Social Media Consumption in the Information Age

Read our latest blog by our Communications Assistant, Sadie Cole.

Another day in lockdown meant another night flicking through Netflix, desperately trying to find something new to watch to distract from the calamitous events of 2020. I recently came across a docudrama – The Social Dilemma – and whilst watching, I began to think about how we engage with technology, though more specifically social media, and how our consumption of the news plays into this relationship. In a time of disinformation campaigns, false news narratives and increased exposure to heavily edited images of perfection, I’m interested in knowing how we can utilise social media in the most positive way possible.

In the past decade, social media has impregnated our lives in ways nobody could have predicted even twenty years ago. As a result, think pieces exploring the effects of perfectly curated feeds and dopamine-driven algorithms on individual wellbeing, as well as the implications of excessive consumption, are now commonplace across websites like Medium, Twitter and Reddit. Whilst it would be wrong to assume that there is a defined, clear-cut solution to the problems humans now face as a result of excessive social media consumption, I strongly believe that the first step to take lay in recognising the power which we have as consumers.

As humans, we have the ability to make choices, yet with increasingly clever algorithms and data mining insights, we have become more passive when using social media. Whilst these algorithms and design features seek to influence the decisions we make by presenting us with scarily precise and tailored information, it is vital that we recognise how we can be active rather than passive when using these apps. By preventing YouTube from choosing your next ‘recommended’ video for you, or tailoring your Instagram following feed in a way which no longer has you obsessively checking up on that ex-boyfriend, you are able to regain a degree of control over what you’re exposed to and as a result, improve your overall mental wellbeing.

Of course, social media has the power to be an incredible resource, providing us with a much-needed form of escapism. In 2020, the news agenda can only be summarised as having been heavy, burdensome and worrying at the best of times, and downright terrifying at the worst. With Brexit uncertainty, the US elections and Covid-19 in amongst frequent human rights, environmental and economic calamities, refreshing the BBC News app has proven to be an experience which we take with bated breath. Unless keeping up to date with the news throughout the day is absolutely necessary for your job, why not schedule specific times to check it? Whether that’s in the morning whilst drinking your coffee, or in the evening as you unwind from the day, reserving an allocated time to expose yourself to world events allows you to focus more clearly on your own priorities. To this end, temporarily deleting your news apps can be a great way to reverse that habitual finger muscle memory which has you checking for updates every single hour.

Whether we’re watching the latest Tik-Tok dance trends develop or getting crochet inspiration from the Instagram ‘Explore’ page, social media has undeniably been a godsend for many of us this past year. In light of becoming increasingly glued to our phones and laptops, it is imperative that we recognise our own power in making these apps as beneficial and useful as possible. Watching The Social Dilemma doesn’t have to leave you wanting to delete your entire online presence; rather, we should feel encouraged and empowered by the knowledge that we have the ability regain control over social media, and are capable of establishing healthier relationships with these apps.

As people become more conscious of the need to monitor and assess their social media usage, businesses must respond to this greater awareness and ensure that they are providing meaningful, engaging posts. At MKPR, we understand the importance of social media in helping you to build genuine connections with your consumers. Our team can offer insights and devise effective strategies to help improve your online presence, captivating new as well as existing audiences.