Social media users 'showing off less' during pandemic

23% of users still post content that portrays a more ‘polished’ version of their life
23% of users still post content that portrays a more ‘polished’ version of their life

We Are Social report suggests a resurgence in people using social to make meaningful connections instead of performing for strangers.

Four in 10 UK and US social media users say they are under less pressure to show off an unrealistic image of their life during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

A survey, by We Are Social and GlobalWebIndex, has also found that less than a quarter (23%) of social media users still feel the need to post content that portrays a more "polished" version of their life. 

Men’s social media behaviour has apparently been particularly affected by the crisis, with nearly half (46%) of males saying they have been more open on their public social channels about the struggles they are facing, compared with just under a third (31%) of women. 

Social media platforms have come under fire in recent years for amplifying political divisions within society and encouraging users to be performative in order to boost the attention their posts receive. Academics and campaigners have warned of the effects that social media is having on people’s mental health, particularly among young girls who appear to be at greater risk of cyberbullying.

The new report commissioned by We Are Social also found:

  • 74% of social media users named friends and family among their top three sources of inspiring content, while 52% said their local community and 35% selected charities or not-for-profits. Influencers and content creators were a top source for 23%, followed by brands (21%) and celebrities (actors, singers etc) at 20%. 

  • Almost half (45%) of social media users named politicians as one of their least inspiring categories. 

  • The top content to share on social media was found to be personal news (40%), funny videos (36%) and memes (29%). Meme-sharing is driven by younger audiences – 44% of Gen Z and 34% of millennials say they’re sharing more memes compared with 12% of baby boomers. 

Mobbie Nazir, chief strategy officer at We Are Social, said the findings are showing a resurgence in the way people used to use social media years ago – to make "meaningful connections".

She added: "While the last few months have been a rollercoaster of emotions, it’s encouraging to see more people – men, in particular – feeling comfortable enough to open up about the pressures of life in quarantine, and feel less pressured to present a polished, perfect version of themselves online. 

"As conversations around mental health and wellbeing – and the role social media plays in both supporting and impacting these aspects of our lives – continue, it is my hope that we see the shift towards more honest and open social media persist, and grow."

The survey polled 2,419 internet users in the US and UK in the last two weeks of May.

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