We’ve all been there. It’s 1am, you need to get to sleep, yet your thumb just keeps scrolling down the newsfeed. With each scroll, your self worth declines, and you feel worse and worse about yourself until you finally drift off to sleep.
Or, how about this one? You finally have a free moment during the day. You’ve been fairly productive, have produced some good work, skipped the fries and had a salad instead…and you even squeezed in a morning run. Yup, you’re feeling pretty great about yourself. But then disaster strikes.
You open your phone, pop over to Facebook and start looking through pictures of your friends. And their friends. And the friends of their friends. All of whom seem to be having more fun than you! Their lives are perfect. Yours? Not so much. You’re the lump on the chair staring at your phone. Craving cake. To make the sadness go away…
Of course, it’s never happened to me. And you’re pretty cool too so I’m pretty sure it’s never happened to you either. But it happens to other people all the time. Poor, silly people…Because it doesn’t have to be this way. The truth is, we do it to ourselves.
So just why do we let social media hijack our happiness? And more importantly, what we can do about it?
Welcome to the Comparison Trap
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Scrolling through social media is a like a giant Chinese finger trap. You willingly get your fingers stuck in there, have a slight dose of panic, and finally remember you can just take your fingers out. Except instead of your fingers, it’s your mind that becomes stuck.
Remember, you can always hit the close button, even though it seems like it mysteriously seems to hide when you’re waist deep in a social media binge.
Social media distorts reality. Your friends will look like they are always smiling, eternally on some blissful vacation, eating five-star meals, bathing at hot springs, and having joyous gatherings with friends.
Social media provides nothing but a glimpse into people’s lives. Usually, the best parts. However, we take this highlight reel and assume this is what people’s lives are like on the day to day. Don’t mistake people’s lives on social media for the real thing.
How does this make us feel? Pretty poopy, actually.
We compare our overflowing inboxes, postponed vacations, messy kitchens, and massive mortgages to the perceived lives of others. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially with the addictive nature of social media that keeps us glued to the screen and always coming back for more.
Is the World Really This Bad?
Photo Credit: Caleb George
Constant exposure to bad news can actually have a negative impact on our mental health. We have enough stress in our daily lives, there’s no need to fill up the rest of our downtime with depressing news about everything that’s wrong with the world.
Yet, that’s exactly what a lot of people do.
Depending on who you follow on social media, your feed might be nothing more than a pool of negativity. Every day you take a nice long swim in this pool, and when you get out you wonder why you’re feeling so miserable.
If your Facebook feed is filled with nothing but angry political rants, or people using social media as their personal diary, then maybe it’s time to take a break. It’s not like you would willingly spend your free time Googling “the most depressing things in the world” or “angry people who disagree with me” or “a list of things that will make me sad”.
But, a lot of what we consume on social media can have those exact attributes. With the way things get shared across social media, it’s easy for your feed to become nothing but an echo chamber for bad news.
It’s time to either tune out, or drop out. Your happiness depends on it!
Say Goodbye to Mental Health
Photo credit: Jesse Orrico
Spending too much time on social media is bad for our mental health. Take a look at a just a few not-so-awesome side effects too much social media can bring into our lives:
1. Lowered Self-Worth
How do you feel when your latest post goes unnoticed by your friends?
If you’re a human (I’m looking at you Watson), then you probably don’t feel very good. Your self-worth as a person is tied to how many people click that tiny little button next to your status.
A recent study has even shown that heavy social media use can be linked to depression.
Maybe it is time for a little break?
2. Less Focus, More Stress
Have you ever told yourself, I’m just going to check Facebook for one second…only to find yourself still browsing an hour into the future. Sadly, you didn’t master time travel.
Now, you not only feel worse about yourself, but you’re berating yourself for all that lost time. Social media algorithms are designed to keep us there as long as possible.
It’s become a battle of humanity versus machine.
3. Decreased Human Connection
When was the last time you had a real conversation (with eye contact and everything), without feeling the compulsive need to look down at your phone? Or, when was the last time you even had a real in-depth conversation? No judgement here.
With social media, we feel as though we’re getting the social stimulation and connection we require, but we’re not even getting a satisfying appetizer.
Social media gives off the illusion of our social needs being met, but it doesn’t meet the deep psychological requirements of actual human bonding. Plus, when we do find ourselves in those situations, they can be uncomfortable if we’ve grown accustomed to living our lives through our screens.
Will I Ever Be Happy Again?
Photo credit: Startup Stock Photos
I’m sorry to be the one to break this news to you, but probably not. But, don’t worry—we can all be living, breathing unhappy humans busily staring at our phones and liking things together.
Just kidding…there is a way out, and it’s actually easier than you might think.
1. Go on a Social Media Cleanse
No, you don’t have to drink any funny green juice, but you do have to stop consuming something that’s as arguably as hard to quit as junk food—social media. Set a time, ideally a series of days, when you’ll take a prolonged break from social media.
This doesn’t just mean you’re going to stop posting, but you’re going to stop using all personal social media accounts completely. To make it easier on yourself, make sure to deactivate all of your current accounts, install a website blocker, and ask a friend to keep you accountable.
When doing a social media detox, you might be surprised to see how often you type Facebook.com into the address bar without even thinking, or unconsciously open up Instagram on your phone. Yeah, it’s kinda scary.
2. Set Times and Use Blockers
Perhaps taking a serious timeout from social media seems a little extreme. Then, we offer you a way to tone it down a notch. I mean, access to social media is the same as breathing to some people.
Give yourself a time period during the day when you’ll use social media. You can utilize the help of certain website blockers to prohibit the offending sites during certain hours of the day you don’t want to access them.
Surprisingly, you might find how little of “life” you actually miss out on when you’re not plugged into the social media matrix. Revelation! Life actually does occur beyond the cozy confines of our glowing screens.
3. Switch Up Your Feeds
If it’s not actually the amount of time you spend on social media, but who you’re following, then it might be time to shake up your old feeds. There’s no rule that says you have to follow the people you knew from high school.
If someone is polluting your feed with negativity, or writing things that upset you, then unfollow them. Your social media feed is your house. Only guests that you invite are welcome.
It’s a different way than most people use social media. But, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the “social” world, then you should at least be more mindful about who you’re letting into your sphere.
Social media is (most likely) here to stay. Like having a loud and obnoxious neighbor with a good heart, it’s better to learn to live in harmony than put up a fight. Use some of the tips above to make your happiness a priority and start making social media work for you.
Any rituals around social media that help you avoid its negative effects? Please share in the comments below.