As social media apps continue to consume everyday life, more and more users are re-evaluating their time spent on online platforms, recognizing that, although it offers countless benefits, it also poses many drawbacks.
Apart from your own internal criticism, or, surely, that of a family member, there are several high-profile personalities that would tell you about the toxicities of high social media usage.
These famous people have given their two cents on how social media can be toxic to your mental health and why you should take a break!
In the field of politics, in which I am obtaining an undergraduate degree, you have to be online to establish valuable connections and to discover information from constituents. In this regard, I look to AOC as a role model.
The US congresswoman may have a prominent social media presence, but she has taken a step back from her social media platforms – including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – for the sake of her own mental health.
“I personally gave up Facebook, which was kind of a big deal because I started my campaign on Facebook. And Facebook was my primary digital organizing tool for a very long time. I gave up on it,” she said during an appearance on the Skullduggery podcast for Yahoo News. “Social media poses a public health risk to everybody. There are amplified impacts for young people, particularly children under the age of three, with screen time. But I think it has a lot of effects on older people. I think it has effects on everybody. Increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction and escapism.”
Accordingly, AOC has “started to impose little rules” for herself. She added: “Every once in a while, you’ll see me hop on Twitter on the weekends, but for the most part, I take consumption of content. When it comes to consumption and reading — I take the weekends off.”
The American-Irish actress, known for her roles in Mary Queen of Scotts and Little Women, used Twitter back in the 2000s but has since ditched it. In an interview with The Wrap, she said that, while she didn’t stick with Twitter, she understands why others use the platform. She adds, “I get why musicians do it, and journalists or people in the public eye. But acting is a different thing ’cause you’re not yourself when you’re working. I’m not me in anything that anyone sees me in.”
Personally, as someone who is in a field that requires making connections, and the only way to do so during the pandemic is through social media, I felt acknowledged by her statement.
The actress went on to say: “So for me then to get on Twitter and go, ‘Oh, I’ve had a terrible day’ or ‘God, I’ve got such a headache,’ I just don’t think people need to see that. And self-promotion has always made me feel really uncomfortable.”
The “Shape of You” artist Ed Sheeran, has a history of distancing himself from popular apps.
In 2015, the singer quit social media after he found himself spending too much time on his phone instead of enjoying life. “I find myself seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes so I’m taking this opportunity of me not having to be anywhere or do anything to travel the world and see everything I missed,” he posted on Instagram before taking a year-long hiatus from social media. Since then, in 2017, the singer officially ditched Twitter. While his account is still active, Ed’s bio reads: “I don’t use this anymore, please follow me on teddysphotos on Instagram, lots of love x”.
That’s not all. In 2019, he announced via Instagram that he’d be taking a break from social media, again. “Hello all. Gonna go on another break again,” he began. “The Divide era and tour changed my life in so many ways, but now it’s all over it’s time to go out and see some more of the world. I’ve been a bit non-stop since 2017 so I’m just gonna take a breather to travel, write and read. I’ll be off all social media until it’s time to come back.”
Mahira Khan – Pakistani Actress
As a Canadian-Pakistani who is proud of her heritage, I enjoy keeping up with Pakistani personalities and artists. Since beginning her acting career in 2011, Mahira Khan has starred in a wide variety of roles and characters that have won her praise.
The actress, in a recent video for her digital venture, Mashion, opened up about the topic of mental health problems and how social media tends to exaggerate it. She started by saying, “everyone is on social media,” and the status of being a celebrity does not detach one from being put down by other people’s comments online. She went on to add: “I struggle with a lot of other things. I struggle with anxiety and stress and sometimes being myself. I used to be able to laugh and talk and just be funny, whatever my sense of humour was and now everything is taken, a caption is taken and blown out of proportion. It kind of makes you cagey.”
The actress has also become a part of Ted Talk, addressing mental health concerns and social media inventions such as cyberbullying, where she has encouraged people to practise empathy and respect towards others.
Meghan Markle, the actress turned British royal, is no stranger to public harassment. After resigning from her title as the Duchess of Sussex, she has been subjected to public harassment from her father’s side of the family, the Royal Family and Piers Morgan.
In a special guest appearance on Teenage Therapy to commemorate World Mental Health Day, Markle opened up about the insurmountable hatred and abuse she had to deal with online. She explained, “[I was] told that in 2019 I was the most trolled person in the entire world — male or female.” She then went on to add: “Now for eight months of that, I wasn’t even visible. I was on maternity leave or with the baby, but what was able to be just manufactured and churned out, it’s almost unsurvivable. I don’t care if you are 15 or 25, if people are saying things about you that aren’t true, what that does to your mental and emotional health is damaging.”
In early 2020 when the couple found themselves entering a new chapter of life during the pandemic, they posted their last Instagram photo on their @sussexroyal account. The caption details that they are leaving social media for good due to being disillusioned by hate. Part of the caption reads: “As we all find the part we are to play in this global shift and changing of habits, we are focusing this new chapter to understand how we can best contribute,” adding that, “while you may not see us here, the work continues.”
The former actress and royal has definitely given us unique insights into social media issues, given her experience with inordinate amounts of hate and abuse online.
Another one of my favourite Pakistani personalities is the model, singer and now women’s rights activist, Meesha Shafi.
A couple of weeks after Meesha Shafi came forward with her story that fellow Pakistani singer Ali Zafar had sexually harassed her, the singer temporarily went on to deactivate her social media accounts. In an interview with Dawn Images, Meesha Shafi explained that “The abuse, threats, bullying and slander that I have faced is the reason I felt the strong need to protect not just myself but my family, especially my two young children who were also being subjected to personal attacks online.”
She also added in the interview that coming forward with her story required courage, and in deactivating her accounts afterwards, sitting still and staying silent again was painful. She later wrote in an Instagram post, “As viewers, we often see one side of the picture. We see pretty, colourful pictures of pretty people and we think their lives are perfect but celebrities have told us time and again that that’s not the full picture and that they too are struggling with mental health issues … Be gentle with yourself, tender and patient.”
Meesha Shafi remained tender and patient yet resolute in her allegations against the fellow singer, so much so that in 2022, she was able to get the government of Pakistan to amend the laws of Workplace Harassment.
One of the most beautiful faces of India, Deepika Padukone went from being a model to one of Bollywood’s highest-payed actresses.
The actress, who has admitted to chronic stress and depression, has spoken about the exaggerated effects of constantly being under the scanner, more so with the emergence of social media. She stated: “I think I have understood the correlation between consumption of social media and when it helps. I always believed that whatever you consume, you consume in moderation.” She goes on to add: “If you consume too much, it could have various sorts of impact, not just on your mental health but physical health too. I know people who are up at social media in the wee hours and probably letting it eat up their sleep time. As long as anything that you consume, whether it is social media or otherwise, is done in moderation, and you are aware about your social health, I think you are on the right path.”
I agree; moderation is key when it comes to social media because it can take over your life, and not in the ways you’d like it to.