"I just tell myself that I should be the only one to define my worth and what I'm capable of and how I perceive myself. And that I should never source that worth from other people, especially strangers on social media. They don't know who I am, the length of my journey, who I am as a person." - Catriona Gray
I'll be the first one to admit that I've struggled over the years with how I feel about the role of social media in my personal life. As a Gen Xer, I feel lucky to have grown up without the various issues that the digital world has brought into our lives. My children and their generation know nothing different though and things like getting a handwritten, personal letter in the mailbox, is very rare but also very special. It truly wasn't that long ago that the world was a very different place, but technology has changed rapidly and continues to do so. Posting a happy photo, a silly meme, or an interesting article on Facebook or Instagram is definitely fun in the moment. It's afterwards that I start second-guessing what my choices were and how people respond to me and how I respond back. Social media participation can feel humorous, educational or thought-provoking in one situation, yet pretty quickly it can also flip to feeling like you've added stress, envy and divisiveness into your life. But does it have to be that way? How can we enjoy the benefits of social media without creating anxiety?
Is the Grass Always Greener?
"One should be careful not to buy into the notion that someone else's life is somehow more complete or fulfilling than yours based solely on what you see online.” - Germany Kent
I can't count how many times I've thought that other people are living happier lives than me, from photos and stories I've read on social media. But as I've come to realize, they're actually not. Certainly, we all hopefully have joyous moments that we want to share with our friends and family. But remember, when we get back from vacations or parties (not that we're doing too much of that now, during Covid-19), we all still have laundry and dishes to clean, garbage to take out, bills to pay, relationships to work on, errands to run, careers and or school to deal with, exhaustion, health issues, and all the less fun things that no one is going to flaunt about. We have to keep in mind that we're simply seeing or posting snap shots of moments - not the part where your friend's toddler threw an epic, 10-minute tantrum in the store, before she got him to smile, while holding the neighbor's puppy, in front of a rose bush! We're all humans and life can be messy and bumpy! Enjoy your friends' posts, but be mindful of not comparing yourself, because not only is that really unhealthy, but it's a losing proposition.
Does Being Online Help You Feel More Connected or Less?
Ideally, we like to think that having a presence on social media will connect us more with our friends, family, community and world. Humans are social creatures and our mental health is connected to spending quality time with those we care about. I feel it's important to ask ourselves this: of all the people that we're "friends" with on various sites, how many of them do we actually ever see in person or talk on the phone with? It's easy to spend a weekend reading and posting on social media, but if we're not having real-life interactions, it can lead to loneliness, depression, anxiety and disconnection. I realize that during this time of social distancing, it's
much harder to interact in person, but simple things like taking a walk with a friend, having a small bbq in your backyard (with masks and social distancing as needed) or simply calling a relative and chatting, instead of texting or messaging, is really good for your spirit and soul. HelpGuide, a website that provides mental health and wellness tips, has an excellent article, "Social Media and Mental Health," that lays out how to keep healthy habits and be mindful of your mood. On the flipside, it definitely can be fun to reunite with old friends or long-lost relatives. When you do post, just be careful not to worry about how many "likes" or comments you get. It shouldn't feel like a popularity contest.
How to Deal with Polarizing Posts
We all have our hot buttons topics that can be upsetting or stressful, especially when we're seeing our news feed(s) become inundated with them . First, remember: 1) You may also be posting things that others don't agree with. 2) It's healthy to listen to dissenting opinions (to a degree.) 3) You're never obligated to read things that upset or stress you out. 4) Are you posting negative comments or responding to them? If you enjoy social media, but need a less stressful experience, there are ways to do this. On Facebook you have the following options:
1) "Snooze" someone for 30 days: You won't see their posts until the 30 days are up and then you can reevaluate. They'll still see your posts. 2) "Unfollow" someone: You can still be "friends" with this person, but you'll no longer see their posts, although they'll see yours. 3) "Unsubscribe" from a group or organization, which means you're no longer affiliated with them. For more information on these and other Facebook settings, see: "Basic Privacy Settings and Tools" and " Unfriending or Blocking Someone" On Instagram, see: "Privacy Settings and Information" Also, remember to think about what you're posting and how it may be affecting your circle.
Need to Take a Break from Social Media?
It's important to have boundaries in all areas of your life. If you find yourself feeling depressed, anxious,rejected or just exhausted from information overload, take a break! The following things may also help you feel better: