Elise Falloon shares how our social media use may negatively impact our mental health
In the article below, Founder of Strength to Strength Elise Falloon explains the impact of social media on our mental health and shares some tips on how we can stop comparing ourselves to others.
“Comparison is the thief of happiness…”Theodore Roosevelt.
Let’ s talk about social media!
Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter and more!
We have endless opportunities and ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones, stay educated and informed, be inspired and motivated and stay on top of the latest trends. We really have it all with the click of a finger.
The power of social media has proven to be an amazing tool when it comes to creating awareness of social issues. It provides feelings of connectedness and shows how in this big world we can create a community and unite together.
We live in such a fast-paced society where social media is considered such a useful tool – something that most of us use every day.
So, how much is too much? And are we using this to benefit our own mental health?
“It creates a tsunami of excess information at warp speed, which could intensify the effects.”Says Princeton University psychologist Susan Fiske on discussing negative social comparisons in the media.
Unfortunately, studies are now showing that we may continue to be negatively affected by social media if we aren’t careful and don’t start creating a healthy balance with technology and the use of it in our everyday lives. Negative social comparison may be detrimental to our mental health and wellbeing.
Have you ever caught yourself scrolling through your socials not really looking at anything? How many hours a day have you spent subconsciously scrolling, then looking at the clock and realised you have spent x amount of time where you’re actually not sure what you have even looked at?
Or – perhaps looking at other people’s photos and wishing you had their body? Or could afford to go on lavish holidays? Have flawless skin? White teeth? The perfect relationship? The best friends? All these questions may be entering our minds as we scroll through our feed.
Now, most of us are guilty of thinking some of these questions and in this new digital age, it is so easy and very common to get caught up comparing ourselves. Sometimes we may not even realise we are doing it and these comparisons may linger in our minds, affecting our daily functioning and forcing an unhealthy relationship with our own self.
Social media may be unintentionally creating unhealthy habits within ourselves which may be affecting our overall mental health and wellbeing.
According to Mitch Prinstein, a psychologist from University of North Carolina, “When we are reliant on others for our sense of self, only feeling good if we get positive feedback or markers of status, we are at risk of depression.”
Spending too much time on social media may lead to depression and feelings of anxiety and lack of self-worth. People prone to or who may already have mental health issues may further exacerbate these symptoms, which may lead to being unable to maintain and manage their own mental health.
Like most things, it’s helpful if we can find a balance. This is a personal choice for you and feeds into what makes you happy and how you feel.
So, this is all well and good to know, but how much is too much? And how can we use social media to benefit ourselves?
Find that Balance!
Comparison is part of our human make-up – we can’t completely shut it off. Healthy competition and striving for more is this what helps us to stay motivated, stick to our goals and provides a sense of purpose. However, if we aren’t aware of when this balance goes below the line of healthy and attainable, then bad habits and negative mindsets can form.
How can we be aware of this?
Look for the signs before it gets too unhealthy – focus on yourself.
Start with a self check-in at the start of the day and repeat at the end of the day.
It is important to note our mindset and mood shifts throughout the day, which can ultimately affect the way we think and feel when looking through our social media.
Take notice of how much time you spend a day on your socials and ask yourself these questions:
- What am I looking at?
- Why do I want or need to look at this?
- How do I feel when I am looking at this content?
- Can I put my phone away when I am with my friends?
- Am I present with the people around me or am I thinking about what I am going to post?
- How will I feel once I post this photo?
- Am I constantly checking for likes? For validation?
Self-check-in is such an important tool to reflect on ourselves.
Being mindful of when these aspects may be taken too far is so important for us to realise when we may need a break or to implement some strategies to create a healthy social media environment.
And by break, it doesn’t mean a full digital detox. It could be some of the examples below:
- Time limit or allocate times of the day you use your socials.
- Unfollowing the pages that create negativity.
- Follow inspiring pages, informative pages, educative pages, things that make you happy and smile.
- Don’t be scared if you have to unfollow that old friend from high school you don’t talk to anymore…It’s OK!!
- Take some time out, put your phone, laptop or tablet down. Stop and breathe, do something you love to do.
- Also, be mindful that editing and posting may be someone’s career or hobby and brings joy for that person – however, it isn’t for everyone. For some people, it can actually be an exhausting process. People are going places to make them gram-worthy, spending time editing the photo, still unsure after posting it, waiting for validation…Ask yourself, was that worth the stress or the worry and the time?
- Exercise – do not underestimate the power of exercise!
- Set goals and focus on them, not the goals of others.
- Check-in with loved ones and friends – social media can be a great place for support as well
- Mute, block, delete, repeat if something isn’t serving you.
And lastly – self-love & self-care:
Self-love and self-care are so important for our own mental health.
Self-care and self-love are part of our own personal maintenance. We may not notice that this is often overlooked or forgotten about as we continue to scroll through our feed comparing and wanting more than what we have, unconsciously comparing ourselves to others.
It is ok to strive and want more then what we have, however, when we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people, this can create a negative connotation to our own goals and achievements.
In today’s fast-paced society, our mental health is not something tangible that we can see such as that new hair cut or a broken bone. However, our mental health is extremely important. We need to remember to take time for ourselves and these check-ins are a useful tool. It is important to be present with ourselves and the world around us. Our world is forever changing and to learn to love ourselves we may need to learn how to slow down and see the positives that are in front of us.
- Remember: What is normal? What is perfect? Who defines this? – NO ONE!! No one knows. However, if scrolling through our feeds may start to create a negative mindset, it can form this constant narrative that adds pressure to ourselves.
I saw a post with five key points to focus on with social media and I found it super useful:
Focus on connection, trust yourself, grow a community, be authentic and be yourself. If you become more mindful of these five things, you may start to feel a difference in your mental wellbeing.
Want to read more from Elise? Click here to read our article with her about household objects you can use to workout from home.