Is Social Media A Force for Good ?
It's hard to imagine life without social media now, but what is it always good for us?
Almost subconsciously we’ve become used to spending a lot of time on social media or on the internet in general. The internet can be a great source of information, so much as our fingertips, it’s so easy if you don't know something to go and Google that,it's become, for me, certainly just something that is a constant source of information. I remember when I was studying years ago, I would spend days in the library looking for the right book and now I don’t have to do that. But is that always a good thing?
I do love social media, I've connected with some wonderful people around the world, which is awesome, it's really interesting to be able to connect with people. It’s also great for keeping in touch with friends and family. But I have become aware that I can spend far too much time online, with FOMO, Fear of missing Out, not keeping up with what’s going on around me.
I believe that there's nothing wrong with social media, or the internet, it's more about how we use it. That can be sometimes a challenge. I think we are all still learning how to integrate this into our everyday life, and maybe we have picked up some bad habits without even realising.
Do you need to set boundaries?
I realised this a few years ago, and in the UK where I live it really came to the fore with Brexit and the narrative around immigration. Both heavy topics that seemed to polarize opinions. I saw people, friends and family arguing online and falling out really badly, some becoming quite harsh and quite nasty with each other, about a political situation that they had opposing views on. But that's just life, isn't it? People are going to have different views to you. And whilst I would agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion, some people, for me, crossed the line with some of the comments that they made. I found them quite offensive. I cannot stand silent when I see online bullying or really nasty comments.
And for a while I would take time to craft a response, explaining my point of view.
Life is too short to spend it arguing on the internet
My son said he had a lightbulb moment, he is someone who is very active on Twitter, and one day he was arguing online with someone, he didn’t even know this person in real life. But he had started an argument my son felt that he had to win. And as he was driving his three children home from school, his phone pinged, and instinctively he pulled the car over so that he could angrily type a response. Then then I hit him – hard – ‘wtf am I doing?’ He realised how he let an argument on social media affect the time he was spending with his young family, and then decided to just block and delete the person who he was arguing with.
As I said, I do have some boundaries of what I consider acceptable language and behavior, whilst I want to be open to other people's points of view, I don't want my social media to become what they call an ‘echo chamber’, which is people talking to me who've got exactly the same view of the world as I've got. It's good to understand and appreciate different points of view. But sometimes those differences can be offensive. And where I've drawn a line, for instance if that person is quite racist then do I challenge them?
If it was a good friend, I would let them know how I felt. A stranger, or a distant friend, I just unfollow, or block if they are too offensive. And then I move on with my day. I am not going to allow those negative thoughts any room in my head, to protect my own mental health.
I've seen some horrendous online bullying, from people who think it’s clever to insult and belittle their ‘friends’. I’ve decided I don’t need friends like that. I've got no time for that in my life.
And so now I have created these boundaries I've got a lovely timeline, I'm not talking about my posts, I post things that I find interesting, post things about my life, my family, and where I've been what I've done, things that make me laugh, things that made me think. When I say my timeline is beautiful, is I follow some really interesting people. I follow people who share what I think is good stuff. And so when I do log on and check my emails and check my social media. I'm seeing things that interest me, things that inspire me and things that uplift me, I'm not seeing online bullying. I'm not seeing a lot of negative stuff.
Twitter's quite a different thing because you do see a lot of opposing political views. And sometimes they will little bit too much. I know I need to limit the amount of time I'm spending seeing these offensive things.
Do you check your phone as soon as you wake up?
So as I said, I think there's nothing wrong with social media, but it's always useful to be mindful about how you're using it. I've been working a lot or through Mel Robbins 54321 which is all about setting yourself up for a good day. And one of the things she suggests is not checking your phone first thing in the morning. Let yourself come round with a plan of what you're going to do for the day, I like to exercise in the morning, I like to put my phone to one side, I don't have it in the bedroom. And I'll check it when I'm fully awake after my shower, maybe I'll check in just make sure there's no messages that I need to respond to urgently. But it's not something that's running my day. And the mood of my day isn't dictated by things I'm seeing online. So that works for me.
The power of connection
The other thing that I think is really good about social media is connection, I listen to other people's podcasts, and Steven Bartlett's done a really good one recently about loneliness, and about how that is such a huge problem for so many people. And if you think what we've been through over the last two or three years, first of all, it was enforced isolation, we had to stay in our homes, we had to stay away from other people. But for some people, that's almost become the norm. Now they don't enjoy being around other people. It is a huge problem. I think a lot of us miss that human connection. And we're not connected in the same way that we used to be. And, you know, people always look back at the past with a rosy coloured spectacles is what they say, isn't it? You know, in the, in the old days, I know from being a child, you knew what your neighbours, people would be in and out of each other's houses. And there was a real sense of community, where I live now doesn't feel like that anymore. Most people work, they go out, and they're in and out of the houses, and you just don't see them as much. And it's a different kind of community. Families tended, mostly to live near each other. So you could have that wide circle of family around you. And I know so many people now who were either estranged from their families or their families live far away, they might even live in a different country, that again, it the connection is not what it used to be. And I do think, you know, humans, we are social animals, we, I know I do, I feed off other people's energy, I love to connect with other people. It's wonderful to be around like minded people, it really feeds my soul. And I think for some people, loneliness is a huge problem. So for them social media is a great way of them connecting, if they're not around people that they can connect with, physically, if they've got special friendships and people that they follow, people that inspire them, people that uplift them online, that can be a really wonderful thing. I really believe that social media and the internet comes up a lot with cancer patients.
And I saw somebody asking the question the other day, is it a good thing to Google your illness or Google your symptoms? And again, I can see both sides of the argument. I think most medical professionals would rather that you didn't do that. Because people do sometimes say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
I've got a good friend who was on my podcasts a while ago, Melanie O'Neil,she had inflammatory breast cancer, which was the same type of cancer that I had. It feels really nice to say that Melanie had cancer and she hasn't now, after 11 years of treatment, she is finally NED – No Evidence Of Disease. I also had inflammatory breast cancer, it's very rare, and it's very aggressive. And luckily for me, I was diagnosed almost straightaway when I found my symptoms, but for Melanie, she kept going to the doctor and saying she didn't feel right. She didn't actually have a lump, but that you know, she had a rash. Her breasts was warm to the touch, and there was a lot of symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer that are not your typical cancer symptons. And so she kept getting turned away from the doctors. she presented herself to a&e, the accident and emergency at her local hospital in desperation a couple of times just to say, ‘will somebody just have a look at me? there's something not right. I know my own body and there's something not right here’. And it took her five months after being turned away and including being examined by a specialist in breast cancer, who told her that she definitely didn't have breast cancer. It took five months for it finally to get a diagnosis. So she'd been online and she had Googled her symptoms, and she though, this might be inflammatory breast cancer. She didn't know that.
What I think was more important than the information was her intuition. She knew there was something not right. She could Google to sort of backup and reinforce what she was feeling, but she knew she had a knowing in her body that something wasn't right.
And so for me, that's more valuable information than googling symptoms and thinking this is what I've got.
I see it a lot in the cancer groups that I'm a member of online, people will come in and they've Googled the symptoms. And they will ask for opinions, and they are asking an audience of well-intentioned but possibly misinformed people. The right place to go is always to a medical professional. You might have some knowledge yourself, you might know this something not right, but you always want to be in the hands of somebody who's qualified to look after you. I get it, people are scared and want reassurance. And I'm not criticizing the people who do that. It’s understandable, I just think we have to be really careful because not everything that you read online is true. Anybody can post anything online, it doesn't mean it's necessarily true. So just be really careful. And again, put your own filter,on your own judgement of what you think is good and what isn't.
So it’s really getting a good balance, to combat loneliness and increase connection - yes social media and the Internet can be good for that. But the downside of just said is misinformation, it's very easy for people to put stuff on the internet, that's just not true.
The other thing I am becoming more conscious of is what they call Doom scrolling. Especially on Twitter, it’s often bad news, disasters and celebrities behaving badly.
I've talked before how I don't watch news on the television anymore. Or I dip in and out of it very selectively, I might watch one segment but I don't sit and watch it for hours on end, because I know that it just brings my vibration down. It makes me feel depressed. It can make me feel helpless. And that's not helping anybody.
But they call it Doom scrolling, where you're just looking at your phone and scrolling that news, bad news, like ‘here's something else to be scared about. Here's something to keep you living in fear’.
I honestly believe if you keep living in fear, your body knows this. And it's not going to you're not going to have optimal health, you're not going to be the bright, shining, beautiful positive person that you can be inside. If you're feeding your mind with all this negative Doom scrolling, it's really not doing you any good. So again, just use your own judgement, what do you need to know? What do you spend your time online doing? Whether it's on your computer on your phone, or however you access the internet? Just be mindful of it - What is that doing to? Do you feel good after you've been on whatever channel it is? Or do you feel sad? Or do you feel angry? Is it a positive emotion you've got? Or is it a negative one?
No judgement from me I’d just ask you to be mindful of that. If you want to chat to me about this, ping me a message I'd love to hear from you. And so the other thing I just want to mention is I have my confidence after cancer Facebook group, obviously, it's my group and I run it and I can see what goes on in there. I'm also a member of other groups. And there's a lot of self pity out there. And again, there's no judgement here. Cancer is a horrible thing. And some awful things happen to people, through your own fault of their own, not just the cancer, but the impact on every aspect of your life. Some people lose friends, they lose family, they lose finances, it can be all sorts of things, as you know that can be impacted. And there is a lot of self pity out there. And that's understandable. But is it helpful?
I'm not saying people shouldn't complain. But if you get into that habit where you're always complaining, and it's always about self pity, and it's always ‘poor me’ just think about is that really useful? Is that moving you from where you want to be in life? Or really, would you rather turn that self pity into self love? And I talk about self love a lot. I know it can be such a cheesy phrase, but it's really for me about self care, protecting yourself, looking after yourself, because nobody's going to come and save you, apart from you. But there are people that can help you. I'm always here for you if you need to reach out and talk to me. But really, it starts with you. So I’ll leave you with this thought. If you find that you slip in far too much into complaining and self pity, trybto show yourself some compassion. Be kind to yourself, show yourself some love. Or if that's a step too far, just show yourself some acceptance.
So thank you so much for reading
Stay safe and stay sane
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