By Millie Goodwin, Business Development Executive
As someone who spends a lot of their free time on social media, as most people seem to do nowadays, I wondered to myself what am I even getting out of this? What is it that’s keeping me drawn in for hours upon hours? Lockdown was an excuse for a ridiculous amount of screentime, and according to Ofcom an average of four hours a day were spent online in April 2020.
Social media apps benefitted hugely from the pandemic, too. TikTok experienced huge growth during the pandemic – from 3 million UK adult visitors in September 2019, to 14 million by March 2021.
When I really thought about why my mind gets so caught up in the whirlwind that is social media, I realised it really does come down to 3 simple things:
The first one being FOMO or fear of missing out. For a lot of people Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, TikTok, etc… are where we build our links with most people. It’s where conversations start; it’s where we build links with people who share the same interests and values as us; it’s where we get the new ideas of places to visit, eat, see, and what to watch on the telly. I know I would have never tried Squid Games off my own back but the influx of tweets raving on about it sparked my interest. We use social media to share the best parts of our lives. If we didn’t have social media, these connections would be lost, and we would be left wondering what connections and shared experiences people are having without us.
The second one being validation. When we post a picture, we get notified about how many people have liked the post, the more the better. If you were to post on someone’s feed who had a large following and they responded or just even liked the post, you would feel proud. As adults we all need validation. It’s just part of human nature and social media enlarges that – we don’t have to do anything amazing, just sit behind a screen and hope a few people press the like button. When lockdown limited our opportunities to engage with family and friends in person, social media offered us the virtual alternative.
The third and final thing is comfort. I know it sounds ridiculous; how can you find comfort in something that nine times out of 10 gives us a headache. But when you think about it, it’s giving us comfort and familiarity in an unfamiliar setting. Sitting in a restaurant waiting for a friend, attending an event with strangers, social media gives us a way to connect to social objects and to people that we know, so we feel less alone or uncertain.
I do believe lockdown had a dramatic change on everyone’s intake of social media so maybe that’s harder to let go of. But it’s important that we establish relationships outside of social media and that we realise we might be so busy obsessing over what we are missing out on social media, that we are actually missing out on what’s going on right in front of us.