Is our love affair with social media coming to an end?


Mental health is again at the forefront of fiery online debate as we reexamine our relationship with the online world.

It’s been little over a week since the tragic death of Caroline Flack, presenter of popular ITV dating show Love Island, a show which promises love, fame and fortune. Like most breaking news in the online era, social media users were quick to erupt with debates over who was to blame for Caroline's death, mental health, the press and social media. It seems that everywhere we turn there is pressure. The pressure to succeed, the pressure to look good, pressure to look happy when we're not or pressure over how many followers we have, anxiety which didn't exist little over a decade ago. If you’ve ever felt like this, you’re not alone. A 2017 report conducted by the Royal Society of Public Health, found that anxiety and depression in young people in the UK has increased by 70% in 25 years. Similarly, over 80,000 young people suffer from severe depression, with nine in 10 young females feeling unsatisfied with their body image. Whether this is a direct result of social media or press influence, one can only guess. We can speculate as to why Caroline Flack did what she did but we’ll never truly know. Many people were quick to blame the press for their ruthless reporting in her most vulnerable state. Others blamed social media comments for the tragic event, causing a moment of national epiphany and reflection of our own online behaviours. ​The hashtag 'be kind' started trending in the hours after the news, with many pledging to do better by changing their profile pictures in solidarity to the popular presenter. The criticism towards the British press was rife, their love of the tabloids finally starting to wane. But are we also partially to blame? We spend our lives glued to our phones, laptops or any device which keeps us connected. We rarely stop to consider how frequent but innocent clicks on gossip articles feed what we see in the media. We take what we see in the press as true and then discuss it with our loved ones, rarely taking the time to conduct thorough research. People watch their favourite celebrities religiously, wondering how their lives look so much better than theirs, judging themselves in the process. Twitter is a virtual heaven for playground bullies who stubbornly refuse to accept any alternate point of view, verbally abusing anyone who attempts to threaten or simply question their narrative. We seem to have evolved into a generation where people expect to see their own reflection in others and expect others to match their ideals. People want their views to be heard and heard they will be. We regularly see on Twitter how people defend one person by abusing another - all in the name of 'kindness'. Just this week, actor and musician Laurence Fox announced he was leaving the platform after a controversial stint on BBC’s Question Time in January. His appearance on the show resulted in 250 complaints to Ofcom, with many deeming his comments on ‘race privilege’ as offensive. Fox announced he was leaving Twitter by stating that he’s “been privately becoming more and more depressed” and that he's finding the criticism he's faced online "very hard to process”. ​In the event of an unexpected death of a public figure, it's easy to say we'll do better, we'll be nicer; kinder even. The self-reflection that we might just contribute to the volatile online world, is simply too much for us to consider. It shouldn't take a death of somebody we don't know to be better people or to check on our friends who may need additional support. Not everyone is going to like what you say, what you post or who you are. The key is to be able to take criticism and learn from it. To respect other’s opinions, even if you don't relate to or agree with them. To understand that everyone’s reaction, is a reflection of their own experiences – not yours. It’s clear that society is irritated and something needs to change. However, is it the ill-management of social platforms at fault or our own personal relationship with social media which is impacting our mental sanity?

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