The dark side of social media

How does social media impact your life? Do you suffer from the dark side of social media?

Are you addicted to using your devices to stay connected to others – even when it means avoiding connection to the real people right in front of you?

Over the last 5 years social media has shifted from a ‘fringe idea’ to being integrated into everyone’s life. Everyone is joining the ‘conversation’, either on facebook, twitter, pintrest…and many more. Apart from this supposed ‘addictive’ nature of social media, there is another ‘dark side’ of social media that I see contributing to client’s situations in the hypnotherapy clinic. It all comes down to ‘status’.

When you post on Facebook, it does not say ‘feeling’ update or ‘what I am doing’. It is clear what it wants – a status update. It is about projecting your ‘status’ to your network.

Herein lies a big problem with social media – the increase in social comparisons. Humans are hard-wired to compare themselves to those around them. It comes from those times, 50,000 years ago, when being resources were often limited and those at the top of the hierarchy accessed them first. Those at the bottom could miss out or could be the first ones kicked out (and therefore at risk for survival). Humans would have to make comparisons and judgements about their social status and ensure that they were not at the bottom of the heap.

In modern times we are not exposed to the same social risk, however our brain is still primed to seek out social comparisons. Humans create ‘rules’ about themselves about how they have to be, and often these have a comparative nature. They hark back to primitive times, but they can be powerful drivers of modern behaviour.

Social media allows people to view the ‘status’ of others at all times – and therefore be open to social comparison 24/7. But what if the status updates are not ‘true’?

What people post as their status may reflect what they want others to believe about them (or what they think is true or good about themselves) rather than the full scope of good and not so good which would be a more real version of what any person is.

What we see in status updates is the PROJECTION of what that person wants in their status. Whether they do it on purpose or not does not matter – we have to regard all postings on Facebook, Twitter and other sites to be consciously or unconsciously self-filtered.

The dark side of social media comes about when we lose sight of the false nature of the ‘status update’. When we believe that every status update is reality, rather than really being a projection of the person’s desired reality, the problems begin. The natural human instinct to compare ourselves to others takes over and we drag out our primal social response. If we compare our internal reality (which for everyone is a mix of good and not so good) with the ‘shining’ status updates we read from others as if they were the complete truth about that person, we could easily create a very strong negative self-view of ourselves compared to others.

This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration and engagement in unhelpful behaviours.

By remembering that everyone is the same – with an ‘inside’ of thoughts and feelings and an ‘outside’ which is filtered and projected – we can start to come to terms with this difference. The reality is that everyone has mixed feelings about aspects of themselves. What they project is often very different.

Whilst treating clients in my clinical hypnosis practice in Balwyn, I often see this comparison and negative self-messaging associated with a range of presenting conditions. I sometimes wonder how much the increase of social media and the ‘false status’ updates impacts upon the level of symptoms that I help the client overcome.

This is only one ‘dark side’ of normal online social media. There are many others.

How do you post in social media?

What do you want to project in your posts?

What do you see in the posts of others that affects how you feel – particularly about yourself?

What other ‘dark sides’ to social media do you see?

I’d love to hear your stories, please comment below.

Live Well