I am passionate about mental health and wellbeing, with social media and its negative impacts particularly resonating with me!
How Facebook can be a most toxic environment for young people:
It’s not news I’m sure to hear that Social Media can be most toxic, resulting in various, detrimental impacts on the mental health of young people. This is something I have learned from both my personal experience and the general observation of the various platforms themselves, along with the vast amount of articles that I have came across of various research studies etc. The Royal Public Health Society conducted a survey back in 2017 which indicated Instagram to be the worst social media platform for mental health in young people, which I can fully understand and am not very surprised by of course. However, based on my own personal experience/perspective, Facebook is without a doubt the worst, most toxic, unhealthy social media platform there is for young people, with the most damaging, detrimental impacts on mental health and well-being.
Fortunately, I quit this toxic monstrosity long ago, due to the various toxic, and most annoying, exasperating things I came across, or experienced, including the following:
1.Toxic posts/quotes emphasizing the most toxic messages:
I remember feeling myself becoming increasingly infuriated and exasperated when I kept coming across posts nearly every day in my news feed that were all these toxic quotes shared by my various facebook “friends” that would be really toxic and superficial. There were lots that were really insulting and toxic towards women, with one saying “All I want in life is a boob job, a tan that doesn’t rub off in the bath and a £1000 MAC voucher”. I saw this post shared by at least two of my Facebook “friends” as well and couldn’t have felt more angry, not to mention in utter disbelief at just how extremely superficial, not to mention how extremely insulting to women, this was. I mean the vast range of imagery you find throughout social media promoting all these superficial beauty ideals in females is toxic enough, but when someone’s actually written down a whole quote on it, that couldn’t be more superficial and toxic the way it even says “All I want in life…” (it might have even been all I need! I don’t want to look it up again it’ll make me too angry!) is a whole new level of toxicity and superficiality, just knowing someone would actually take the time to write that down and publish this. Ironically, one of my Facebook “friends” who shared this was also a radical feminist, sharing radical feminist posts every day about how horrible men are, although this post was the exact opposite of feminist.
There were various other posts of all these toxic, pathetic quotes that were very insulting towards women, such as ones saying “Men who don’t treat their women like princesses are absolute idiots!” and “Men should always chase after women, if a woman has to chase after the man that is not good as he is clearly not trying hard enough!” and “Men should always pamper their women with chocolates and flowers”. Ugh it’d make me so angry as although these posts were meant to be (most irrationally) criticizing men, they were actually WAAAYYYYY more insulting towards women, the sense of irony being a most painful one, as it was just plainly objectifying them, making them out to be nothing but girlfriend material, as well as weak, helpless, dependant individuals that can do nothing but wait around all day for their men to pamper them or chase after them, like they’re a pet or something, as well as undermining their identities to that of “princesses” as opposed to individuals.
There were many toxic posts of various topics I’m sure, but the majority of them that I can recall were indeed these ones that were most insulting to women.
2. Seeing the everyday, personal lives of people you don’t even care about or like for that matter, along with the overall lack of privacy and intimacy:
This is another thing that I realized was becoming increasingly unhealthy for me when on Facebook; having around 600 Facebook “friends” who were mostly people I didn’t at all care for, or even like for that matter, only disliking them more and more as I’d see them post on Facebook, cramming up my news feed with all sorts of toxic and exasperating stuff, treating Facebook as their diary. In hindsight, I thought to myself “Why I am seeing daily updates of the everyday/personal lives of people I don’t even know, care for, or like?!” I realized this was not doing me and my wellbeing any good, to be exposed to people with such toxicity on a daily basis, the kinds of people I would usually want to stay well away from, yet here I was being exposed to them on a daily basis. It wasn’t even just stuff about their everyday/personal lives they’d post, but also like I’ve mentioned above, really toxic stuff that promoted societal beauty and body image ideals that were really insulting to women, with one of these same girls who treated Facebook as her pregnancy diary also supporting Kim Kardashian’s nude selfies, saying that if she had a body like that she’d flaunt it around too!
It annoyed and exasperated me to see these people treating Facebook as their diaries, namely their pregnancy diaries, with these girls in their late teens/early twenties documenting and publicising every little detail of their pregnancies and love lives surrounding the pregnancies, as well as updating their statuses while they were in labour, realizing they were far too immature to be having a baby, with it all seeming to be a big fat bandwagon that these girls were all jumping on, treating pregnancy as an image thing as opposed to a serious, life-changing milestone. The amount of these girls doing it as well was just ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning teenage/young pregnancies in general, but rather the immature attitudes and behaviours these young girls have towards their pregnancies, being all IMAGE, IMAGE, IMAGE, and just publicising all these personal details on their Facebook for hundreds of people to see. I’d even see posts of people who weren’t even my Facebook “friends”, simply because one of my facebook “friends” had liked or commented on their post, and it was most exasperating as I never asked for this and also didn’t care to know this, just like I didn’t care to know that my facebook “friend” had shared a post that was just the most ridiculous, exasperating thing ever.
That’s another thing I didn’t like about Facebook; how impersonal things are, with people publicizing everything that goes on in their life, through photos, statuses etc., there being no sense of personalness and privacy at all. I’m just so glad I can now update people about my life in a personal, intimate context, being 1:1 or on a small-scale, and where you can actually talk with them personally about it, making things so much more intimate. I want to be able to actually update them and discuss these things with them through a deep, meaningful conversation, rather than having them say “Oh yeah I heard/saw all about you doing that on Facebook”. I’d hate as well to see all people commenting publicly on say an achievement in my life expressing their congratulations as opposed to being able to send me these wishes in personal while having a deep, meaningful discussion about it, or send me a card (which goes for all greetings as well!). Besides, how many of these people who you’re sharing this news with, who are liking your posts, do you think actually care about you and your achievements in life? How often do you actually speak to these people?
That’s another significant reason I’m no longer on Facebook, because of all the toxic people I had from my old life back when I was a teenager, being bullies and so-called “friends”, who I couldn’t be more happy to have rid from my life since, having come so far since all those years ago. If I was on Facebook, there’s always a chance they’d find me and add me to have a good old nose at my life of course, as that had actually happened a few years ago when I thought I’d give Facebook another try, even though I hadn’t had anything to do with them in years. Even if you’re not the one exposing your life, the whole concept of Facebook (and other social media platforms, though mainly Facebook and Twitter with their stupid “status updates” is just very disappointing and dissatisfying I find, knowing that everybody knows all that goes on in your life, with there being no sense of privacy at all. But when people misuse and abuse it like this, treating Facebook like their diaries, going on about every detail of everything they do to hundreds of people, it really is most concerning and often toxic.
This is something I actually experienced no end of as a teenager on Facebook, with Facebook only seemingly having further encouraged this, and was really having the most toxic, detrimental impact on my health and well-being to be exposed to such a thing on an everyday basis, while I was at home as well, meaning I never could escape the bullies, when I should’ve been spending that time relaxing and enjoying myself, making myself happy.
It was largely people from school who would endlessly bully me on Facebook through photo-shaming, wall posts, snide comments etc., but I’d even also have people I didn’t know suddenly add me, and, after I’d unwisely accepted them, approach me on Facebook with severe verbal attacks. The like system definitely encouraged the bullying, with all these “followers” of the main bullies seemingly just jumping onto a big “let’s pick on her” bandwagon, because they were too weak to write their own horrible post, and seemingly because it made them feel “bigger” as well.
Overall, Facebook really does encourage bullying greatly, even more than other social media platforms I would’ve said with the whole being able to write on other peoples walls. It was a brutal experience, being the most toxic thing anyone can experience on social media. The aformentioned things were toxic for me, but at least they weren’t personally, directly targetted at me.
4. The Ultimate Bandwagon/Internalization/Competition:
This is perhaps Facebook (and all social media for that matter) in a nutshell; the ultimate bandwagon. The whole system of sharing and likes very much encourages this, with people very much conforming to all these particular trends and ideals, i.e beauty ideals, social ideals, woke culture, politics, etc. etc. It all gets very much internalized through Facebook, like I’ve mentioned previously with the trend of teenager/young pregnancies, where girls in their mid-late teens and early twenties would forever be sharing all their details of their pregnancies and births, very much over-indulging in the whole image of having a baby. I’d notice these same posts popping up everywhere I looked by all these different girls who seemed to be all jumping on this same superficial, image-indulgent bandwagon with all these personal details of their pregnancies and births and very cliched quotes on how they love their child and that they are their lives etc.
That is just one of many examples, as I also recall whenever there’d be something going on in current affairs, such as a general election or whatever my newsfeed would suddenly be bombarded with one personal after another sharing their thoughts and attitudes on the whole matter, despite the fact they had never shown any interest in the matter previously. You’d see one status, then another right after that, then another, like it honestly just seemed to be a theme of “Oh ’cause everyone else is posting a status about it I’ll also post a status about it.” Other bandwagon examples included all photos which would also cram up my newsfeed of people, mainly girls, of my peerage all on a night out together in these big gangs, being all dressed up while boozing and appearing all drunk and “wild”. It seemed to be a societal/social ideal that we should all have very bustling, eventful, extroverted social lives/lifestyles where we go out in big gangs, revelling in alcohol and nightlife, for our young generation of teenagers-twenty-somethings at least, social, extrovert ideals being very much internalized the more photos I’d see.
There’s nothing wrong with having this lifestyle of course, in fact extroversion can be a very positive, admirable trait, it’s just the way that it gets so frequently externalized and internalized like this, as if it really is the social norm and societal ideal for young people, when really it is individuality that should be encouraged and embraced, something which Facebook seems to do very much the opposite of. It’s that whole “perfect life” illusion that social media is commonly known for being the ultimate vehicle of now, where people feel the need to share everything that’s going so great in their life, with photos of their ultimate amazing, extroverted, eventful social life, status updates of all their academic achievements, their pregnancies, their adorable kids, and it all just seems very much about the “perfect” image, so everyone, all hundreds of people, can see this and express their congratulations through likes and comments, and so they can feel proud of theirselves for getting so many likes and comments. It’s all very much interalized into a competition, as social comparison kicks in, as well as FOMO (fear of missing out), which can have negative impacts on the mental and emotional health of people who are exposed to all these posts who don’t have all these things that constitute the “ideal” life. Beauty ideals are another thing that seem to be internalized throughout social media, namely in girls who are pressured and promoted to appear a certain way, with those quotes I mentioned previously being the most toxic form of this, although Instagram of course seems to be the primary platform that encourages that now, being solely a photo/video sharing app with selective exposure.
I could go on forever I guess, write a whole essay on it, but these are the main aspects I have previously observed and experienced that result in Facebook being such a toxic environment, leading to severe feelings of exasperation to the point of being detriment to the mental health and well-being of young people. I have lived a much happier, calmer, healthier and more wholesome life since quitting Facebook, finding it easier to embrace my self-identity and individuality, something which is a truly great feeling. The feeling of not mindlessly scrolling through your news feed, feeling bored-rigid but doing it simply because you are bored and addicted it something I wish all young people could have, along with replacing the practice of sharing details of your life through Facebook with sharing details of your life in a much more intimate manner, with just a few close, quality friends through WhatsApp or in person. It vastly improves your quality of life and mental health, something which is most important among young people I’m sure.
Here are some snarky memes that sum up my thoughts and feelings about Facebook in a perfect little nutshell:
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.