Addressing the dark side of social media

December 11, 2017
4 min read

Mentions of “social media detox/break” have seen a 71% monthly trend increase over the last year.
In the age of the ‘always on’ consumer, social media detoxes are becoming more commonplace. It is important to consider the role of connection in how consumers approach social media, especially as we consider how attitudes vary by demographic. Mintel’s latest research on attitudes toward technology and the digital world shows a negative correlation between likeliness to feel technology brings you closer to others and the need to occasionally disconnect from technology. Most interestingly, men are more likely to agree technology brings them closer to others and less likely to agree it is important to occasionally disconnect from technology. Mentions of “social media detox/break” have seen a 71% monthly trend increase over the last year, and women account for two-thirds of the share of voice, according to data from social media monitoring and analytics firm Infegy.

iGens/Millennials are by far the most active social media users and are most likely to report they fear a dependency on technology—nearly twice as likely as older generations. As more consumers turn to social media as a primary tool for connecting with others, it is critical to address its adverse effect on mental health. The need to feel ‘connected’ to others has created a heightened dependency and a false sense of connection, which can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety. Online discussions around “social media detox/break” further emphasize social media’s strain on mental health. This is further emphasized through breakout negative topics such as ‘stress,’ ‘anxiety,’ and ‘depression.’ Notably, over half of consumers say a ‘healthy lifestyle’ means feeling emotionally stable, according to Mintel research on healthy lifestyles in the US. Ironically, sleep is a critical factor; people discussing trouble sleeping online are three times more likely to mention panic/anxiety than the general population and given the adverse effect of excessive digital behaviors on sleep patterns, we can see the negative cycle that can occur.

In April 2017, Brita partnered with basketball star Stephen Curry and The Cybersmile Foundation (an international anti-cyberbullying non-profit) to launch The Filtered Life campaign in an effort to address online bullying and encourage people to filter out negativity and play a part in eliminating social media hate. As part of the campaign, Brita launched #FilterYourFeed, an online tool where people could scrub their Twitter history of negative posts and replace with positive positive messages and GIFs from spokesman Stephen Curry.

In contrast, social media users are turning to social media for unfiltered, real-time news–increasingly brought to viewers by users themselves. As polarizing as it can be, in the past few months we’ve seen Twitter serve as a key platform for several social movements, from the NFL’s national anthem protests with #TakeAKnee, to #WomenBoycottTwitter in solidarity with Rose McGowan’s Twitter account suspension, to #MeToo as a rallying cry to stand against sexual harassment and assault.

What we think

The current social and political climate plays a notable role in consumer perceptions toward social media usage, emphasizing the importance in taking measures to reduce the mental strain of real time news access. Now more than ever we are seeing the dichotomy between social media as point of connection and social media as an echo chamber.

For brands, this means understanding how consumption habits are shaping consumer psychology and how that impacts their ability to cut through the white noise. Emotional intelligence will be a critical tool as brands navigate an increasingly complex social landscape.

Jeannette Ornelas is a Social Media Analyst. She has a keen interest in understanding how consumer habits and motivations are gleaned to drive market strategies that adapt to an evolving digital world.

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