Social media is a double-edged sword. By social media, I mean Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. On one hand, social media is an amazing way to connect us to new people, as well as keep us connected to old friends, but it can also though keep us from physically connecting with others as well as lead to feelings of inadequacy, increased depression, or even a sense of shame. Are you exposed to social media? Probably, and really when you think about it, unless you’re over 80, or under 10, you probably have a social media account!
When we meet new people, odds are that part of the initiation towards a friendship, or more, begins early on with “friending” that person online on some social media account. It also allows us to easily learn more about other people, letting us skip a lot of conversation starters via the other’s “about” section. Also, communicating with that new person on social media can be less intimidating and nerve-racking since there’s no face-to-face interaction.
Facebook also lets us keep in touch with old friends we normally wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with. We Americans tend to lead a nomadic lifestyle, where part of our transition from our youth to adulthood is to move away from our family home, state, country, etc. Part of that entails leaving old friends behind, delegated to “facebook friend” status. Facebook lets us simply keep in touch where we normally would fall away. We can see their family photos regularly on Instagram & Facebook, see regular updates of their life on Twitter, and keep in touch regularly in other interesting and fun ways. So social media can be an amazing way to keep in touch as well as help us make and keep new friends.
The other edge of that sword is a blunt one, that cuts us deep if we aren’t careful! The things that help keep us stay connected can also drive us apart weirdly enough. Social media engagement with others keeps us behind a screen, PC or tablet/smartphone, and our comfortable interaction here doesn’t always translate to healthy in-person contact. If we make our primary source of human communication via an electronic screen, we can be left feeling pretty isolated, or even if we don’t feel isolated, we are none the less.
Social media also hurts us in another way. While it connects us to others sometimes in a positive way, it can also be detrimental to our mental health. The problem occurs when we connect with people that aren’t genuine, and when we have issues we need to deal with. People can be whoever or whatever they want to be online. People we connect with online have no obligation to be genuine or real online, nor do you have any way of judging their authenticity. Things get complicated and unhealthy when someone with a low sense of esteem connects with such a person. Someone with self-esteem issues or depression may find It especially depressing to see everyone online having fun, traveling, and living generally successful lives.
From fake Instagram posts to phony Facebook statuses, there are plenty of reasons to be careful with social media. It’s so easy to get caught-up comparing our lifestyle to others online. But not all instances of using social media are bad or unhealthy. So what are we supposed to do, since this is something here to stay. There are several things we can do to keep social media a positive experience.
Now we finally get to the meat and potatoes of this article that I’ve been building up to!
1. Don’t be afraid to unfollow people that you know are not genuine, or don’t really like. I’m not saying unfriend them, but just unfollow so they don’t regularly pop-up in your newsfeed. You can always see their updates by visiting their page.
2. Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media daily. Take that extra free time and do something constructive, like reading, or learning a new hobby.
3. Remember that social media profiles aren’t a real reflection of your friend’s lives. When you think about it, this makes sense, since why would anyone want to regularly publicly share their trials and tribulations, their lows? Most people want to share their highs and the good in their lives. So just because it looks like a friend’s life is wonderful and that they never go through anything tough, they do, they just don’t post it.
4. Take care of yourself and address your own issues. You may find you feel less sensitive when your own needs are met. Consider seeing a therapist, like myself, if you have unresolved issues you need help with, have depression, or have low self-esteem. The next article will be about general wellness and how it affects your mental health.
BONUS TIP: Look into how much time you spend per day on social media. The average person uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, to a way unhealthy level. You may be surprised by the amount of time you are checking your updates daily. Now consider you want to do something productive in your life, perhaps reading more. If you take an hour per day away from social media, and put that into reading a page or two, you’ll be well on your way to reading a book a week!
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