It’s where we hang out, where we meet people, where we learn new things, even where we shop — but is it leaving you feeling depressed, anxious, less-than or not able to put down your phone? Social media has begun to take over our lives and it’s affecting our mental health, our sleep, our real-life relationships and more. Contrary to those first two sentences, I don’t actually believe social media has to be a bad thing. I do think, however, we need to learn to use it more intentionally and not let it steamroll our lives. So, how can you have a healthier relationship with social media? As I’ve just returned to the land of Instagram after a two-week break, this topic is sitting at the forefront of my mind. Let’s chat about the good and the bad of life with social media, and how you can begin building a healthier relationship with these apps because let’s be real, they’re here to stay.
Social Media is Designed to Keep You Coming Back
Okay, this may come as a shock (oooor not), but these apps are all designed to keep you coming back to them. They’re not a “use me once and forget about me” kind of thing. It’s all pretty clever, from the layout to the likes to all the notifications, many aspects keep you reaching for that app for fear of missing out on something important. Not sure about you, but that little red dot that tells me I have some piece of information or message waiting for me to look at is pretty difficult to ignore. Combine that with the feeling that by not engaging in social media daily, you feel like you’re missing out on some amazing life-changing thing, it’s understandable why we keep reaching for our phones.
Playing the Comparison Game
I know I’m not the only one guilty of comparing my life to others I see online, right? Don’t leave me hanging here… Anyways, the thing is, comparing our life to someone else’s is a habit we easily fall into, and also one we’ve been doing long before the rise of social media. I count myself lucky to have grown up and gone through high school before social media existed, okay maybe Myspace was around but there certainly wasn’t any pressure to be online like there is today. It was hard enough seeing girls I wanted to be like walking through the halls, but multiply that by millions (probably) and you have what kids, teens, 20-somethings and older now see online, daily.
Do You Feel Alone and Separated?
Social media can tend to alienate you and cause feelings of loneliness and separation. And because of its addictive nature, it can even strain your real-life connections which only worsens these feelings. How many times have you hung out with a friend only to have them be on their phone the whole time? Or maybe you both were? We’re starting to miss out on actually connecting, looking at and conversing with actual human beings, thinking that there’s something more interesting on our phones instead.
Wait, It’s Not All Bad!
As I mentioned earlier, despite everything I just pointed out, I actually don’t see social media as being a bad thing. It just takes a little bit of intention and boundary setting to make it a cool and inspiring place to be. The truth is, the world got a whole lot smaller since social media. You can connect with someone on the other side of the world and realize you have common interests. You can make friends you’d have never met in real life and have a soul-deep connection that truly benefits your life. You can find projects to be a part of, different life paths, creative interests and so. much. more.
I love social media for all of these things. I learn so much from those I follow or interact with, I’m able to spread my own words further, I’m able to connect with so many beautiful, unique souls that I am so freaking grateful for. I’ve learned things, found amazing brands to support, been guided into deeper growth, all through people I follow on social media. I mentioned before, cultivating this type of relationship with social media takes intention, and it takes a few boundaries.
Let’s dive into how you can build a healthier relationship with social media.
Implementing Boundaries and Healthier Social Media Habits
1. Set Time Limits + Take Regular Breaks
Give yourself a few boundaries surrounding the apps. A couple of my favourites are to not pick up my phone for the first 30 minutes of my day, saying goodnight to my phone at least 30 minutes before bed and also staying conscious of how many times I check in on social media every day. Since I’m just back from a two-week break from social, I’m going to try out scrolling just once per day. I can share my posts and stories, but I only get to scroll once a day. And on the topic of my break, I highly recommend taking breaks every once in a while! Be it one day each week social media free, or maybe two weeks a few times a year. The clarity and balance that comes with a break now and then is truly beneficial to your health and mental wellness.
2. Turn Off Notifications
On a similar note to setting time boundaries and taking breaks, I also really suggest turning off notifications for your social media apps. Those little red dots always get me, so I turned them off. Then I can choose when I decide to check out what’s been going on and catch up on any messages.
3. Follow Inspiring Content Creators
This one is big. And it goes offline too. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and create meaningful content that resonates with you. There’s a saying that you end up like the 5 people you spend the most time with, this goes for social media too. Follow and engage with accounts that help you grow, feel approachable, have a life that inspires you, opens your mind, whatever it may be. Unfollow accounts/people that are judgmental, hurtful, mean, or just rub you the wrong way. This is your space, make it somewhere you feel good hanging out.
4. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Easier said than done, I know. But social media more often than not is where people show a highlight reel of their life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But keep in mind, when you’re comparing yourself to another, usually, it’s your flaws or weak points to someone else’s strengths. It’s your struggles in life to someone’s success. Or they’ve put in the effort to get where they are and you are just beginning. Whichever way you look at it, comparing gets you nowhere and leaves you feeling sad, anxious and lousy.
I mentioned that you can sometimes feel alone or separate, and one thing that’s great for that is to actually be social on social media. Crazy, right? I know it can feel intimidating, but if you’re following accounts that truly inspire you and you resonate with, this shouldn’t be too overwhelmingly scary. Respond to someone’s story poll or question, comment on a post that’s asking you to share, whatever feels right to you, but start to engage and connect with others online.
6. Get Curious
Here’s one of my more difficult tips. Get curious about yourself, give yourself space to self-reflect and ultimately grow. There’s a reason you feel less-than when you look at so-and-so’s Instagram, there’s a reason you seek the outside validation and the likes, there’s something behind why you’re distracting yourself with your phone. Whether this is insecurity, self-doubt, not-enoughness or something else. This is where you can grow. Because you are enough just by existing on this planet. And embracing your authentic self, building confidence and self-acceptance and shining your light in whatever way you desire, is how we release all the heavy and hard of this world, it’s how we connect and inspire.
It’s All A Work In Progress
Just remember, life is a journey. Take small actions day by day and see where they lead you. Every change, every shift, every ritual you try, and every time you open up and grow, it’s all part of being human. We may have only been chatting about social media today, but I think you know, it’s a bit deeper than that. How you use something silly like an app can influence a lot in your life. Spend your energy wisely, on things that light you up, inspire you, stretch you and ultimately guide you to embracing your authentic self.
Originally published at https://www.whitneybarkmanwellness.com on November 20, 2019.