Social media are creative technologies that allow us to interact with content and connect with others in a variety of forms and networks. Many of us are using social media on a daily basis, both for work or personal purposes. Friendship, and to know what friends are doing, is a powerful drive in using social media. Social networking sites (SNS) first appeared in the mid-90s. In recent years, however, Web 2.0 technologies have made modern SNS increasingly popular and easier to use, and as a result, social networking has become a global phenomenon as more users than ever have connected to the networks.
Perhaps the key positive of social media is accessibility; online platforms allow us to connect with a variety of people across geolocations. Algorithms and user choice lead to personalised engagement of content, namely curatable ‘feeds’ to suit the user, such as following certain hashtags for content. In our digital age, with the creation of online social groups, individuals are constructing their identities in different ways. This ‘convergence culture’ maps a new territory where consumers can manipulate this online media in offline and real-time spaces. There has never been a more recordable or observable ‘looking-glass’ than that of social media, whereby all utterances that are sent out online are put forward for a reaction.
While social media encompasses a range of uses, including video hosting, image sharing, and community blogs, some of the most popular sites involve social networking and promote interactivity with others through likes, shares and comments. Negative implications here are that social media may distort boundaries such as relationships with other people online, and this can cause unwanted behaviour from other members. Cyberbullying may happen to you and this is something you have to be prepared for. Online content aims to be addictive; spending too much time on social media can distract us from our daily real-world activities, however, and a balance of work/life is needed.
How we can keep a balance and maintain well-being
Here are some simple steps we can take to support and protect our well-being when entering social media spaces:
- Consider your choice of content. Review the people or companies that you choose to interact with or follow. Is this content useful to you? Does this content make you feel happy? Does this content bring necessary knowledge?
- Manage your network. If you find some people are negatively responding to the content you are putting out in social media spaces, consider if you need to communicate with them or remove them from your space, such as using a ‘block’ feature. Also, consider the content you are putting out into the world; is this likely to welcome a positive response that will fuel your wellbeing, or may it result in conflict, and thus perhaps should be avoided?
- Regulate your screen time. It’s easy to scroll through social media during our work breaks or before going to sleep; but consider whether there is a better use of your time to support your wellbeing at these critical points; would a walk outside at lunchtime, or listening to music or reading before bed be a more peaceful way to end your day rather than facing cognitive overload?
Social media are powerful and creative tools that can make our lives easier and bring much entertainment. It is important to reflect, however, if we are spending too much time online, and if this is having a negative impact on our identity or affecting our daily behaviours or real-world relationships.
Taking a social media break can be a valuable activity, even if only for an hour or morning, and ensure that when you do go online, the content you choose to engage with is not detrimental to your well-being.
Poppy Gibson, EdD currently leads the innovative Blended Accelerated BA Hons in Primary Education Studies at Anglia Ruskin University (Essex).
Mike Scott is an EdD researcher at Bournemouth University. Mike’s interests sit within the research, practice for inclusivity in disability, and neurodiversity within further and higher education.