The truthful negativity surrounding social media.
For a lot of us, Social Media has been a major tool in intertwined in our daily lives. It’s allowed us to curate our own lives digitally, stay connected to friends and family, meet new people with like-minded views, and engage with communities and people we are truly interested in. Social Media was not originally intended to have so many negative side effects when first introduced. Over the years, the use of Social Media has become more and more negative for its users. Instagram specifically, was officially ranked as the “worst for young people’s mental health” out of all of the social media platforms.
I focus mainly on positivity and raising consciousness but it’s important for me to be honest and transparent, even if it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes, honesty can come off as negative as it’s challenging our perspectives, personal experiences, and ego. It might be painful to accept certain truths or even become aware of them but when we do, we are able to look deeper into ourselves and our own personal patterns and build awareness around them. We can then learn from our own thoughts and feelings, replace thoughts that are negative or nonconducive to or mental health, and heal ourselves. The reason I want to tackle this topic is mainly that I want to help others as I see this has become a large issue for people, even for myself at times. More and more people are opening up to how negatively they feel after using Social Media. Instead of focusing on why Social Media is bad, as I am sure you are already fully aware, I would love to provide helpful insight on how to ultimately overcome Social Media addiction, stress, and how to void the negative feelings associated with it. I am writing everything from a place of love and healing and want to positively impact the way people use Social Media; if they chose to use it. If it is going to be something heavily embedded into our personal lives, whether we like it or not, we must be truthful with ourselves and each other and find solutions that make being online a much more positive and empowering experience for everyone.
“Socializing from behind a screen can also be uniquely isolating, obscuring mental health challenges even more than usual. As the first generation of social media users become adults, it is important that we lay the groundwork now to minimize potential harm and shape a digital future that is healthy and thriving.”
- Laci Green
How to understand if Social Media and it's usage is taking a negative toll on you:
Feeling anxious, depressed or stressed.
If you are already struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, or stress; Social Media can amplify these feelings even more. You might catch yourself constantly relying on the app as a form of “release” from real life stressors. However, extended usage time can increase anxiousness, depression, and stress; making you feel even worse than before you went on Social Media. It doesn’t allow the mind to heal from everything you are digitally exposing it to. It’s important to understand how using Social Media feels to you.
Constantly checking your phone and apps for notifications.
Developing an unhealthy need to constantly check your phone can most definitely negatively impact the way you think and live. Constantly checking and searching for notifications is a sign you are addicted to the validation that comes from using Social Media. It’s not something that happens purposefully but daily usage can make it a hard habit to break. A 2015 study found that more than two hours of social media use is linked to mental health issues, psychological distress and suicidal thoughts in teens and adults.
Fear of missing out.
FOMO or “Fear of missing out” is a term used to describe having anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. This could simply mean, you may see pictures or video clips of friends doing cool things with your mutual friends, but realized you weren’t invited. Or maybe it looks like people are always doing fun things and going to interesting places and you can’t relate to that lifestyle. Perhaps, there are even times where you wish you could just switch places with people you see online. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Working on yourself and making steps towards your goals will be a much more fulfilling way to spend your time and energy.
Comparing your appearance, body, and life to others.
Comparing yourself to others is extremely unfair and unrealistic, but it’s something we all do, even subconsciously. Sometimes exploring different Social Media platforms forces you to reflect on stranger’s lives in an amplified way. You might start following people who have the body, car, house, or family that you think you want and can’t help comparing yourself to other Social Media users. This could range from celebrities to online personalities, to even your own friends and family. Sometimes these comparisons can have you feeling inadequate and drained.
Missing out on enjoying moments because you are too busy photographing/posting them.
Have you ever experienced your food getting cold because you HAD to take a photo of it first? Or maybe, you were trying to enjoy a fun night out but felt the need to take photos and videos of it all night long, ruining your overall experience? Sometimes, we miss out on incredible life moments because we are too busy overanalyzing our Social Media and believing we must share details of our lives, even if it’s tearing away from our own fun and experiences.
Pressure to be “perfect”.
Portraying perfectionism on Social Media, more specifically- feeling the pressure to meet increasingly high standards, can be dangerous and detrimental to your own health. The role of “perfectionism” can have you feeling anxious about posting online, whether that is using online metrics such as hashtags, having “perfect” filtered photos or it simply could be that you feel nervous about what other people might think and say online. This perception can mentally imprison you and make you feel like you aren’t ever enough. The validation that comes from follows, likes, and engagement is a short-term high, resulting in damaging, long-term self-esteem issues when your life is centered around perfecting your life and its image. Perfection isn’t real; authenticity is in the imperfections.
How to unplug and manage Social Media:
Take a break and recharge.
Taking a break from Social Media and allowing yourself to recharge will help you detach from the emotions that come from over-analyzing/over-using Social Media. Give yourself a goal, such as two weeks or longer to become absent from all social platforms. Who knows, maybe you’ll take a few months off and focus intensely towards achieving your own aspirations and goals!
Replace Social Media apps with apps that focus on positivity, mindfulness, and wellness.
You can temporarily or permanently delete Social Media apps and replace them with positive and uplifting apps such as Wyso, Pacifica, and Calm. I personally love the Pacifica App because you are anonymous, which can take off a lot of pressure. The platform is focused around being positive and uplifting as well as showing users how to meditate through guided meditations. It’s a perfect app for anyone who needs to express themselves openly and honestly while practicing self-care. Pacifica also allows you to log your moods, join personalized chat groups, and express your anxiety, gratitude, and life experiences.
Find other hobbies to replace time spent on your phone and Social Media.
Finding uplifting hobbies such as: taking up courses, learning new skill sets, exploring nature, reading a book, meditating and doing yoga etc., are all examples of how you can productively spend your time while also taking care of yourself. Live creatively and freely! Don’t feel obligated to bring your phone everywhere with you, some adventures are best experienced with your full attention and heart.
Take accountability for what you project, what you feel and how you view others.
Taking accountability for what you project online will help you establish boundaries for yourself. If you don’t like how you are being perceived, you have the power to change that. You also have the power to look deeply into your emotions and learn why Social Media makes you feel the way you do. Once identified, you can work towards overcoming those obstacles and feelings and focus more on your happiness and wellness. You also must take accountability for how you treat and view others. Be kind and treat people lovingly, if you see something you don’t like or agree with, move on and send them love and healing. If you are someone who is constantly looking for gossip, negativity, hate, or always judging others; that represents how you truly feel about yourself and you will need to do some major inner work to resolve those feelings.
Do not care about numbers, ie., engagement, follows, or likes.
Caring about numbers can and will hold you back. If you care about having more likes, followers, and engagement, you will be sucked into wanting more and more validation. It becomes addicting and wasteful of your time and energy. The number of likes you get on a photo will not change your life. Just focus on your journey and message. Nourish yourself. The want for online attention can definitely increase, which would serve as a great disservice if not understood properly. Remember, your experiences are what truly matters and counts. If you are going to use Social Media, enjoy it. Just don’t get hung up on the things that do not matter!
Limit your Social Media usage.
Limiting Social Media usage is a great way to control the amount of time and energy you are putting in, as well as allowing you to reassess what you want to do in the time saved. Apps like “Stay Focused” helps people manage and control their phone and app usage by setting daily limits, recording your time, and allowing you to customize a reminder on your phone when you extend your usage on Social Media. It helps cut down the endless scrolling and helps you take accountability on exactly how much time you use on your phone and online, that way you can make adjustments and hit more of your goals!
Refrain from “explore pages” and endless scrolling sessions.
Exploring the internet can be a very emotionally tiresome and sometimes even a deflating experience. Even though we may log onto Social Media with the intention of focusing only on the positive, happy, and uplifting information, we are reminded of the opposite as well. Sometimes using explore pages or searching through hashtags can take unnecessary time away while also exposing you to information that can further upset, frustrate, and irritate you. Be mindful of what you are viewing, how it makes you feel, and why it makes you feel those emotions. Social Media can help you by understanding your own emotions and “triggers”; it allows you insight into where you need more healing.
Let go of being “perfect” online or ever.
Portraying perfectionism on Social Media, or more specifically, feeling the pressure to meet increasingly high standards online can be dangerous to yourself and others. If this role of “perfectionism” has you feeling anxious about posting, using hashtags, and having “perfect”, filtered photos, it is time to reevaluate why you feel this way and how to overcome these thoughts and habits. This perception can mentally imprison you and make you feel like you aren’t ever enough- when you are. Remember, no one and nothing is perfect. We are all perfectly imperfect and that keeps us all authentically connected. Less judgement, more love.
The take away.
We’re coming towards the end of a decade in which we’ve been encouraged to think of our public life as performance instead of a participation exercise. We all know how it feels to envy other people and their celebrations and achievements but instead, we should send them love and healing and focus that energy back onto improving ourselves. If you are spending two hours + a day using Social Media, please, consider taking some breaks. Try to reflect and remember what your life was like before ever being introduced to or using Social Media. Try and think about all of the wonderful things you’ve accomplished and enjoyed offline; and remember, you don’t have to check Social Media every day. You can give yourself certain days off, it’s all about balance. You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself. Continue making strides on being the best version of yourself, it all starts with recognizing what is in the way of your power and how to defeat those urges and emotions.
So, why is it so hard to completely stop? Notifications have been proven to release dopamine hits akin to those you’d get from taking drugs. It’s literally addictive. The non-stop notifications can also lead to an overwhelming feeling of never being on top of things and can add another level of stress to your life. Understanding what your faults are and where you can improve, identifying this will help you feel better about your life and more in control about how you spend your free time. Remember, just because you have some extra time on your hands, doesn’t mean you have to check your phone. I highly suggest making a list of everything you want to accomplish in your life alongside a list of people, places, or events that make you feel happy or motivated. Focus more on what makes you happy in real life, rather than an app that can drain you of your precious energy, time, and happiness.
This is your life. You can control it, you just have to be mindful of it. Please don’t allow societal standards, social media standards, or even your own critical standards get in the way of your own happiness. Social Media isn’t reality. You can learn so much about yourself when you distance yourself from Social Media, even for a short time, and you’ll begin to think introspectively and make adjustments that will better align yourself with your goals. Don’t allow anything to hold you back and don’t be afraid to try some serious self-talk when you need to listen to what that inner voice wants. Your life is meant to be lived far beyond the confines of a rectangular, plastic box with hearts and emojis. Wishing you the absolute best on your journey, may it be miraculous and bright!!!