In pieces from the BBC alone, there are suggestions that social media can negatively affect your appetite, can exacerbate the ‘September Blues’ and is making our children less sociable. To be honest, I didn’t even know that the September Blues was a ‘thing’ until today. The general consensus from the majority of experts interviewed for these pieces is that people need to get out more and spend time with other people. Out of all the issues that I could take exception to, this last one is the one that angers me the most and prompted me to write this.
In my personal experience, when people want to interact with others and socialise, they do. When people don’t want to, or enjoy some time to themselves, they invariably end up checking their phones and their social media accounts. I think it’s about time that the media realised that some people are introverted and actually don’t take any pleasure in socialising with other people. I remember being the same between the ages of 14 and 21, I simply preferred doing my own thing. Worried parents consulted experts who agreed that it was a phase that I would grow out of. But the truth is that I’m still like that from time to time now. Sometimes I just don’t want to talk to people. That’s all there is to it.
When I continually hear from the media that we’re spending too much time on social media and it’s not good for us, I actually begin to really object to this idea being propagated of compulsory socialising just to prove that you are a well-adjusted individual. Some people really don’t need constant face to face contact. At the other end of the scale, there are others with social anxieties that find it easier to communicate via social media or texting. Are they mal-adjusted or unhealthy people? Not at all, in fact many celebrities fit into the same category, such as Stephen Fry for example.
I am not blind to the fact that some social issues can be made worse through the use of social media. I think there are real issues with bullying, internet addiction and general issues around identity that all existed before the advent of Facebook and Twitter. I always remember my parents telling me during my teenage years about the perils of alcohol and how it was essentially a mood amplifier. So if you drank when you were celebrating it would make you feel amazing or invincible, yet the opposite was true if you drank when you were unhappy. It would only make you more so. In my opinion social media does exactly the same thing, it amplifies the issues you are already dealing with.
This is essentially what the experts are trying to blame social media for, without recognising that these are all pre-existing issues which social media gives further rise to. I firmly believe that social media makes communication easier, but at the end of the day it’s still just a reflection of the individual, their personality and how they choose to use it. I always tell people that you can, to some degree, control how you use or how you’re exposed to social media. If someone truly wants to socialise with you face to face, they will.
If they don’t, there’s not always something wrong with them. If they prefer to use the phone, read a book or listen to music on their own, that’s okay. Often knowing that you’re available for the face to face, in person socialising is enough for them. Which is something I’ve come to realise as a parent, who’s eldest is firmly ensconced within his ‘teens now. You have to be available to talk when he wants to, not push every single day for communication. You have to be there to provide value when he asks for it, not permanently broadcast at him. And whatever you do, don’t call him a ‘millenial’, because he hates that.
In my line of work, we are constantly encouraging people to be themselves on social media, to do what works for them, to tell their story and share their passions both through their personal accounts and to get their business channels noticed. In an age where we’re actively trying to celebrate the individual, why would we want to constrain them to fitting in with pre-conceived notions of behaviour and what’s good for them, without actually asking them?
Social media is a great servant, but a terrible master. Make sure you use it to work for you and not the other way around.
There’s something here we can all learn about using social media for business too.