How To Use Social Media For Good
To be honest with all of you, I put off writing this article for a long time. Longer than I should have. The truth is, recently, social media hasn’t been too kind to me. Some anonymous Instagram user left a hurtful and vicious comment on one of my pictures last week, which led me to doubt the entirety of social media once and for all. I have since calmed down from the whole incident. However, I was left feeling a little bit rattled with how much of my personal life I have been sharing online, especially this past year.
I am an avid Instagram user, I sign in to Facebook regularly to keep up with friends and family, and I have a blog that I update weekly. Specifically, I write about my ongoing journey to full recovery from an eating disorder, and over the past couple of years, I have carefully crafted my voice as an advocate for mental health issues. In tandem, I have developed my blog and my Instagram account to reflect the everyday struggles of someone dealing with an eating disorder and generalized anxiety.
That being said, not all of the feedback I have received has been positive. I have had a handful of people persist in their goal to get me off social media completely. People have left comments about my shape and weight on different pictures of mine, and others have called me an attention-seeker who has no place advocating for mental health. Usually, I am able to “brush off the hate” with one swift shrug of my shoulders, but truthfully, in my moments of vulnerability, I still cringe at the thought of these messages.
However, with all of the negativity that surrounds social media these days, I still whole-heartedly believe that it can serve some good. We just need to be careful with how (and why) we use it.
Why do I use social media?
REASON #1: TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE.
You wouldn’t believe how many people I have connected with by utilizing platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Living alone, it can be difficult at times to not feel isolated. I have to say, I love being social, but logistics don’t always allow for me to be surrounded by friends and family. I have gone through periods of my life where I do feel lonely (and still do to this day), so turning to social media to stay in touch with important people in my life alleviates some of the loneliness. In addition, my blog has put me in contact with some pretty amazing people; people that I have never “met”, but individuals who I consider to be some of my nearest and dearest friends. The vehicle for our friendship? My blog. Facebook. Instagram. More than ever, social media allows for the development of friendships across the globe, and allows us to connect with people from countries and cities all over the world. How cool!
REASON #2: TO SHARE MY STORY.
What do I fear most these days? I would absolutely HATE for me to endure all the suffering that accompanies an anorexia diagnosis without having SOMEONE, anyone really, benefits from my experience. Quite simply, I want to change the mental health world. Whether it’s eliminating the stigma or improving access to resources, or even just striving to help others not feel so alone, I continue to put myself out there on Instagram and through my blog. I allow myself to be incredibly vulnerable by literally opening up my life to the world, and my long-term goal to bring about change supersedes any hesitations I might have about sharing my personal experiences online.
What is my biggest piece of advice for using social media?
BE SELECTIVE WITH WHO YOU CHOOSE TO FOLLOW.
And when I say selective, I mean incredibly selective. I know we’ve heard this all before, but I will continue to reiterate the importance of narrowing down the list of who you “follow” to people who lift you up and inspire you. Every month, I scroll through my list and “unfollow” anyone who is no longer providing anything good in my life. Time-consuming, sure, but crucial in eliminating any kind of online toxicity. If someone isn’t bringing any good into your life, then don’t subject yourself to their photos in your home feed. Out of sight, out of mind.
Based on last week’s event, I did (once again) doubt social media. I had extreme hesitations about whether or not to continue to blog and post pictures of myself online. However, I reminded myself of my purpose - sharing my story to help others. And that goal, along with my intention to change the mental health landscape (and connect with people along the way), trumped ruminating on any sort of comment that was left (and quickly deleted) on my photo.
What I encourage YOU to do is evaluate what your purpose is in using social media. Is it to connect with people? Is it to promote your brand or your business? Is it purely for entertainment? Or do you use it primarily as a means to compare yourself to others? Along with narrowing down your reason(s) as to why you log on to these platforms, you need to think about how social media makes you feel. After scrolling through Instagram, are you left feeling empowered and driven? Or do you feel down and defeated? Really TUNE IN to how you feel when using the different online platforms. Of course, social media will never be 100% black or white, but figuring out the overall picture will help YOU decide whether or not it is serving you well.
For more on mental health awareness and advocacy, specifically in relation to eating disorders, you can check out my Instagram account (@meghanturnbull) or my blog (www.recoverybymeghan.com). Don’t be shy to send me a message - I would be happy to connect with YOU!