Is social media reality?

Social media is a tangible part of our everyday. Hands up who doesn’t look at Facebook and Instagram on the train, bus or waiting in line at the supermarket. (My hands are firmly by my sides). Hands up who hasn’t had a quick look at how many ‘likes’ they got on a particularly fabulous photo when they’re bored at a meeting, at a dinner table or even at a party. (Where you took the selfie, and should actually be speaking to the people IN the photo instead of looking at your phone).

The amount of social media options we have are growing rapidly. The fabric of our society, and even our psyches, are adjusting to accommodate a form of interaction that is still relatively new. Yet changing everything from chatting and dating to marketing and finding a new job.

It is undeniable that social media has some wonderful benefits. Instant connections, networking, sharing experiences long distance with friends and family. Many, many articles are written regarding the various dangers for children and teens. But what about us older folk? Amongst all the evident benefits, what is the downside of this new age?

I am personally a fan of hiding in my pyjamas with my three pomeranians and avoiding humans (unless I’m in a chatty mood). However, from behind my computer I can still summon up a sparkling personality and the mental image of a champagne sipping social butterfly. It can all seem so much easier than putting on a frock and facing the ‘real’ world.

Liraz Margalit of ‘Psychology Today’ gives a good insight.
“One of the distinctive attributes of human social cognition is our tendency to build models of other’s minds, which helps us make inferences about the mental state of others. When interacting with other people we automatically make inferences about them without even being consciously aware of it. We cannot help but ponder what they are thinking about, what their facial expressions mean, what their intentions are, and so on. This predisposition is what makes social interactions so demanding”.

In other words, it’s easier to sit in your pyjamas on Facebook not processing all that exhausting info. The daunting alternative is being face to face at a dinner listening to someone talk about their latest holiday or their cat. You can’t scroll on past and you have to process all those pesky facial expressions. (Plus control your own if you aren’t a cat person).

I guess it’s logical to offer here that social media is making the unsociable even more so. It is also making the inadequate feel worse, when they are hiding in their fluffy slippers at home on a Saturday night. Shyly viewing fabulous people doing fabulous things.

“Part of the reason Facebook makes people feel socially isolated (even though they may not actually be) is the comparison factor. We fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others as we scroll through our feeds, and make judgements about how we measure up”. (Alice G. Walton).

IS social media reality? From my own perspective, the answer is no. It’s a part of our lives and it can be wonderful part. It’s a tool for connecting and sharing and staying in touch. It’s here to stay, and I for one can be very content to be in my dressing gown looking at photos of European holidays and dog memes. Or surreptitiously checking if that witty quip I made on a post got the likes it deserved. But in the end there’s no genuine substitute for face to face communication. We should endeavour to keep that a reality and social media in its own sphere.

Otherwise you miss out on sitting about with your friends, hearing their voices, hearing their stories in person. Unconsciously processing all that pesky real life social interaction. Here’s one I prepared earlier.

Real life and no pyjamas

We had such a great day being fabulous people doing fabulous things.
Of course I immediately uploaded the image to Facebook.

The Psychology Behind Social Media Interactions (Liraz Margaht, Ph.D)

6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health (Alice G. Walton 2017)

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