Mirror, Mirror – The other side of social media

Original article published at Bizcatalyst360

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“Who is the fairest of them all? Social media gives you reflections of a thousand mirrors; most of the portals lead to a parallel reality. A profile may portray a wish rather than a true reflection. Authenticity can be scary. The truth is out there.” – Maria Lehtman

No one lives in a less authentic world than our digital nomad children today. Commercial advertising is not doing anyone any favors. Even when people know that images are consistently modified, edited, filtered, and changed, it is almost impossible to reflect who stands behind them and avoid any impact on self-esteem. 

We live in a conflicted world where people call after authenticity without being ready to accept who the person behind the scenes is. Now and then I scan through profiles in social media and media. A beautiful, well-built figure of a man or a woman tells a story. What surprises me is when I find an authentic account that shares a story of the person’s challenges. Someone may be a cancer survivor, another one a victim of a car accident. The beautifully built imagery tells a story of hard work, tears, and suffering to build a body back into shape. Those are the stories that inspire me – the beauty of human determination, and courage to share the whole journey.

We are all aware of how constant screen time affects the mind – however, there is another angle and reason for increasing depression after mobiles conquered the societies. In a recent TV interview, a psychiatrist talked about the increasing depression young people suffer today. Given that over 80% of children own a mobile phone and are part of social networks, he explained that social media creates a heightened level of transparency. Many young people are widely networked with their peers in-country and abroad.

When a friend, or a friend of a friend, has issues, one can read about them, hear their call for help, and yet not be able to support them. People feel incapacitated by the pain of others without tools or resources to help them out. We can all relate to how that feels –  if we watch the daily news continuously during the day and see the suffering of the world, the images become imprinted on our minds. What if you feel that pain, sadness, and despair in your own network 24/7?

The dark side of the mirror

The other issues raising even more concern are trolling and cyberbullying. If you end up being the target of your peers for malicious attacks, you have minimal means to defend yourself. Peers and social culture expect you to exist online with a consistent digital footprint. If that online community turns against a member, the person becomes outcast and lose their entire network.

Anyone who has been bullied at school or workplace can relate to that. In some cases, other outlets remain, e.g., another community of friends, church members, sports or other club memberships. However, when a profile exists online, cyberbullying zooms in with a purpose is to isolate their targets from everywhere they live online.

According to TechJulry, 38% of children (in the US) have experienced cyberbullying at least once. What is even more disturbing that cyberbullying specifically targets diversity, especially cultural diversity. In a world where cultures increasingly collide, we should be creating a pool of transversal skills and ecosystems. Instead, we are using technology to take us back more than 100 years.

Technology is naturally a means to do both good and bad. Overall the digital transformation has shown us that children who are raised with a balanced upbringing, living life inside and outside social media, are better adapted to handle obstacles. ChildMind Institute has an excellent article that covers many of the issues caused by increased screen time and mobile use. We should all learn to harness to mobile skills to its optimum rather than the maximum.

Tools for keeping you on the right side of social media

Here are some simple techniques to keep your life and self-esteem balanced in the world of parallel realities:

Self-Esteem:

  • Research, read, find information – don’t stop at the first beautiful profile you see but look at what is behind the profile. Is the person genuine? Are they selling a product or a brand? Do their looks define their income?
  • Look for ‘debunks’ – images and videos that provide information about how profile images can be manipulated. A simple stance, a pose in the picture can change the entire outlook of a person’s body. Health.com has several basic examples of before and after photos how postures change your image. No one walks around all day flexing their stomach muscles and not taking a breath.
  • Accept counseling. Speak with professionals who have an understanding of peer pressure, depression, and social media. Sometimes the only way your mind accepts advice is when it comes from an objective source. There is no reason to be alone.
  • Do not stay isolated or let your feelings brew. Speak with someone you trust, a more experienced person who keeps your confidence. Every single person has self-esteem issues. No one can be confident and assure of themselves all the time. Many try to keep up that profile nowadays, but social media alone is a poor measure to what people are actually going through.
  • Look for the genuine in your life – in and outside social media. Make sure you have hobbies, creativity, music, peers, retreats, nature time outside working, and screen time. Be curious about life.
  • If you are continually feeling depressed, seek counseling, and professional support. There are many helplines where you can also call in to speak with someone for a bit.
  • Even your closest friends can turn into people who tie your energy and use it. If you feel drained by certain people, and feel like you are always in a negative loop, it is good to discuss the behavior. Everyone deserves to have a balanced life, and retain their energy for every-day life. Ensure you maintain yours.
  • Even though the world calls for authenticity, it does not mean complete transparency. Only share what you feel comfortable sharing. Genuine friends will stay with you through the harder times, and discussing offline with them, face-to-face, is much more healing than any online dialogue.

Cyberbullying and trolling

  • Do not ever share your passwords for other than, e.g., in the case of children, your parents or an adult you can trust. ConnectSafely offers some common sense of security behaviors.
  • Change your passwords regularly and use two-phased authentication (when making changes to your profile the social media provider sends a one-time code to your mobile). Many people do not like setting a number on their profiles, but I also avoided a recent hack because I did.
  • Do not suffer alone. Tell your closest authority, parent, teacher, close of kin, when you get negative or aggressive feedback or see when things are not right in your social media profiles.
  • If your account is compromised and you no longer have access to it, inform the social media provider immediately. If anyone imitates you (using your name, as an example) report the issue. Usually, fake accounts will be closed in a few days.
  • If you get odd messages, personal questions from people you do now know or trust, block them.
  • In extreme cases, when you have access to your account, but you continue to be bullied or trolled, be ready to close down your social media account. There are plenty of profiles and social media providers to choose from. It is a pain, but much less so than having a compromised profile.
  • Do not leave location codes and tracking on. Avoid taking any controversial images. Those together with an accidental location code may actually put you in danger.
  • Remember, a lot of the trolling today comes from bots, and bots can start to argue with other bots on your profile. If I see negative comments from proxies or unknown users, delete the comments and block the users, and report the behavior. In most cases, if you don’t, the same message, word for word, will appear again from another user name.
  • Look for the police to help out when you experience cyberbullying or trolling. Many police stations nowadays have online chats you can share information anonymously.
  • If you are a parent, never share your children’s passwords or personal details in online communities – no snapshots of ID cards, passports, even without the critical information. (Yes, images like that appear regularly on ‘friendly’ networks – they belong in the ‘vault.’)
  • Ensure you understand what goes in your child’s social life. Be courteous, but be aware and alert so that you know what is happening. A certain amount of transparency is needed today, given that games, dating apps, and other social media networks are easy to enter and manipulate.
  • As a parent or custodian never offer information about your children on open online communities. In fact, for most parents out there sharing your child’s images: do not use other than closed and private, by-invitation-only groups. Facial recognition is easy today. It takes very little to connect one image to another, location, time – even decades later. You are not doing your children any favors by sharing their life before they can consent to what you share.

If you are a parent of a digital nomad, you may need to explain all of this to your child since only a few of them read blogs…

Be safe out there! And most of all, try to get a good night’s sleep, exercise and see people and nature in real-time!

“What if the mobile revolution is just beginning?

“What if the next mobile revolution is all about real-world and context-driven experiences — individual needs that are taken care of through mobile, making our lives easier and more seamless?” ~ Elad Natanson

Sources: 

Geekwire I https://www.geekwire.com/2018/new-research-finds-95-teens-access-smartphone-45-online-almost-constantly/

TechJury I https://techjury.net/stats-about/cyberbullying/

Child Mind Institute I https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

Health.com I https://www.health.com/fitness/body-positive-before-and-after-photos

ConnectSafely I https://www.connectsafely.org/tips-to-help-stop-cyberbullying/

 

 

 

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