BLOG: Positive Environments and Social Media.

By Lucy Oliver.

Perhaps one of the most common things I see in my time spent on social media is people discussing how toxic it is. Don't get me wrong, I agree entirely, but this doesn't necessarily mean it has to be this way. Social media can be an overwhelmingly positive environment under the right conditions and circumstances and it's something that I believe is important to discuss. This brings about this blog post-- I made use of my new found followers on Twitter (which will in itself be discussed later on) and collected actual data to help me make more sense of what other people think, so I'm hoping this will be as insightful as the rest.

The first poll I posted was just to get a general overview of my followers' feel for social media. I was genuinely pleasantly surprised by the results, too; as much as I expected some people to say they had positive experiences on social media, I didn't expect the results to suggest that nearly half of those that answered found it a positive experience. I'd half anticipated that the results would come back as 90% negative, 10% positive, so the numbers being so even really did catch me off guard entirely. It is, however, comforting knowing so many people that follow me don't find social media to be overwhelmingly negative, and it does give me hope that these figures can change even more. 

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Given the results of the first poll, I wanted to understand the reasons why people had mostly negative experiences on social media; was it to do with confidence, following toxic people/accounts, finding it overwhelming, or something entirely different. The results- again- weren't entirely surprising to me, I was more disheartened by the fact that so many people were struggling with their body image due to social media. I think it's very revealing that so many young men and women struggle with seeing 'perfect' people on the internet, and it certainly says a lot about the direction our society is headed in. In terms of those that chose 'other', the responses varied from social media being a massive distraction (incredibly relatable to someone that sit's on Twitter during her Monday afternoon seminars) to one person expressing very eloquently how social media 'confronts you with all the things that you're not or you don't have, you're being judged without anyone saying it purposely or maybe even meaning it'. 

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The final poll I posted resonated the most with me personally, largely due to steps I have taken myself as of recent. It isn't surprising in the slightest that the biggest method that helped people to keep their social media positive was simply keeping check on their own followers, allowing people to ensure the content they are seeing is what they want to. I think limiting time on apps/websites also makes sense as to attributing to people having an overall more positive experience; it gives you a chance to really just live, without being in the grasps of your Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, let's say. 

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Now I've tackled the results (I haven't done any form of statistical analysis since I was doing A-Level Biology nearly three years ago, and I can assure everyone I haven't missed that) I can get into the nitty-gritty details of my own personal experiences and how I personally have come to having such positive experiences across all my social media.


To preface this, if you go back to October 2020 and prior, my social media experience was anything but positive; 90% of the time, me using any of my social media genuinely resulted in me feeling sad, bad about myself or like I was missing out on something massive (ironic, given we were in the middle of a worldwide pandemic). Even though I can't blame this entirely on myself, a lot of my negative feelings came about due to my own actions. I followed the wrong people, interacted with all the wrong posts, and allowed myself to see things that made me feel terrible. I didn't even realise, too- I assumed all my negative feelings were a result of other circumstances or situations so just assumed my social media was contributing nothing at all. I look back now and laugh because I was so naïve in thinking that the things I saw online weren't affecting me. The entire inspiration for me writing this post came from the personal growth- and literal growth- of my own social media. Anyone that follows me across Twitter or Instagram will probably be aware that I'm very big on promoting mental health awareness, self-love, and all things positive. This came about because of my own need for self-improvement, but stuck thanks to two things; people contacting me to say how much these posts helped them, and my follower counts growing. I was incredibly aware that the bigger the social platform I had, the more people I could theoretically 'help', and that has been a huge drive for me over the past few months. 


I've already discussed why social media had become such a negative thing for me last year, and my reasons are entirely similar to those in the poll. The almost universal issue of body image is something that is incredibly important to tackle, so I have to start with a sweeping statement. You should never feel less than good enough, incredible, or downright beautiful because of the people you see on social media. Full stop. It's perfectly okay to acknowledge flaws or see another person and think they're pretty or have a nice body, but social media brings about this strange idolisation of people that often leaves others feeling less than good enough. The most recent and widespread example I can think of is when Kendall Jenner posted some photos on her Instagram; she looked absolutely stunning, but I saw so many young girls I follow talking about how it made them hate themselves more, questioning how anyone could ever find them beautiful and just downright hating on themselves. Kendall Jenner is stunning (there's really no question about that) but it doesn't make anyone else- anyone normal- any less stunning. She is surrounded by a team who are there to help her maintain how she looks because she's a Victorias Secret model and has to maintain this look. These things don't even just come down to lifestyle; genetically speaking, we are all predisposed to look and be built differently. So, where Kendall Jenner is 5'10 and slim, I'm 5'1 and curvy. We're both beautiful, even if we're almost completely opposite to one another. Social media makes it hard to remind yourself of this, but I think it's incredibly important to remember looking so perfect all the time just isn't possible. 


Outside of the issue of body image on social media, the two main issues I had were the toxicity of the environment and how overwhelming it often became. The former of these two issues actually proved so easy to tackle; I unfollowed accounts whose posts were detrimental to me, I stopped interacting with posts that were negative (algorithms are a curse, and God knows social media shows you the kind of content you interact with) and I didn't feel guilty for any of it. I didn't feel guilty for unfollowing people I haven't spoken to since I was 18 and an entirely different person. I didn't feel guilty for not reacting to things my friends sent me that made me feel terrible. In the place of these things, I followed new people, started liking more posts that reinforced how I wanted to feel, and slowly but surely, my social media accounts started to feel less like a draining chore and more like a curated collection of things I wanted to see. The latter, admittedly, took more training than anything to get rid of in its entirely. I'm not ashamed to admit that I used to spend far too much time on social media regardless of how overwhelming it became, so my initial method was turning my downtime settings on (thank you, Apple, for one of the best features you've ever invented) and giving myself a few hours a day to exist without it. After a few weeks, this became second nature to me, and now I can really easily take myself off of social media if it begins to feel entirely too overwhelming. 

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I think it's just important to remember that, at the end of the day, you are in control of your social media. You can't control what others post, or do, but you can do your very best to not have to see things that are detrimental to yourself. You don't have to feel guilty for unfollowing someone that knew you years ago, for muting someone (you might be perfectly fine with them, just not their posts) or for removing yourself from social media altogether. If you allow it, social media can be a pretty beautiful thing.

I think it's just important to remember that, at the end of the day, you are in control of your social media. You can't control what others post, or do, but you can do your very best to not have to see things that are detrimental to yourself. You don't have to feel guilty for unfollowing someone that knew you years ago, for muting someone (you might be perfectly fine with them, just not their posts) or for removing yourself from social media altogether. If you allow it, social media can be a pretty beautiful thing.

I consider myself lucky to be having the experience I am with social media at the minute because I know not many people are in the same position. Lockdown gave me the time to refine not only the content that I took in, but what I produced too, and I can safely say that my mental health has benefitted tremendously due to this. As mentioned earlier in this post, I've been able to gain a fair few followers on Twitter in the past few months (largely from posting selfies, but anything counts) and I'm excited to be able to promote more positive ideals both on there and on my Instagram. For now, I wish everyone a peaceful and positive week, be kind to yourselves <3

Lucy's Blog:
The Art of Self-Love