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OPINION: Socializing with Negativity

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

by TOMMY PUGH - Social media glorifies depressed behavior and feelings, but how can we fight against it?

Social media is a gift that generations before ours might not fully understand or possibly use. We have the option to share our lives more than ever and build up an image for others. Unfortunately, many times, social media is abused by our generation. We’ve grown to take fake, unrealistic pictures of the movie of life and share it with the world, and more often than not, we only post the best Photoshopped, cropped, edited and sensationalized pictures of ourselves, making others blind to the reality behind those pictures.

While many of us, including myself, fall victim to posting fragmented pieces of our lives, there is a bigger issue that I’d rather focus on. It’s not the fragments of good that I worry about, but rather the fragments of sadness. We have a tendency to share only certain aspects of our lives on social media, but it’s a bigger problem when we redact the pleasant parts of our lives from public view and only post the bad parts. Negativity has become the scourge of social media.

Between hate, rants, complaints, shade and all-around depressing posts, social media has become a haven for destructive feelings. People often ignore the positive parts of their days and look only upon the daily “tragedies” that seem to plague them in day to day life. It is a natural human behavior, and when people share these sentiments with others in person, it often will lead to productive conversation and affirmative behavior. However, when people share these same feelings on social media, it goes nowhere. It falls into the feed of their followers and in the end gets overlooked. In my experience, many with social media accounts have overlooked these negative posts before, or just merely liked them at most.

There are a multitude of reasons that these types of posts are despicable. Their presence affects the person who posts it. They are uncomfortable to view. They spread bad feelings. They essentially impact the user in the same way that a positive post would: it creates a false image of one’s whole life, and the user looks at likes for affirmation. Overall, though, these posts make the user feel worse than they already did, they are unproductive and they put depressive thoughts on a pedestal and normalize them.

Primarily, these posts are toxic to the user. When we post something on social media, we become attached. We crave validation for our feelings, our appearance, our fragment of life. The same thing happens with these negative posts. Users attach themselves to their words and depressive thoughts. What does a like mean in this case? Is it approval of their feelings? Is it sympathy for their mood? Who’s to say? Every like counts towards the user’s self image. Users crave validation for their negative moods, and when they receive it, it promotes these negative posts. When they don’t receive it, it worsens the scenario. When we share these posts, we allow them to represent our lives. A few words of self-pity ingrain themselves into our own feelings, and we don’t allow ourselves to find happiness in whatever dark time we just so happen to be in. These posts don’t cause happiness just by getting the bad feelings out; they only make them worse.

Furthermore, these posts are in no way productive. They are agitating to look at. When we see a post that brings someone down, it makes us uncomfortable. It brings us down with the user. When people see negativity, people are generally inclined to help someone through their problems, but on social media, there’s no recipient. It’s too open. We have a tendency as humans to say “the next person will deal with it,” but it doesn’t work in these situations. Nobody deals with it. Not the user. Not the viewer. Not the social media platform. Nobody. It’s just posted out in space for the next person to deal with. Even worse for the user is that this couples with the prior problem. If nobody responds, the user feels even more worthless. It’s a vicious cycle, and the user and viewers are brought into it on social media.

Finally, and most importantly, these posts glorify depressive feelings and even the mental stigmas behind them. Depression is not a goal. There. I said it. Nobody, and I mean nobody should want to be depressed. It isn’t a prize to achieve. However, in the twisted world of social media, it’s becoming more of a norm. Every one of these posts brings light not to overcoming mental roadblocks but to succumbing to the challenges. It reinforces the idea that there is no way out of it, which is entirely untrue. It enables negative affirmations, and it encourages others to let themselves stay in these depressive states. Having personally dealt with this a few years ago, I know how it feels. You don’t just become happier. However, taking to social media is not a constructive way to deal with it. Social media brings attention to your dark side. It normalizes it. But let’s instead combat it. We need to be making our positive side a bigger part of our presence.

Social media may be promoting these dangerous behaviors, but there are things we can do to overcome these challenges. While we may not be able to change social media at its roots, we can take small steps in the right direction.

1. Don’t make negative posts about yourself or anyone you know. It is toxic and only brings you and others down. If you really need help, reach out to someone who loves you, cares about you, is willing to talk to you, or anyone who can listen. One-on-one help is a lot more beneficial than a social post.

2. Talk to people who make these posts. Don’t just like the post. Don’t just comment. Start a conversation with them. See what’s wrong and ask if you can help. If it’s something out of your ability, make sure to guide them to a counselor or worst case scenario, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

3. Spend time with your friends or even people who make these posts. It will build up good moments. Who knows? Maybe it’s really just what you or they need in the moment.

4. Fill your social media with positive posts. Reflecting on the happy times can help you relieve the worse times.

5. Report posts that have a dangerous message. Certain things shouldn’t be posted on social media, specifically derogatory, hateful or depression-promoting posts. Getting them taken down can help protect others from them as well.

6. Change statements like “I’m so dumb” to “That was really smart of me.” Even if it is sarcastic, it truly brings about a change of mindset.

7. As a wise woman once said, “Love yourself. We can’t leave the world you-less.”

Social media may be the end-all-be-all for many of us, guiding our life decisions and driving us psychologically, but we cannot let it control our emotions. We may latch onto it as a representation of our lives; however, it holds no real ground in the world that we live in. Before we make these depressing posts, just remember that there is so much more to us than what we leave on social media, and who we really are is defined by our movie of life, not the pictures we let the world see.

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