Social media has had a lot of benefits for people, particularly in the autistic community. It is a way to talk to others and gain support without having to navigate the sensory hell that is our society. The neurodiversity paradigm has spread through social media, and many have become more aware of autism rights issues and more supportive.
For me, all this is true. But social media is also the home of trolls, cyber-bullies and those who engage in techniques such as gaslighting. Some hide behind the cloak of anonymity to spread hate and hurt others. And in my personal case, the negatives outweigh the positives.
The way companies try to manipulate others’ opinions on social media concerns and frightens me. The targeted advertisements are often creepy, seeming far too closely related to recent searches. And Cambridge Analytica is not the only company using our personal data to be manipulative – expect more scandals soon.
The humans are no better – spreading all their false information and contradictory stories. Everyone has an opinion, and all those who disagree are wrong. People often go to extremes with little regard for considering facts. For example, many people will either say Russia is the source of all evil or that Russia is the best and just unfairly demonised.
In 2012, a social media argument completely broke my heart, and it took years for me to fully get over that. 366 days ago, I lost most of my friends due to something that began on social media. It is the reason I am on antidepressants, and I am far from over it even a year later.
For all the good social media can do, it has done me far more harm. One of my favourite way to relax is to lie on my bed alone and spend hours imagining what my life would be like in an alternate timeline with one difference. Many of these timelines involve me quitting, or never using, social media.
If I had never used social media, the 2012 stuff wouldn’t have happened. Last year, things wouldn’t have fallen apart (if they ever began). I probably wouldn’t have ever had a group of close friends. Then again, I wouldn’t have felt the heartbreak over losing them. Whoever said it’s better to have loved and lost clearly had a very different personality to me.
At the moment, I do not have the choice to delete Facebook as so many have – I am on committees that use it as the primary communication method, and hence will not be able to get rid of it until July 6th at the earliest. On the 7th of July, I sincerely hope I will be able to wave goodbye to a platform that has harmed me.
Of course, for some people, social media is a lifeline. It can be fantastic, and it’s certainly not inherently bad. Certain companies have terrible policies, of course, but for some this does not outweigh the good. But for me, I can’t wait to get away.