What’s the Impact of the Mixed Messages on Social Media?

August 2, 2018

I spend a lot of time questioning the value of social media.

On one hand, social media has helped me connect with amazing people who make a huge — and very positive — impact on my life. Fitness influencers inspire me to work harder in the gym and make smarter food choices. Other writers motivate me to practice the craft myself.

I even met my best friend in Boston because she retweeted me! I checked out her profile and was like, “we’re the exact same person, I have to meet her.” I keep up with far-flung friends through their stories and posts, too.

And of course, Twitter and Instagram allow me to share my own message. Obviously, that’s something I deeply value. (Not to mention, social is a business tool for me and my clients.)

But there are so many problems with social media that I don’t know what to do with, and that make me wonder if I’m contributing to something harmful by continuing to use and create content on these platforms.

How Social Media Hurts Us

I don’t need to tell you that social media can has a dark side. You already know what happens when you fall into a black hole of endless scrolling past everyone else’s highlight reel. You already know how easy it is to feel left out, more alone, or down on yourself when you’re home alone looking at posts from other people who are out and about.

Even actual science finds the more you use Facebook, the worse you feel.

But more than just finding ourselves in an enormous trap of comparisons and FOMO, social media concerns me because I question whether it has any meaning at all — and again, what kind of value it gives us, especially when you consider the mixed messages and signals it can create.

Sorting Through the Mixed Messages on Social

These mixed messages are things I’ve been thinking a LOT about lately — and honestly, I don’t know what to make of them (which is what made me want to write about this; writing is largely how I process things, for one, and two, I want to share this because I’m curious what you think about this! Is it just me thinking this way?)

Here are some examples of those mixed messages:

  • Entrepreneurs who obviously had to hustle hard to reach success, but now that they’re successful (and no longer have to grind it out) only post about time off, giving yourself space, and working as few hours as possible
  • Fitness influencers who preach body acceptance, health, natural approaches to wellness, and self-love — but primarily post photos of themselves and clearly have had plastic surgery
  • Lifestyle bloggers with who post photos of themselves with massive amounts of decadent food… who don’t actually eat anything they bought or ordered (a photographer friend let me in on this fact, telling me most of the women who run personal or lifestyle brands never actually eat the food they pretend to in their pictures)

I’m sure there are more, and in other areas of life. This is just what stands out to me, and what I’ve literally just seen as I scrolled through my Instagram feed just now (I can only imagine the kind of things parenting brands and accounts might put out there, for example — but that’s not content I follow, so I’m mostly unaware of it if it happens).

And it seems like this kind of mixed message is entirely deliberate.

Why Are We All Faking It on Social Media — and How Can We Change?

This Inc article discussed a Twitter thread in which people started sharing photos they posted with happy messages — only to reveal what was actually happening when the photo was taken.

Are we all faking it when it comes to social media?

And if so… why?

If we’re all faking it and it’s exhausting and awful — and we all know we’re all faking it…

Why do we keep collectively faking it?

I think it’s clear we’re all clamoring for real and raw stuff from the people we follow on social media. It’s clear that the highlight-reel nature of social media hurts us. So why do we keep engaging… and how can we change it?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. I’d really love to hear your opinions or answers to these questions, because it’s something I’m really struggling with. Again, I see the value in social media for its ability to connect us and give us access to some really inspiring, motivating, meaningful content.

But I want to make sure both the ways in which I engage with social and in which I contribute to it are healthy, productive, and useful.

How do you think content creators can do better? What do you find meaningful or useful about social media? Are there any habits you practice to make sure you leverage social media as a tool for good (rather than letting it become a negative force in your life)?

Let me know what you think by dropping your comments below. If you’d prefer to share privately, you can also email me at kali@goingbeyondwealth.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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