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Life Chez Dee Episode #99: Social Media friend or foe?

I’ve listened on many occasions to the positives and negatives of social media, and indeed the time spent on it. So just how much is too much? And at what point does it become an addiction?

For years I was sceptical about using social media. Ridiculously unnecessary I thought. Who wants to look at what others are eating for their tea etc etc. I eventually decided to take the plunge in about 2013. I felt as though I was missing out on knowing what was going on with stuff generally, and with friends. I made a conscious decision to treat facebook like a scrapbook. To document some of the achievements of the children, feelings of mine, some of the great but also every day stuff that was going on … the stuff which doesn’t make it into your photo albums, but is still very significant and memorable. The things which the children have said, what others have said; things which on that day were particularly significant to me.

I joined facebook in the summer of 2013 and I still to this day remember my first post. I’d spent the day with a friend, and Edward and Oliver had had a lovely time playing outside in the garden… water pistols were involved, so too were shields which they’d improvised from pan lids. I am reminded of this day from year to year when this photo pops up in my memories, and every year I am transported back and I relive that day all over again.

I introduced myself to twitter so that I could keep abreast of what was going on at various schools, as this was the platform that they used. It was only much later that I joined Instagram, because I felt that this was a good platform to connect with a younger generation, and would be good for brand awareness for the charity, and for my writing.

I’m so glad I joined facebook (my favourite of all social media platforms I might add). Not only did it do all I hoped it would, but it also reconnected me with friends who I thought I’d drifted from. It helped me talk to those I wouldn’t necessarily see on a regular basis, to know what others are up to, never having to wonder what happened to them, never having to fit years worth of pieces of the puzzle when you meet up again – you know what they’ve been up to – you’ve been watching and quipping and having conversations.

People are busy. Yes it’s nice to meet up in person; yes it’s nice to have a telephone call or a video chat, but there isn’t always time to connect with as many people this way, as I can on social media. And there’s always a convenient time to chat, because you look at your messages, at your posts, and you comment and engage in conversation at a time which suits. Knowing all the shenanigans which go on in a busy home, knowing that others are probably in as much chaos as us, this is a way of staying connected, engaging with others, keeping friendships, whilst still fitting this in easily to daily life.

I’ve been thankful for memories popping up. Memories of when the boys were little; of their achievements; reliving all those special moments. For me it’s been particularly lovely to have those memories of Edward pop up time and again; making me smile; all captured at the time and saved to show me time and again. Those moments captured and saved which would otherwise have been lost in the great abyss, never to be seen again. These memories are precious.

For me, social media has also been a great connection with people at times when I’ve felt alone. There have been times when I have been desperate, so low I have been lost within myself. The times when I have been heartbroken; times when I have really needed to reach out to people. When I’ve posted something to my friends on facebook, immediately someone is there, connecting with me. I’ve looked at and joined groups, I’ve read stories, I’ve read articles, I’ve been able to connect with others who have gone through similar heartbreak and loss to that which I have experienced.

Social media has helped me get the message out there about raising awareness of meningitis and sepsis – I’ve reached far more people than I could have hoped to do without it. Facebook, twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn … these are the platforms I use; there are more I know, but for the moment these are enough. It is only by harnessing the power of these platforms that I can reach as far as I do.

Do I spent too long on social media? Probably. But I use it for all the charity work I do; I use it for writing; I use it for counsel; I use it for scrapbooking and documenting what we’ve been up to; I use it to connect and converse with friends and family; and I have even made friends through it. As long as I find I am spending more time in the present than in the world of social media then, it's space in my life is healthy. Spending too much time on technology, whatever the technology, is unhealthy... indeed, too much of anything is unhealthy; it's about balance.

I have read and learned so much through others writings and experiences; and I have given myself counsel through my own writing. Maybe my words will help others, maybe they will resonate with some, and offer insight to others. Maybe through my articulation of my experiences, my feelings, my journey, my words will be of comfort, of help, or at least of interest to others. I hope this, and the charity work I do in raising awareness of meningitis and sepsis travels as far and wide as possible, and it is by the power of social media that I am able to reach out as I do.

I am well aware of the negatives of social media, and I’m saddened when I hear of bullying and victimisation. Fake news is another downside to social media, but not everything you read in life is true. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio are also guilty of media hype and false reporting. Everything you search via google will not always reveal the truth. It’s about balance, it’s about knowing whether you can trust your sources, it’s about reading different articles and different perspectives and viewpoints, and coming to your own conclusions about where the truth lies. Social media is not the only place we encounter misinformation and lies.

I am aware of several people who find that social media has a negative impact on their mental health. Some say that they struggle with the constant news updates, others say they get depressed. I have heard some say that they become depressed when they read about how wonderful the lives of others are. I feel it’s about putting things into perspective. When you meet someone in the street and you exchange pleasantries, do you tell each other of the crap day you’ve had, or the hassle at work, or the stressful times the family are having. Invariably, the answer is no, and so it is no surprise that on social media, the posts people publish are more often than not positive … kids’ achievements, proud moments, special memories, good days out. Yes there are many other posts which balance this, but it is the jealousy of others which ensues as they read about the good times of others. That is not something to blame social media for; that is something else entirely, which probably needs addressing.

Am I addicted to social media? I don’t think so. Am I drawn to it, enjoy it, use it often – yes; for the charity, for my writing, for entertainment and for friendships. I follow people who inspire me, and engage with those I can learn from. I trust my own judgment regarding friendships, and try to avoid people full of bitterness and negativity. For me the positives of social media outweigh the negatives, and I hope the enjoyment and positivity continues for many more years.

by Elizabeth Dee

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