With the thought of our peers having more money, holidays and fun than us, or our friends getting luckier in love, ever present in our timelines, the pressures of social media are often felt by all of us.
But as adults, we sometimes have the luxury of realising that people only share their highlights online – filtered and edited snapshots of normal lives to make ourselves look and feel good about how others see our worlds.
However, do children and young adults have that thought process?
It seems that the societal pressures often placed on teens is ever-increasing as social media allows them every opportunity to compare/judge/comment on every aspect of each other’s lives, any time, day or night.
Conversely, 38% of the heavier users of social media in this group of 14-year-olds were suffering from clinical depression and as ‘heavy’ users, were using social media upwards of eight hours per day!
40% of girls, and 25% of boys asked reported that they had experienced cyberbullying, and there were similar results (40% and 28% respectively) saying that many participants had disrupted sleep issues due to social media.
These effects of social media usage are as shocking as they are sad. The fact that increased socialisation has come to harm many people (young and old) is disheartening for those of us who work in and enjoy social media.
As a budding PR practitioner, I find myself asking this – what can I do?
What is the CSR for big organisations, and what are the responsibilities of individuals like me?
I have therefore come up with three main considerations for practitioners and companies alike:
- Tackling Cyber Bullying
First and foremost, I feel that the online communities found on differing social media sites should be more aware of cyber bullying, and we should each take a better stand against it.
According to a recent Rimmel study, over 115million images are deleted from social media every year due to negative or abusive comments.
The Pew Research Centre states that around 59% of all teens in the US were cyber bullied in 2018 alone.
We all have access to the block, mute and report functions online, but there using them is oftentimes considered taboo… where it definitely shouldn’t be! If you see/know someone struggling with cyberbullying, point these things out to them privately, and help them to understand that they can be protected online.
Additionally, the simple act of communicating privately and politely with someone struggling is vital. Just checking up on someone can make all the difference in situations such as this.
And finally, there are many charities and organisations online that help combat cyber bullying as a whole, so as people that make our livings using social media, I believe that we should all look into helping the online world become a little safer by sharing and supporting organisations such as CyberSmile!
- Portraying Reality Over Perfection
For decades, it may have been true that perfection was the ultimate goal for branding and PR, but as we reach into the future of realism, can we still say that this is true?
I, for one, believe that the future of marketing, branding and public relations is all about honesty. In a society where everyone can be a detective and have all of the world’s information literally at our fingertips, I think it only makes sense to be open and honest about as much as we can.
In the case of depression and pressure in social media – if we (as professionals and companies) can portray more realistic images of the world, the expectations of young and impressionable people are much less likely to be shattered the way that they are now.
We can save the minds of young social media users if we take away the pressures of perfection.
We can be realistic and still do well; just look at the bloggers, vloggers and online gurus that have made their millions by being perfectly imperfect!
People mistrust perfection anyway – it doesn’t benefit us to chase perfection anymore.
- Putting Less Emphasis and Pressure on Social Media Usage
As PR professionals, I believe that we should keep our minds open in terms of communication. That, I hope, should be obvious!
With this in mind though, there are many types of people in this world, each liking differing forms of communication. All too often, I find that companies and professionals want me to communicate with them through specialised apps or generalised social media. But what if I don’t want to?
I’ve recently been struggling with my social media presence and would love to be presented with some alternatives in the future. The current pressure to be ever-present online is often overwhelming, and the need for instant communication with anyone and everyone lays a weight of expectations on my shoulders that I often struggle to carry. I cannot imagine having to deal with that at a younger and more formative age, when the pressures of simply finding out who I am would be paramount and overwhelming.
So, I beg of the online community to recognise that the pressures of social media could be alleviated with measures as simple as giving people the option to communicate without social media. Or reducing the effects of #FOMO by creating more long-term campaigns and/or interactions with our publics.
In short, I hope that the online communities that use social media (professionals included) will take a better stance against the negative effects of social media and help to take better care of the mental health of our fellow users!