By Joanne Rosa
Social media is something many of us have become so accustomed to; we simply can’t live without it.
Social media is a huge part of our daily lives and changed the world in many positive ways; but there are some glaring concerns with social media, and what it can do to our mental health.
When we use social media, Dr. Atkins says, often time’s we are “on it” for longer than expected and compare ourselves and our lives to our “friends”. It’s easy to become anxious while waiting for responses to our latest post or obsessively check our emails, texts, and social feeds more often than necessary.
Does this sound familiar?
You’re not alone.
Here are some of the warning signs people experience when social media is damaging their life and wellbeing.
1. Cannot function or focus well unless we check our social media (i.e. FOMO on social media engagement)
2. Not “present” (i.e. we are physically at a party, but our minds are looking at someone’s trip to Vegas)
3. We are multitasking often while using social media (i.e. scrolling through twitter and talking to someone in the flesh)
4. Conversation changes when using social media (i.e. that person you were talking to now feels a type of way that you were on twitter instead of conversing)
So, why does this happen? How come we would rather be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, instead of being in the moment?
On these social platforms, everyone makes their life look like a fairytale. People can create their own image, rather than leaving it up to the opinion of others. Here’s the problem: most of it isn’t real. Sure, maybe you did go to that rooftop bar or that beautiful tropical vacation. Chances are, those pictures were filtered, airbrushed, or it was simply made out to be something it’s not. This is when we find ourselves comparing our lives to others and it usually doesn’t turn out well. The “critical judgmental voice in our head” speaks up, and tells us why we aren’t good enough. “It can have to do with our intelligence, our appearance, the way we relate and don’t relate to people… We are not as attractive, not living as exciting a life… We don’t trust ourselves… When we expect everything to be great, fabulous, beautiful, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment because it’s not real. There can be great, fabulous, and beautiful moments, and there are other moments that are difficult, challenging, sad, disappointing, etc. That is real life.” Social media is a pre-treated peek of who somebody is, not who they are completely. At the end of the day, we put our pants on one leg at a time. Yes, even Beyoncé.
Yes, we are all human and we all have ups and downs in life. Some people use social media as an outlet to portray their best selves. Some people use social media as a “diary” of sorts. This ranges from the thoughts on their commute, to a glimpse into their private life. Whether you share, or over share, it’s put out there for the world to see. Thanks to freedom of speech, you can do that! Also, people can feel free to insert their opinion, and advice. “It can be risky to share one’s innermost thoughts and feelings with strangers because we leave ourselves open for criticism and opinions from people we do not know and who do not know us… without the whole back story, some advice can be critical, harsh, and based on a superficial view.”
It’s one thing to share a funny story, but when it comes to serious personal issues (like a breakup), it is best to leave it out of social media. Yes, this is a part of your real life. Perhaps you can share your story of what happened once everyone has moved on, and it’s water under the bridge and into the ocean. Until then, try to come to your own decisions without strangers’, acquaintances’, or fair-weather friends’ input.
“If we are constantly putting our lives out there for other people’s commentary (approval/ disapproval)” says Dr. Atkins, “we are less likely to reflect and appreciate our own process of coming to decisions that are right for us based on who we are, our history, our patterns, etc. Growth happens when we know ourselves and work through things.”
Remember, what you think in 2017 may not be what you think in 2027. What you post on social media lives forever!
Not living in the moment is arguably the biggest issue with social media. We see it all the time! Walk into a coffee shop, and watch everyone sit on their phones, tablets, or laptops instead of talking to each other. Walk into a restaurant and look at all of the dates going on. Whether it’s a married couple, or someone on their first date, chances are they are on their phones. Maybe you’re going to a concert or on vacation. How much time do you think you’ll spend getting the right pictures or videos to post? The answer is probably too much time.
Dr. Atkins puts it best, “Seeing the world through a screen and immediately sending it to followers interferes with being present and in the moment… having the experience and allowing [ourselves] to feel what that experience means to us.”
If you want to post something, post a #latergram to share what happened (but don’t be fake).
There is no easy solution for the problems we often experience with social media. We simply need to disconnect more often. Take breaks from social media and focus on what’s going on around you. While you’re working, put your phone in a drawer, and only pick it up if there is an important call ringing on the other line. Social media is a great way to stay updated on friends, news, and communities that interest you, but that doesn’t mean you have to be obsessed with being up to date on everything. Think of a time that works for you to check on your social media, and consider what you are going on it for. Don’t get distracted, and you should be good.
Remember, nearly everything is OK in moderation!