Navigating the Status Problems of Social Media
In a reasonably short time, social media has become a ubiquitous facet of modern life. Yet despite giving us the ability to stay connected amid busy schedules and over great distances, social media also have adverse effects. Paradoxically, it can increase social isolation and lead to physical and psychological issues. Most social media users think nothing of posting status updates, but the problem may lie in that very word – status – and the pressures it exerts upon everyone else. So how can we handle this challenge?
Understanding the status problem
Our desire for status manifests in many forms. It’s a drive that can be traced to our prehistoric ancestors. It leads down to the activity of hormones within our bodies. Early humans developed social hierarchy to survive a dangerous world; thus, status is intertwined with our biology.
In the digital age, we may not be overly concerned with survival daily, but the status remains essential. For younger generations, in particular, the use of social media can significantly amplify its effects. Being the first to share something cool, gain more likes and follows, or post about your unique experiences with food or travel will confer status. Miss out, and the message is that you aren’t winning; you’re ordinary – the bane of status in today’s world.
It’s easy to say that what other people say, do, or share on social media shouldn’t affect us. But these things precisely matter because they evoke our status drive. If you’re inundated with the wrong sort of online influences, it can increase your sense of status anxiety and send you into a negative spiral of mental health issues.
Why we need to disconnect
Seen from this light, we cannot possibly trivialize social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may be the domain of younger generations, but the underlying mechanism is as old as society itself.
One major problem is that most digital natives have embraced social media as part of their lives without developing the discipline to use it properly. Recently, some people have found it beneficial to disconnect from social media. A simple practice such as going offline at night or taking a break from your devices at a specific time of day will help you to improve focus, be aware of each moment, and sleep better at night. You can also take things a step further and have a weekend off the grid. Head down to the local boat dealers and spend time by the water, letting nature detox and relieve you of the burdens of status pressure.
Using social media in a healthy way
None of this invalidates or dismisses the benefits of social media. Instead, it serves to highlight how many people often allow the use and influence of social media to grow disproportionately large in their own lives. If you take a step back, you can put matters into perspective. That will help you be more purposeful in your use of social media and healthily manage its effects. Slow down instead of seeking instant gratification; think before you post. Learn to filter out content to what’s useful or inspirational, and you can avoid the stress that ensues from constant comparisons to the lifestyle and experiences of your peers.
The potential adverse effects of social media aren’t a trivial concern. Understanding how they are rooted in our status drive will allow us to manage our online activity better and make social media work to our benefit.