Does your social media control you?

After going out with a few friends my first week at Western Washington I pulled out my phone to check the usual social media; insta, snapchat, and twitter. Image after image of parties popped up, laughing girls surrounded by loud music, and conversations. These pictures made me reconsider my decision of where I decided to go college, and made me feel lonely. How had they already made so many friends? Would I have more friends if I went to an in state school where my high school friends went? I didn’t even realize that I had spent time with my friends earlier that day because I was so focused on what I didn’t have. I am proud to tell you that I survived the first two quarters of college and I only thought about transferring about 2 million more times after that. Now I know that similar experiences happen to almost everyone. Why does social media amplify the jealousy and loneliness within us? Seeing a picture of that girl with your boyfriend, your friends spending time together without you, and even people who you wouldn’t be aware of if it wasn’t for social media can make a person jealous. We shouldn’t let social media make us feel these things and we shouldn’t let these pictures control us. So how can we avoid this?

Technology can be extremely hard to avoid, researchers suggest that over 64% of people spend over 4 hours on a screen, but it’s not impossible to take breaks from technology. Taking breaks from social media can give you time to reevaluate the negative thoughts and self-pity that you may have developed and realize that they aren’t the reality. I discovered that it helped me to take breaks from my phone by recognizing why I gravitated towards social media, to avoid my own boredom.

As college continued I realized the importance of taking breaks from social media because of these breaks I can now say that my decision to go out of state has been one of the best I have ever made. I started to make the choice to not open social media and instead chose to go outside, be creative, or read a book. I found it easier to set limits when I did go on social media by making commitments to people in real life which forced me to set down my phone and go socialize. Hiding in my room feeling bad for myself didn’t improve how I saw my life. You can do these things too in order to improve your self-confidence. Going out and simply taking a walk through campus or your neighborhood can help clear your head and makes you feel a part of a community. Even posting a picture of you and your friends can help you feel better because although social media has its downsides, it’s a great way to connect.

The pressure and negativity social media creates is a cycle so remember that you might make others jealous too when you post a picture of your “perfect life”. The same friends that you are envious of may be jealous of you when you post a picture. It is hard to avoid posting pictures which may make other jealous, but stay away from purposefully snarky and cynical posts on social media. When 25% of teens say they are targets of cyber bullying sharing photos that might not be of you at your best could help someone else relate and not feel so lonely. Tweeting “had a really bad day today” won’t make you less than other people and will actually show that you can be vulnerable and that you are human. Don’t force yourself into happiness it is okay and normal to be sad.

Take everything you see and read on social media with a grain of salt because chances are it’s not reality. Realize when your self-esteem is shaky and avoid social media until you do something to improve it. I have seen an improvement in my confidence since limiting my use of social media which has made me understand that it doesn’t control me. Spend your time with friends and don’t let social media control you. With over 220 million people on social media (as of Jan 2016) imagine what all of us could do if we spent our time being productive instead of double tapping fake pictures of people we hardly know. As cheesy as it may sound, if we make an effort to be more social offline it could help us all feel better about our lives and self-esteem.