We commonly hear that technology and social media are isolating us as a society. We hear that teenagers are glued to their phones and are shying away from real person-to-person contact. We hear that we as people are less connected than before the existence of technology and smartphones. We hear that greater use of social media leads to greater rates of depression and anxiety. The fears around the rise of technology are understandable. The higher rates of depression and anxiety linked to use of social media is absolutely real. However, these rates can be altered if people are informed on how to use social media. When people are uninformed on digital or media literacy, there is a greater likelihood that technology will be abused or misused, leading to potentially less connected communities.
There are absolutely ways that technology can amplify the interconnectedness of humans. Below are a few ways that technology and social media platforms can be used to bring people together.
Share your mental health stories and journeys on social media platforms
Often, we see on social media the tiny perfect slivers of people’s lives, which together create a seeming amalgamation of a perfect life. We see pictures of people laughing with their friends, selfies on the beach, vacation views, couples kissing, and joyful party scenes. It is much more rare for someone to post about “bad” moments over the “good” ones, as these are moments that we naturally do not want to showcase. However, once we realize that the full picture of the human experience is more real and more vulnerable than the tiny perfect snapshots we tend to see online, we are able to use social media as a platform to connect over our shared experiences around facing adversity and the everyday challenges of life. This type of sharing fosters a sense of community and togetherness.
Use your online connections to amplify your in-person connections
Find your own healthy balance between online and in-person connection. Use technology as a tool to enhance your human relationships. Stay in touch with those who live far away from you. Foster authentic conversation online and form communities through similar experiences or interests. Don’t shy away from vulnerability; we need to break the stigma around sharing our flaws or “bad” moments online. These contribute to creating a more full picture of the human experience.
Filter out the false images of people’s lives
Remember that people’s lives are not the perfect images they choose to showcase on their social media profiles online. There is much more nuance and complexity going on behind the scenes that we may not necessarily see as we are scrolling online. Don’t get sucked into scrolling for hours through a fabricated feed that may only make you feel worse about yourself and your own life.
Actively remind yourself to filter out the fabricated and carefully constructed images of others, and strive to see the full picture. No one’s life is as perfect and glamorous as how they choose to depict it online for the public to see.
For a fresh perspective, seek out posts that you would not normally find in your feed
Our social media feeds are designed with algorithms that show us posts we like to see and posts that typically align with our own beliefs. This leads us to not being able to experience different realities; we are only exposed to what we already know and believe. In order to stay open-minded and aware, explore “the other side” or posts that typically would not show up in your newsfeed. This will help you maintain a healthy perspective and awareness on the world.
Technology tools such as social media have often been painted in a bad light and labelled as the cause of isolation. On the contrary, these tools have the power to bring people together and enhance existing human relationships if we know how to use them to our benefit. Look to organizations such as Miracle Messages –– helping homeless people reunite with their families using social media https://miraclemessages.org/ –– who harness the prosocial and interconnected benefits of technology use. We can entirely shift the stereotype around technology and social media use if we work together on being informed while we use these tools for our own wellbeing and positive benefits.