that are acceptable in the social media world are often unacceptable in the real world.  People often speak and behave in a way online they never would in person.  This is known as the disinhibition effect.  
One of the biggest problems with social media is that platforms can present a distorted, unreal picture of things.  Photos are often edited and enhanced.  Models pose in front of rented homes and cars that they present as their own.  Things that trend on Twitter are often unknown to people who don’t have a Twitter account or use the app (most people).  Facebook allows a great amount of untrue information, known as misinformation, to be spread as if it were factual.  This unreal, untruthful picture can even be present in most people’s own pages.  Also, who posts ordinary things like a boring day at work, an average score on a test or a gift card holiday present?  Most people only post the exciting things like a promotion, a wedding or a new car.  I often remind clients of this when they spend time in session saying, “all my friends have a better life than I do because I see all these great things happening for them from their accounts”.  These platforms also push users to grab attention with views and likes.  People chase friends who are perhaps merely acquaintances or only known to them online.  
In addition, social media can increase social isolation.  Surveys show users often feel more lonely when they spend a lot of time online.  Comparison also is an issue as people inevitably see what others have as better than theirs, even if they are pretty much the same.  
Social media does have its pluses.  You can get quick and real information there.  People often check out the social media page of a business for reviews and details.  There are good information groups around activities and interests such as hiking, travel, cooking, photography and so on.  It can be a way to keep in touch with friends from school or past jobs.  Families often share photos through social media know or only post their holiday phot there.  
The best approach to social media is not no social media or indiscriminate usage, but a mindful and curated one.  Ask yourself if I need to check out social media.  Identify the purpose and how much time you will allow yourself.  Limiting time or times of the day for online activity is a good idea too.  You shouldn’t just follow anyone or anything online.  For example, follow groups on Facebook or Instagram which reflect your interest in travel, cooking or sports team.  Accept or seek friend requests from people you actually have met in person.  Choosing specific people or groups to follow and knowing the reason you are choosing them is helpful to create a more positive balanced online experience.