While many of us enjoy staying connected on social media, excessive use can fuel feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, jealousy, and FOMO. Online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have allowed people in every corner of the world to be connected 24/7. Since we are such social creatures, we need the companionship of others to thrive in life, and the strength of our connections has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. Social connections have been known to ease stress, anxiety, and depression, boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years to your life. On the flip side, lacking strong social connections can pose a serious risk to your mental and emotional health.
While social media has its benefits, it’s important to remember that it can never be a replacement for real-world human connection. We require in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that lessen stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive. Ironically, for a technology that’s designed to bring people closer together, spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make you feel more lonely and isolated — and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Social media is something of a double-edged sword. At its best, social media offers unprecedented opportunities for marginalized people to speak and bring much needed attention to the issues they face. At its worst, social media also offers ‘everyone’ an unprecedented opportunity to share in collective outrage without reflection.
– Roxane Gay
Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it has given me the opportunity to make friends and connect with people I otherwise wouldn’t have had the means to connect. It allows incredible opportunities for people, some have even turned it into a career, something we didn’t think or know was possible years ago. It has also changed the advertising and marketing game and it took it to a whole new level. It also creates a very quick way to communicate with people, no matter where they are in the world, and that is really incredible. We have access to the latest news, important alerts, the ability to create awareness, etc. at our fingertips. That is mind blowing.
On the other hand, it can be very consuming. If you spend a lot of time on social media, you may find yourself feeling low and thinking that your life sucks, because you are comparing it to the lives portrayed there, which may seem perfect. It can put a lot of pressure on people to post pictures and videos that project how perfect their lives are, which in turn can get people in trouble, because then you find yourself spending the money you don’t have, to impress a bunch of strangers on the internet with just how amazing and fancy your life is. It’s a vicious cycle. I also realised that it gives people the platform to be disrespectful and rude to strangers. Someone who wouldn’t dare say some shady shit about you to your face, now has a platform to type these things and comment, hiding behind a keyboard. It’s like people forget that there’s human beings behind those perfectly curated feeds, human beings with feelings and insecurities. For some people, it’s like as soon as they log onto social media, their empathy goes out the window, I really cannot stand that.
I think it is important to note that social media isn’t real. It is not a true reflection of someone’s life. People share what they are comfortable sharing; nothing more, and that is perfectly fine, no one is entitled to know any more than I am comfortable sharing. I have seen so many comments on how people are fake because they only post the good aspects of their lives, and not the bad. Let me tell you for free, it is absolutely no one’s responsibility to post the terrible parts of their lives, just so you can feel better about yourself, unless of course they are comfortable doing so. This thing of bullying people online and calling them fake, sounds like a cry for help to me. We really have to check our entitlement to people’s lives.
Let’s talk about social media anxiety. Some people might thing it is silly, but there have been studies done on this. It is said that people who frequently use social media and have high emotional investments on their social media feeds, are found to have lower self-worth, poor sleep quality, and high rates of anxiety and depression compared to those who are less engaged in social media, or don’t emotionally invest as much. Signs of social media anxiety:
- Constantly checking your feed.
- Constantly refreshing and checking how many likes you got on a post.
- Always monitoring your follower count and when it drops, it affects your emotions.
- You catch stray bullets, i.e, you somehow find a way to get offended by a post that literally had nothing to do with you.
- You obsess over why someone didn’t respond to you or follow you back and formulate theories of what you could’ve done wrong, or how they think they are “all that” .
So, how do you get out of that mess and ensure you don’t go into an emotional downward spiral caused by your consumption of social media? Well, I am not an expert, so I don’t have all the answers, but I can give you suggestions that work for me when I catch myself slipping.
- STOP COMPARING – Stop looking at people’s lives and comparing to your own, this can only lead to you feeling shitty about how behind you are, compared to your peers. Half the time, that stuff isn’t even the reality or a true reflection, and even if it is, it’s great that your peers are doing so well in life, but you need to remember: own pace, own lane. We can’t all have our success stories at the same time.
- Limit your consumption – Learn how to balance your offline and online activities. Put a time-frame to it if you have to. Understand that social media will be there waiting when you get back from actually living your life, don’t invest your entire life on social media.
- Check your idolatry – I’ve noticed that one of the reasons people go off on these #cancelled rants is because they have put celebrities and influencers on pedestals so high, that one error in judgement sends them off in an emotional downward spiral. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with admiring people and being a fan of their work, but I think it is also important to remember that they are human, and, you won’t always agree with their opinions and choices.
- Check your entitlement – Remember, no one owes you anything on social media. Absolutely no one. People post what they wanna post on their profiles, you don’t agree? Unfollow or Block. Simple.
- Pick your battles – There are certain things or topics on social media that may warrant a reaction or response, but more often than not, they really don’t deserve your attention and time. Block, block and block!
- Stop following people you don’t like – This has to be the wildest thing I have ever seen on social media. Why are you following people only to spew hate on their posts? What is the reason behind that? Honestly, how sad do you have to be to do that? Hai.
- Take a break if you have to – If social media has consumed your life so much so that your entire existences revolves around it, take a step back. Get away, do some soul searching, really introspect and ask yourself why you are on those platforms to begin with.
- Re-frame your perspective – When you are scrolling through your feed, it’s helpful to remember that the photos only tell one side of the story, it is merely a glimpse into someone’s reality, not the sum total of it.
- Be authentic – Do not adopt a persona that isn’t you for the sake of likes. It is really crucial that you be yourself. I think losing sight of who we really are, is often the cause the anxiety.
- Mind the business that pays you – Focus on yourself and the accounts that make you feel good about yourself, accounts that inspire and help you grow as a person. You gain nothing from leaving hateful comments on someone’s post, instead, you just seem sad and pathetic. Unfollow and block people whose lifestyle choices and opinions you don’t agree with, and stop wasting your time being a troll.
Social media should be part of your life, not your entire life. Make time for, and focus on the important people in your life. Stop trying to impress people you don’t even know, who don’t care about you, and losing sight of who you are. Spend more time appreciating people who actually care about and love you. Remember, what you feed your mind translates into your everyday life. If you feed it negativity, then that will also spill into your life and nothing will ever be good enough, but if you focus on how blessed you are and how far you’ve come, you will be encouraged to work harder to build the life you want.
Understand that you’re not going to please everyone on the socials, and that’s perfectly okay, in fact, I encourage it (You can quote me on this!). You should start to worry when everyone is happy but you are still in a self-hating pit because of social media. And if you feel that you really cannot get out of it, no matter what you try, seek professional help. The socials can get very addictive, so get the help you need and make the necessary changes.
I hope this helps you in some way, and I hope you re-evaluate your relationship with social media. Is it a healthy one or does it leave you depressed and anxious?
Till next time beloved.