The Power of Social Media
This blog post is taking a slightly different direction to those we have previously posted, but seems to be a topic that is becoming ever more in the foreground of everyone's lives. Social media. Oh how we love to hate you. Many accounts have been posting recently about the impact social media has had on their lives, particularly their mental health and well-being. So what is it about social media makes us so enticed? But also makes us question our sanity?
For us, we started our Not Your Average Family social media accounts with the plan of sharing our story. In the real world, we had never heard of any other special guardians and wanted to connect with others through the power of social media. This is exactly what we have achieved through our account. We have been able to talk with so many special guardians and share our own personal experiences. We’ve been able to signpost each other to useful resources, compare support received and share our struggles. We have also been able to raise awareness of how to support bereaved children and, hopefully, contributed to removing the stigma around death. It never fails to amaze us every time someone messages us to say that they will now reconsider how they word certain things. All of this has opened our eyes to different approaches to supporting bereavement. Before we started connecting with others and hearing their experiences, we thought our way was the only way. But that obviously isn’t the case.
That’s the thing about social media, it makes you so much more willing to be open and honest (something you all know that we just love), probably more so than you would be in real life. Some of the things we have shared on this blog are extremely personal and, in a lot of cases, things we haven’t even spoken to our friends and family about. This isn’t because we don’t want to talk to them about things. It’s so much easier to open up on social media, to type something into a screen and send it off into the World Wide Web. It’s pretty crazy to think that anything that you post and share can be seen by thousands of people. We would personally be terrified to speak in front of that many people about our lives. But sharing a journey with so many people instantly is what makes social media so mind blowing…
However, there are also negatives that come hand in hand with this. How many of us are guilty of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, dishing out likes like there’s no tomorrow? Of not even reading the content of a post before we like or comment? Of ignoring what’s actually going on in our real lives so we can see what we’ve missed on social media? We certainly are. It’s also easy to become obsessive over your own account. Constantly checking how many followers you have gained and lost is just one aspect. We often wonder what the final straw was for someone to click unfollow. What post was it that made them think ‘I’m done with this account”? And don’t even get us started on accounts that follow just to unfollow. The number of likes is also something that we know people fret over. What makes one post more popular than the other? The instagram algorithm has a lot to answer for. When you write these things down, they seem so trivial but when you are sharing your life it’s hard not to take it all personally.
Obviously this is very minor in comparison to some of the real problems with social media. Being behind a phone or laptop can encourage people to write whatever they are thinking or feeling without considering the consequences. Social media has allowed a whole new type of cyberbullying to evolve; trolling. Everytime we speak to others about trolling, it never fails to shock and appall us that it is even a real thing that people choose to spend their time doing. Just because people choose to put certain aspects of their lives onto a social media should not mean that their lives are open to ridicule. What amazes us the most is that there is no way that trolling comments would ever be said to someone face-to-face. And that people do not seem to understand the severity of the comments they are making. We are lucky that we haven’t experienced trolling yet. But we have had so many private messages where people have asked us really inappropriate questions about our situation. As said before, just because you share some of your life on social media doesn’t mean that you should share it all, or that people should expect it. We should be allowed to keep some parts of us private.
When we started Not Your Average Family, we agreed that we would keep Niece and Nephew’s identities anonymous. The main reason for this is simply because they are not old enough to understand what putting your face on social media actually means. Secondly, the nature of what we talk about on our accounts is quite personal and sensitive. We obviously do not share anything that they do not know themselves and are very open with them about the content of the blog posts, but we just feel like we are protecting them further by covering their faces. This may be something that we choose to change in the future but for now it is what works for us.
And we think that is all you can really do when it comes to social media… just do what works best for you. There are so many positives that social media brings, despite it being extremely overwhelming at times. There are always going to be negative people in the world that just have to have an opinion on everything. Let them. But then report them. Social media has provided us with invaluable support which we will be eternally grateful for.