Don’t get me wrong- I love social media. It can be an amazing way to find like minded friends, artists you’ve never heard of, and genius memes - it can even be a medium for political change. But it can also really mess with your head.
Compare and Contrast
Social media has created a unique set of challenges that civilizations before us never had. The Social Comparison Theory asserts that we as humans define our social worth relative to the way we see other people around us living. So, even if you are living in a mud hut that leaks when it rains, if everyone around you is living in those same mud huts, you’ll likely feel like you’re doing fine financially and socially. But, if you’re living in a 3 story mansion while everyone around you is living in 5 story mansions, you’ll feel bummed out that you’re not doing very well.
Social media really exacerbates this problem. You may be having a truly great day- you’re seeing someone you really like, you have a job you’re excited about, you’re feeling yourself- but then you see an influencer 10,000 miles away has a new sponsored vacation post, and all of a sudden your life doesn’t seem so grand. If that feels relatable, here are some tips to develop a healthy relationship with social media.
Give it a Rest
Try giving yourself a hard social media stop time an hour or two before bed. It might feel weird at first not to swipe through peoples' stories or scroll your twitter feed while you’re lying in bed. But it’s actually super good for you. For one, the blue light electronics give off messes with your circadian rhythm- not a great way to set the tone for sleep. And giving your brain a chance to do something else- read, meditate, speak with your friend or partner- before you close your eyes will give your brain a much needed break and some time in the here and now. I’ve started setting my phone to block me from accessing my social media apps after 9 PM, and it’s been a game changer for my sleep patterns.
Remember It’s Curated
Look, sometimes people’s lives are going to be straight up fancier than yours. Some people go to the Grammys, some do not (I do not). But one thing to remember with social media is that you’re only seeing the highlights of someone’s life. It’s not necessarily a malicious thing- I personally don’t post all the times I’m working on a spreadsheet or writing an article for The Guide, because I know that would be really boring to everyone else. But because we only see the highlight reel, we also get the idea that everyone else is living this perfect, gorgeous life and we aren’t. Remember that everyone has struggles and goes through the mundane realities of life that we all face- you’re just not seeing it.
Block and Unfollow
Are you getting a weird jealous feeling every time you see your ex's posts? Are your cousin’s online political rants making you depressed and angry, and not in a motivated way? Unfollow them or hide their posts! There is absolutely no reason to follow someone that’s causing you to feel down- even if you think you should, and especially if you find it addictive. They will likely have no idea you've unfollowed them, and you won't feel that tight chest feeling every time they hit share.
Schedule IRL Time
This is the biggest one- make it a point to see the friends and family you care about in real life, and keep your phone at a distance during that time. I’m not saying no photos- but save the posting and hash-tagging for later. There’s something about the lack of eye contact and face to face interaction that makes it really easy to escalate a disagreement on social media or compare yourself to someone else in a really negative way. It’s amazing what some time in your real relationships can do to remind you that you are truly doing just fine, and if you're not fine, that you're loved.