Social Media Influencing your Decisions?

When emotions come before reason, our well-being suffers.       

Lately, I have had to make a number of decisions and I’ve noted how my decision-making has been affected by my emotions – increasingly more now than in the past. Needless to say, some of those decisions have not fared well. 

I imagine more people have been confronted with a range of significant choices due to Covid-19: how well lockdowns are embraced, to be vaccinated or not, career changes, moving houses, or change of schools for children. Implications from some of these choices may be far-reaching, some affecting our personal and even public health. 

Rational choices?

Most people believe that they make rational and logical decisions that are governed by reason alone. Would you be surprised to find that is actually not the case? We are all susceptible to biases that pull and push our brains in invisible ways we cannot even fathom. In addition to reason, our choices are also shaped by emotion, impulse and random external stimuli. 

With social media, our choices unfold in a technological context that magnifies external influences – distractions, biases, misinformation and emotions to which decision making is most susceptible. 

On the one hand, social media allows for global engagement in important conversations, and we can access ideas and different perspectives. On the other hand, there are counterproductive forms of engagement that can leave us depressed and feeling inadequate about our own lives. 

social media

Algorithms behind social media platforms tend to tap into what we enjoy and we are provided with an endless stream of content tailored to our preferences of intellectual, political and social tastes. We are kept engaged, but, this does little in helping us to see what is outside our own bubble of preference.      

If our choices are influenced by bias, we then have to acknowledge the various factors influencing and clouding our judgements and minimise them to the extent we can.

Guard against unwise decisions

  • Rise above the emotions of the here and now                 
    Avoid making a decision based on information that is resonant, closest at hand or most recent; rather look to support your decision with objective information. Be aware of your biases and your emotional state. 
  • Peer pressure                                                                    
    Decisions are seldom made in a vacuum. Those around us influence us more than we may think. Social networks shape how we view information received, how we engage and respond to it. Beware of situations where you feel you have little individual responsibility as that is when you are most likely to make irresponsible choices.
  • Do not fear the consequences                                          
    Life is quite unpredictable and no matter how much we plan, some outcomes cannot be predicted. If the worst happens, resilience is a good coping mechanism for dealing with adversity.
  • Unplug from social media                                                 
    The constant access and flow of information can prove to be distracting and may make focusing a challenge. Take a step back and unplug from the constant social feeds. Think things through, free of tech and other distractions.   

It takes discipline to learn how to guard against our own biases, intellectual complacencies, and our all too human tendency to be swayed by strong emotion. It’s difficult to do, especially given how intertwined social media has become with traditional media. Have time to yourself and think prior to making that decision. 

Also read: Digital Wellbeing

Silindokuhle is an Industrial/Organisational Psychologist registered with the HPCSA. She holds a Master’s degree from UKZN and runs an independent practice specialising in psychological assessments, training and wellbeing.  

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