Over 3.48 billion people use social media daily – that’s a lot of sharing, tweeting and story updates. Walking down the street is no longer a simple task – everywhere you look someone is capturing the moment on their phone to share it on their social media. We have become a world of people who bury our faces in our phones. Privacy and authenticity are now a thing of the past. Are we really #LivingOurBestLives?
I got my first job in Cape Town doing social media and copywriting for a company that wasn’t too worried about the correct way of doing things. However, I had to start somewhere, and I am grateful for the opportunity I got. Since I started in social media things have continued to change constantly – new social media platforms, new methods, new algorithms, and social media is even bigger now. Over the past four years I have created a variety of posts for social media.
If I look back, I cringe a little. Actually, a lot. I have used hashtags like #KarateChop to describe the best way of fluffing a scatter cushion, I have created posts bursting with adjectives and faked enthusiasm to get housewives excited about wallpaper. Now I get to write copy for social media about #FierceFemales, exciting entrepreneurs and people who are genuinely dedicated to changing our country. What this has made me realise is that there are no limits to what social media can be used for – whether it’s your personal life or your business.
There have been many studies which indicate that social media can have detrimental effects on our mental wellbeing and health. It’s so easy nowadays to portray a life that isn’t real – with #ThrowbackThursdays and #LivingMyBestLife being used on a regular. It’s easy to live an inauthentic life. But hey, it looks good. It’s hard to keep up with the Jones’s “perfect” life when you’re living on a normal person’s budget and this often creates a feeling of inadequacy amongst us. But like most cases, there is a good and a bad side to social media.
Recently social media was used to create awareness about the protests in Sudan and now people are going #BlueForSudan. This hashtag started trending after 25-year-old Mohamed Hashim Mattar was killed by Sudanese troops during the protests. He was protecting fellow protestors. People started changing their social media profile pictures to plain blue to support the Sudanese protestors and celebrities like Rihanna were speaking about the inhumane treatment of these protestors in their Instagram stories.
Social media provides a platform for people to talk about real issues that aren’t hampered by red tape and political pressure. This is the upside of social media. There is also the downside and too often the bad outweighs the good. With this in mind, we need to acknowledge the dark, vicious side of social media.
Netflix has a variety of documentaries, movies, and series that address both funny and uncomfortable issues surrounding social media. American Meme looks at the lives of celebrities who have become famous through social media – celebrities like The Fat Jewish, Kirill and Paris Hilton. In this documentary, Paris Hilton admits that she trusts no one in her life, but her fans. Her Instagram account has over 10 million followers and her life revolves around taking the perfect selfie. Privacy is a thing of the past. To add insult to injury, these celebrities are being paid up to $1 million to post something. And then it’s called authentic.
Another Netflix documentary, Audrie and Daisy, looks at how cyber bullying impacts young lives. A young girl was drugged, raped and then it was put all over social media. She was bullied and made to feel like she was in the wrong for being raped – that she asked for it. Eventually she took her own life. A quote from the San Jose Mercury News puts it all into perspective: “Social media wields the devastating authority to damn and destroy lives.”
As someone who works in social media and sees the positives as well as the negatives, I feel like it’s up to us to use social media in the correct way. If we don’t start educating ourselves and others about the harmful impact that our words can cause then we are all doomed.