Guest Contributor: Jade Goins
Social media has in so little words, “taken over the world”. There are many types including the most popular social networks like Facebook and Instagram, media sharing sites like YouTube, and now there is an even further reach with social media platforms in the form of apps like TikTok.
Social media was created with the intent to be a platform for networking and communicating with family and friends, but over the years, it's grown and in some instances, it’s become more of a popularity contest and a platform to “speak your mind”, regardless of who it affects.
How many times have you posted (pictures, statuses or videos) and waited for the likes to pour in and been disappointed if they hadn’t? What about watching someone else’s page and wondering how they got so many followers and likes? In that moment, did you feel like maybe you had to imitate whatever they were doing to get the same level of attention? What about finding yourself commenting negative things because you unconsciously were jealous of their social presence? All of these things have become normalized in this era of social media.
Recently, Instagram made the decision to get rid of their Activity tab – which shows what content all of one’s followers are liking/commenting on – and disabled the ‘likes’ for some users. Essentially, the number of likes are no longer visible to anyone other than the poster. This was a major move in the right direction in my opinion because you cannot be affected by what you cannot see.
Social media can be fun and useful, but it also has its challenges, one of the biggest being ‘cyberbullying’. There has been an increase in social media bullying which in an unfortunate amount of cases has contributed to an increased number of teen suicides. Cyberbullying occurs over digital devices like phones and tablets - via texts, apps and social media - by sending, sharing and posting negative, harmful and false content about someone else. It could include sharing personal, private or embarrassing information about someone. Cyberbullying can happen to anyone, by anyone and for any reason. Bullying that happens on social media platforms is as harmful as other types of bullying if not worse because it’s harder to escape and it can reach people no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
There are people who will attack you because they’re jealous of what you have or what you are doing. There are people who will say and post negative things about you to hurt you because they’re hurting. There are people who will judge you because who you are makes them uncomfortable and instead of trying to understand, it’s easier to spread hate. Although it’s easy to spread hate in return, try to keep in mind, you NEVER know what someone is going through. It could be your very comment that pushes someone to the edge. I know it’s hard to sympathize with the very person who tried to tear you down, but find the strength in you to rise above. As Michelle Obama always says, “when they go low, you go high!” Please remember to be kind on as well as off of social media. Remember that your words are powerful, but also remember that you are powerful. You have the power to make a difference, so use your powers for good. Always remember that the number of social media followers and friends or likes and comments that you get should not equate to your self-worth; you are not your profile. You are a living, breathing entity who is more than you could ever fit into a social media profile.
If you or someone you know is being bullied in any capacity, report it. Although social media is public, it is important to protect yourself. You can do so by doing the following:
- Change your privacy settings.
- Un-friend and block negative people/
- Keep your personal information private.
- Report bullying when it happens.
- Do not engage with negativity online.
- Report serious threats to the police.
- Remove yourself from social media; take a break or remove yourself permanently. (Remember your mental health is MOST important)
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential professional support for people in distress and provides crisis resources for you and your loved ones.