Before social media, you didn’t know for sure what your neighbors and friends thought.
These days, we learn what those around us think and feel in public statuses and comments. And if you’re part of a minority– religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity– it can be downright scary seeing what people say with no shame.
As a therapist, I see this play out in our sense of physical and emotional safety. The desire to belong is so strong, and we can feel deep rejection when learning what others are saying about our value as people. This is especially pertinent to teenagers, who are often going through tumultuous journeys in figuring out who they are and where they fit into the world. Throw in the social media opinions, and the potential for isolation grows exponentially.
But even for adults, the damaging effects of oppression through social media can be profound. Just because we are “grown up” doesn’t mean we aren’t affected by hateful messages and conceptualizations. It hurts.
Working through these feelings can shed light on insecurities that we carry, many of which we have carried for a long time but are being amplified. When we do that, we are able to process what it all means for us, and also come up with a toolkit for how to take care of ourselves when we feel triggered or activated by what we read.
The more aware we become about what sets us off, the more we can set the right boundaries, find spaces where we do feel valued, and find ways to use social media as a means of connection and community.