Reflections on Social Media Toxic Positivity
The term “toxic positivity” might seem controversial but that is the exact reason we should think about how we use social media currently, take a step back and analyze which benefits it brings us. Looking from another perspective, how does social media use us? For the last two generations and mainly the last one, using a phone seems to be something almost innate! Is it a coincidence that this addiction which has already become part of us and can be one of the factors that increase depression and new diseases like Snapchat dysmorphia is also growing at a fast pace like the tech giants industries?
What is really positive about all this? The connection between what you are and what you want to be can be extremely linked to the usage of social media. Influencers and socialite niche keeps growing and showing globally a lifestyle most people would like to have, or a body, a face, a house, a trip, and basically anything that is considered “perfect” goes viral and becomes a pattern. No one really needs to be in those groups to pretend to be or have something they don‘t on social media.
In some realities, people are able to achieve and pay for all the procedures and trips they want to do in order to fit in this system. Some people are able to look like a Snapchat filter in the surgery room, others do this with Photoshop. Are you able to relate to any of these? On one hand, big technology industries are all the time tracking us and showing us what to buy and where to go, who to vote and what to believe. On the other, this toxic behavior comes from us wishing all the time to be something we are not.
The influence this situation has in our minds is just something that we can’t afford and we should not try to be different from who we are. When did we start to hate the way we look and the things we have? How problematic it is that we are only able to feel happy and accomplished if we post something, if we look like Kim Kardashian, or all these unsustainable, and for many people, unreachable dreams? The chaos of massive amounts of toxic positivity and a denial of this reality is making society sick as I am writing this.
If we observe companies’ Instagram’s, influencers, or even our colleagues’ feeds, is not that normal to see negative things or habits highlighted, and you will say: “of course not! Why this should even be a thing?” On many people’s social media there is a level of perfection that is so high, the feed organization, and the cute quotes of how life is so perfect. They are also the people who pretend not to be affected by the pandemic of COVID-19, or that like to say that failing is not acceptable, etc. They just don’t understand or don’t want to admit that life is not that easy. It doesn’t matter if you “put your mindset to reach your goal above everything”. No. That is not how it goes. Usually, people who believe in this do not really understand how the world works and the number of people who do not even have food or clean water.
Research says that what really happens currently is the opposite of what was – probably- supposed to be the goal of good vibes motivational stuff we see every day when opening our phones. Part of the truth about the side effects social media brings us is the increase of mental illness and even raising the rates of suicide. “A new study has found that Individuals who engage in social media, gaming, texting, cell phones, etc., are more likely to have depression and anxiety” (Amedie, Jacob, 2015).
As if the “positive vibrations” words would change someone’s reality magically. Based on my reality and what I see here in Finland, I know that it is a HUGE privilege to be able to do whatever you want with your life and use motivational conversation in a way that is really toxic and unreal for most of the world. When this “positivity” magic does not happen, frustration comes along with sadness and a bunch of other feelings that are usually difficult to acknowledge. When I feel sad or frustrated, I always try to remember those feelings are actually good in a way that they are necessary for me to develop and I need to feel them. Otherwise, how would I understand happiness if there was no sadness?
It is not even necessary to say that reflecting on those outcomes is not interesting for tech companies, which aim to make us feel like we always need something more and to show other people online that those “bad” feelings can’t get us. This helps them to influence our behavior and even sell more whatever product or service they are trying to sell. It gets to a point the I personally do not know what to do or where to get the tools or strength to go against this wave. My thought is that we should try to understand that there are no negative feelings, also positive feelings do not exist. They are just necessary feelings that come into our lives so we can survive and thrive. Now, I would like to know: how do you use your social media? Have you ever thought about the effect it can bring to someone else’s life? Let’s focus on real feelings and reality!
Amedie, Jacob, “The Impact of Social Media on Society” (2015). Pop Culture Intersections. 2.