I'm backing the launch of Social Media Kindness Day and here's how Instagram life can grind my gears…
My Instagram has always been a very positive place for me. I started it while recovering from an eating disorder and through it found a community I didn’t have in real life. While I had a few friends who knew what was going on, they couldn’t provide me with the support I needed, and nor should they. (Eating disorders are complex and difficult for anyone to understand, let alone teenagers.) However, through my Instagram I was able to share my recovery and receive and give support to others in the same situation. I’m sure there were darker sides of Instagram too, even back then, but I was blissfully unaware of anything but the positivity.
People's tolerance is low and their reactivity high
As my following grew, unsurprisingly the number of unhelpful, trolling and rude comments increased, although thankfully it remains at manageable levels. Sadly, I see this commonly across social media – people’s tolerance is low and their reactivity high. After eight plus years with my current Instagram page, on balance, I've concluded: On social media, like real life, you meet all sorts. Not all of them are great, but for the most part people are pretty nice. In fact, I’ve fostered a very thoughtful, inquisitive and tight-knit community on my pages, which I love.
But there are a few things that really grinds my gears. You have to remember that, for many people, the individual incidences of these points is perfectly OK but, after years of it, it can become exhausting, so here goes…
I actually made a whole highlight about this, when a man gave me some (pretty patronising) boxing ‘advice’ after I posted a session with my coach - who is, indeed, an actual coach and not a random, 'man on the internet' armchair expert.
The main source of irritation is that I know this would rarely happen if a man posted a video of their training. For some reason, there’s a strange power dynamic whereby if a male feels emasculated, they tell you that you’re doing something wrong to reassure themselves that they do, in fact, know better. I’ve never received the same level of unsolicited advice from women.
People asking questions which are easy to Google and questions that I’ve answered on my blog or YouTube. I understand and respect that for many people, health and fitness is a minefield, and having someone to talk to about it can be useful. However, I try to make it as obvious as possible that all my platforms, especially my blog and YouTube, have the almost sole purpose of answering people’s questions. I don’t earn money from either of them and they’re pretty time consuming, so when people DM me with a question I’ve answered on both my blog and YouTube, I get pretty annoyed. The occasional comment doesn’t get to me so much but when it’s the fifteenth question, asking the same thing, it’s quite frustrating!
To me it also suggests that they believe that their time is more valuable than mine, and that they are entitled to direct access to me whenever they want. I’m more than happy to help people, but it’s much more efficient for me to answer questions en masse on my blog than individually in DM's.
Brands asking for work for free and brands trying to bypass my agent to get work through me directly. Both acts lead to deleting of messages, blocking or angry messages back. People don’t do this by accident – it’s a very common, well thought-out plan to try to get as much labour as possible, as cheaply as possible. I know my worth to a brand, and I no longer allow sneaky tactics, bribery or bullying by PRs to get work for less than a reasonable fee for the time involved.
One of the best things you can do for your mental health is unfollow someone you find annyoying
People who assume that because I’m on social media and have X number of followers, I’m not a real person. I think it’s easy to assume that someone who has a large following cares more about how they appear online than actually being a good person but, for the most part, that’s not been true of any bloggers I’ve met.
Snarky and snide comments and troll accounts are worryingly common the more followers you have. What I find worse though, is the number of times I’ve heard: “When I met you I assumed we’d have nothing in common and you’d be just 'another vapid influencer”’. I get that a lot of people on social media have a lot to answer for in terms of authenticity and credibility. But that’s the case throughout life – you’re not always going to get on with everyone you meet. A person who started their account to help or inspire people, or to record their workouts, doesn’t become self-obsessed and ‘vapid’ simply because they have more followers than when they started.
I think it’s about time we remembered that, regardless of someone’s social media following, they are a real person with real feelings, real concerns and real insecurities. If you find someone online annoying, one of the best things you can do for your mental health is unfollow them, in the same way you would avoid someone you dislike in real life.
Is online bullying part and parcel of having social media? I don't think it should be that way
Also, on this point, I'm confused by the number of people who ‘hate follow’ big accounts, purely to tear them down. Luckily I don’t get much of this, but I see it all the time and it’s nasty. Far too many people believe that experiencing online bullying is just part and parcel of having social media but I don’t think it should be that way, and I believe there should be more support for those suffering, and more accountability for the perpetrators.
Currently, the onus is on the victims to do something about it, and there is a ‘victim-blamey’ attitude towards online harassment. As Caroline Flack said: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”.
Social Media Kindness Day
Social media is increasingly playing a large part in our daily lives. We're the first generation of social media users - essentially we're guinea pigs! We need to make it a kinder place as opposed for it to be somewhere anger and hate breeds. Everytime we use social media, we leave an imprint. Social Media Kindness Day is encouraging for all those imprints to be kind!
Most people would never make the nasty remarks they do on social media to a person's face. This is because they would be able to see the hurt and upset caused by those words. On social media, the ability to see that reaction is taken away. You never know how someone would react to the nasty messages they receive on social media.
It is for this reason that Social Media Kindness Day was created. It is also in memory of the late TV presenter Caroline Flack, being held on what would have been her birthday - 9th November. It is through her message of being kind that this day is connected to her. We are wanting it to be a movement, not just for a day but for generations to come - where unkindness isn't tolerated. Social media should be a place where people can socialise, network, do business and live 'their best life' without fear of negativity.
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