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Social media explained: health, habits and humanity

So, if you've watched Netflix's 'The Social Dilemma' you might be in the throes of preparing for the inevitable Skynet takeover! No need to look out for Arnold Schwarzenegger just yet, Ouma are here to show you how to use social media in a healthy and positive way.

Social media has made some fantastic, systemic changes to society on a global scale. From re-connecting long lost relatives to raising millions of pounds for charities, social media platforms were created to be, and continue to be, essentially forces for good. They offer opportunity and broaden horizons with no regard for geographical restriction. They bring like-minded individuals, campaigns and advocates together to fight for a better world. However, there is also a well-known and well-researched correlation between mental ill-health and social media.

From screen addiction to societal polarization, depression to dopamine deficit, social media platforms can be volatile places. Due to the way in which the algorithms work, social media can exasperate situations by presenting data to the user similar to what they have engaged with previously, whether this is good for their wellbeing or not. This is how fake news manages to spread 6 x times faster than authentic news items. The constant and sometimes irrational feed of information can overwhelm us, control our feelings and slowly change our habits.

Social media platforms are among some of the most successful and profitable companies in the world. Silicon Valley accounts for one-third of all of the venture capital investment in the USA. This is big business and the more you use your social media accounts, the higher the profits climb. As a result, tech companies are under huge amounts of pressure to increase engagement and results. This means that the algorithms behind these platforms are designed and coded to keep you engaged with their content. But this doesn't have to be as sinister as it sounds and there are a number of ways to stay in control of your usage, habits and feelings. Tristan Harris, founder of the Centre for Humane Technologies, is doing some ground-breaking research to 'work directly with technologists to create a new definition of success: one that honours human nature, grows responsibly, and helps us live lives aligned with our deepest values.'

Let's look at how to consume social media in a way that is right for you and why that's so important. As a team, we use social media every single day and work with the various algorithms to not only create connections for our clients but also to enrich our own lives in a positive and healthy way. Below is our wholehearted advice on safely using social media platforms to enhance your life experience...

Engage with positive content and keep engaging!

Each word of moral outrage or aggressive origin added to the text of a social post increases the rate of engagement by a phenomenal 17%! Without even knowing, your newsfeed is more likely to be filled with negative outrage and aggression. You can counteract this by intentionally liking, following and sharing pages and posts that release positive content which interests you, it is likely the algorithm will then keep providing you with similar content to interact with.

Be aware of scrolling and screen time!

'A recent survey of over 2000 American adults indicates a high incidence of potential warning signs of Facebook addiction, particularly among 18-44-year-olds, of which 30% feel anxious if they haven’t checked it for two hours'- Honest Data, 2020. We often find ourselves mindlessly scrolling through newsfeeds with no real interest or intention. Be careful of how many hours per day and per week you spend doing this. There are apps and smartphone functions that can assist with monitoring your screen time and ensure you have a healthier, balanced lifestyle.

Have a good clean-up of your accounts!

Analysis from the Pew Research Centre in 2018 found that 66% of popular posts leading to links to websites (in particular news websites) were created by robot accounts aka 'bots'. This means that the individuals behind the ‘bots’ have a disproportion influence on what you see on your newsfeed. Start to un-follow accounts that present you with content that you know is damaging to your mental health or is not spreading a message aligned with your personal values.

Keep it real!

L Rainie and K Zucker carried out research with the Pew Institute in early 2020 and found that 89% of smartphone users believe it is okay to check their phones for alerts, emails and messages whilst in a social gathering. Be sure to keep some things in the real world, engage with real people and enjoy your social life offline. Live in the moment and be more mindful to make some real-life memories.

Don't compare your real life with another's highlights reel!

There is a literal tonne of research and analysis on how we compare ourselves to others on social media, but we thought we would keep this one simple; When individuals post to social media, they post the very best version of themselves. Be careful of comparing your real and wonderfully imperfect life with a perfect, filtered and edited image of someone else's life.

As a marketing company, we believe we have a duty of care to social media users to add value to their lives and experience online by providing useful, positive content. We are constantly aware of our social responsibilities. We hold no agenda to our advertising activities on social platforms, simply to put a product, service or aspiration in-front of those that may be interested in it. We think carefully about who we work with to ensure that their business ethics and values are aligned with our own to forge healthy social media marketing strategies that don't just view 'users' as demographics and target audiences, but real-life people.

When asked about ethical social marketing, our Director, Ross Jones, commented; "The campaigns we run for our customers reach about 10% of the UK's entire population, and geographically, around 70% of social users in South Wales on a monthly basis; a percentage we're very proud to reach, but one which we know holds a great deal of social responsibility. For this reason, we have very strict in-house rules for the customers we advertise with, and the subsequent quality of content advertised. It's not a case of 'cash is cash', it's important to us that ethical values are aligned, and social responsibilities respected."

We're also very proud to be the only social advertising agency in the UK to be running campaigns for mental health charity, Samaritans, to raise awareness of the services available for those who need support, or who have been impacted by their personal use of social media."


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