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Our Social Experiment, What’s Our Responsibility?

We are excited to honor World Mental Health Day by bringing you an exclusive article written for us by official Cybersmile ambassador Garcelle Beauvais. If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, follow the links to our various support services or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to start using Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant.

I must confess, I have a love, not-so-in-love relationship with social media.

For me, social media is something I’ve had to adapt to because it wasn’t around when I grew up. I’d meet up at the park with friends in the morning, play outside all day, and make my way home in the afternoon before the street lights began to flicker on. That’s what it meant to tap into my social network in my youth. And, when disagreements happened, you’d hash it out face to face, sleep on it and the next day the drama would seem like a distant memory. It never followed you home or resulted in catastrophic back-end chatter spread beyond your immediate circle. Our disagreements were kids’ size problems often sorted out with a few cycles of hopscotch, energetic rounds of Double Dutch, or a group trip to our local shopping mall. It was simple and appropriately scaled with no tools to amplify, or fuel negative emotions beyond a few close friends. This allowed us to deal with the issue at hand and moved on quickly. In contrast, social chatter that lives online forever is all my teenage sons understand today and it shapes the way they interact with their peers and the rest of the world.

Social media provides both comfort and chaos for anyone who adopts these outlets as a part of their life. The question is, do you have an option if you wish to function in society? And, what should be our responsibility?

Being a public figure, I don’t feel like I have many choices. Embracing technology as a tool to promote projects and connect with people who fuel my career is what I now do. And, if I’m being completely honest, it has helped open up many wonderful new audiences to what I do as an actress, producer, author, and businesswoman. Social platforms allow me to tell my story in my own voice freely and that’s powerful. I’ve heard countless people confessing that seeing something I’ve posted online helped them overcome challenges, or gave them encouragement and hope. To realize I can make a difference just by showing up as myself is humbling. Not only does it help them, but it also gives me purpose as well and that’s very cool!

Our social universe has the ability to transport you. It provides a front-row seat to explore different cultures, lifestyles, and boundless locations all at your fingertips. Thankfully it provided a welcomed distraction and solace for billions of people during our recent global Pandemic. Having glimpses into the unknown breaks down barriers while providing connection for those who feel disconnected. That’s the beauty the tool brings to our society. The world is richer and far more colorful for it with no passport required. It shows us that we have more similarities than differences regardless of economics, ethnicity, age, or lifestyle. Social media has the power to amplify injustice bringing change where there was no hope for the movement.

The thorny side to this beauty, however, is that for all this ‘connectivity’ people, especially our youth, feel more and more isolated. Why? How could hundreds and sometimes millions, of ‘friends and followers’ leave people still feeling so alone? How can we have so much knowledge about society, yet understand so little about what it means to be humane to each other?

After my own personal experience with cyber bullying, I realized that commenting from behind a keyboard, brings a false sense of boldness and permission to be cruel. This is especially true if the person commenting is hurting within themselves. The accessibility of social media makes it easy to unleash their pain on strangers because there are no foreseeable consequences.

It didn’t start out that way. What was once an innocent medium, featuring puppies, and poorly shot how-to videos, quickly morphed into an unstoppable network rewarding individuals for creating turmoil and unkindness. If we aren’t careful, the destructive side of social media will become a cancer that consumes us all; we must take a stand! Our mental, social and physical health depend on it. That’s my challenge to everyone whether you have two, or two billion followers. Choose not to participate in the turmoil. We all have a vested interest in the outcome…our children are watching.

What I know for sure is this. Most people want to see good, do good and be a part of positive change. Most people will lend a hand as opposed to giving you the boot. I believe this in the depths of my soul. That’s why I will continue to spread as much joy, beauty, and positivity as I can in my social world. I won’t always be perfect, but I always welcome social seekers looking to make a change, hear words of affirmation, and enjoy the beauty that life brings every day.

Written by Garcelle Beauvais

We would like to say a HUGE thank you to Garcelle for this amazing contribution and for her ongoing support for our work as a Cybersmile ambassador! To learn more about Cybersmile and the work we do, please explore the recommendations below:

If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, we can help you. Visit our Help Center or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to open Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant.

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