The new ‘mirror’ on the wall: Social media engagement, boon or bane?

The new ‘mirror’ on the wall: Social media engagement, boon or bane?

Most of us are familiar with the Grimms’ story of Snow White, in which the queen had a magic mirror on the wall – a legendary mirror that told who the ‘fairest’ person in the kingdom was. It should really have just been a unique magical object that made people feel good and have some fun.

But as the fairy-tale warns us, it turns the queen into an obsessive person finally leading to her own destruction. It is doubtful if the ‘Brothers Grimm,’ even with their vivid imaginations, would have realised just how prophetic their story would be.

The Internet and Virtual Reality (VR) has become the base of a paradigm shift in the way we connect to the world and reach out to others. It has made distances redundant, giving a platform for the exchange of ideas; and in the process, enabled gigantic and earlier implausible, leaps in technology. Social networking has empowered us to stay connected constantly and to reach out to new people.

Digital ‘avatar’s’, photo editing tools, posts, tweets and messenger’s help us become more expressive. We now have a virtual ‘mirror’ which constantly updates us on everything we need to know about anything and anyone!

An aspiring air hostess Kim Ahuja says, “My everyday ritual meant newer posts and pictures on Snap Chat, Facebook, and Instagram. I check my phone constantly to check comments and likes; a single negative comment would make me angry. When my posts did not get me appreciation, I would get depressed and would compensate by putting up more pictures the next day – I was caught in a vicious cycle. My mother and my best friend made efforts to get me off this habit.”

Sommelier Nikhil Gupta said, “Every celebrity and socialite that came into our winery, had to be posted about on my personal social media pages – I was hooked to showing off my high-flying lifestyle. I started feeling that if I don’t show off this lifestyle, I have nothing to talk about to anyone. When the likes, comments, and retweets declined, I went into denial and felt like I was failing in life. I sought help from my friends and even met a therapist”

The new ‘mirror’ on the wall: Social media engagement, boon or bane?
Dr Kedar Tilwe

Too much involvement with social media can have its own repercussions. So, as we use the platform to feel good and share our experiences, let’s look at some of the drawbacks that we tend to ignore and forget:

  • The need to present oneself in the best possible light forces us to edit, modify and sometimes even drastically alter our images, opinions, and thoughts that we upload. In our endeavour to garner more appreciation, we often forget that it is our little imperfections which make us unique and endearing.
  • Self-esteem and self-worth which were your personal feelings are now measured by the number of likes, retweets, and followers you generate.
  • Experiences and memories are often only as good as the total views and comments they generate. Even the family meal is now rated on the basis of chatter on social sites rather than the way they taste.
  • Another area of concern is the altering of opinion on your own body-image as we try to imitate the perfect size figure or the most number of abs that is popular; often forgetting the limits of our body.
  • The search for the perfect selfie is fast becoming a public obsession and sometimes even a source of major accidents.
  • Cyber-bullying and trolling are new demons which make people feel battered and punitive.
  • And most importantly we tend to erroneously substitute actual human connect for the online one; leading to strain and misunderstanding in our relationships.

The story is only as good as the ‘morals’ we learn from it. So, let’s remember the tale of Snow White and try to empower ourselves to use the ‘mirror’ and not become its slaves!

The author is a consultant, Psychiatrist, Sexologist, Department Of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi