Why social media is bad for mental health
How do you know if social media is controlling your mood?
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Do you check your phone? Do you look for new messages, comments, Likes on Instagram, Facebook friend requests etc?
Instead of being grateful for waking up to another beautiful day, you thank your followers for the Likes on your newest Instagram or Facebook picture.
Are you looking at what everyone else is doing and comparing yourself? While you’re getting up for work, you see others are travelling the globe. How do you react and feel? Happiness for them or envy?
Full disclosure – I’m also guilty of getting caught up with social media. Don’t get me wrong – social media is not the root of all evil. Since many of us need it for work purposes it can be difficult to disconnect. And in many cases today it’s expected to be available and online for immediate responses. I love my phone and would seemingly be lost without it. But it’s having a bigger impact on our emotional wellbeing than we’re willing to acknowledge and accept.
Here’s why – Reliance on social media means we’re more likely to be on it for longer than what is healthy for us and those around us.
LOOKING TO SOCIAL MEDIA FOR APPROVAL
The word “selfie” is now in the dictionary. It’s not wrong to take a selfie. It’s uplifting to take a photo of yourself and feel utterly beautiful about it.
Is it wrong that you want to share your confidence with the Internet? No, it isn’t. But looking for the approval of others in this way can be. It’s not an authentic or healthy way to build self-confidence and/or measure your self-worth.
How many times have you ended up disappointed at the lack of Likes your photo has gotten? Or been discouraged when someone else’s photo received more publicity or attention than yours?
Now, I want you to stop and consider for a moment what your ‘intention” or motivation is prior to posting on social media. How do you feel emotionally afterwards? Does it affect your mood?
This is the type of unhealthy affect social media can have on us.
Do you find yourself going for your phone every chance you get? Or recording or snapping every event and social gathering you attend?
Maybe you’re posting pictures of the food you’re eating, the latest outfit you’ve just purchased, or the injury you suffered. Whatever the situation, we often get so caught up with the idea of capturing everything for social media, that we miss the most important part of being there – being fully present and in the moment.
Try enjoying your next concert or event through your eyes, not the lens of your phone.
Or next time you’re out at dinner, enjoy the moment by truly being present with the people you care about. Put your phone away and give them your full undivided attention.
Social media can blur our perspective on what’s important. Ask yourself how important it is for your friends, family, or the internet to know your every move and like and/or comment on everything you do.
Consider your main motivation or purpose for wanting to be seen online.
And remember – when was the last time you heard anyone say, “Geez, I’m so glad you recorded that grainy, blurry, hard-to-see and impossible to hear video of the concert you attended last night!”? Probably never.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND RELATIONSHIPS
Relationships can be difficult enough with a long list of daily stressors to deal with. But throwing social media in the mix can cause a whole range of unnecessary challenges and stressors on a couple.
Something as simple as accepting a friend request could damage trust and potentially end a relationship.
I’ve seen it before and it continually happens to couples. I hear breakup stories ranging from “She was his best friend on Snapchat,” or “I saw her like one of his photos.” They might have just been an old school friend or a colleague going through a difficult time, but these situations can evolve into unnecessary conflict.
Even messaging someone can have unintended consequences. What may start off as playful banter between friends or colleagues might be perceived as flirtatiousness by a partner and start an argument.
However, while these conversations may start out with harmless intentions, they can evolve and lead us down a destructive path of secrecy and betrayal if we’re not careful.
Trust is the most important part of a healthy relationship. Once broken, it can be very difficult to repair or rebuild, if at all.
If you haven’t already, you might find it helpful to have an open discussion with your partner around social media usage and what you both deem as being acceptable and not acceptable in your relationship. This can be different for everyone, but can save a lot of hurt in the long run if you have a clear understanding of what boundaries are important for both of you.
DOING THINGS JUST FOR SOCIAL MEDIA TO SEE
Something you should always ask yourself is – “Would I be doing this if I couldn’t post it on social media?”
It’s 100 percent okay to take a photo while doing something you love and share it with your friends and family online. But when you’re doing something only to seek attention and brag about it on social media, there might be an emotional need not being fulfilled, which possibly needs exploring further.
It’s okay to enjoy a confidence boost now and then through what we post. But if we become dependent on our posts to feel good, then recognising our behaviour and speaking with a professional may be beneficial in understanding your mood further.
COMPARING YOUR LIFE TO OTHERS
Social media is designed to be a ‘highlights’ package of someone’s life. We usually select the best picture, the best events, and the best time to share with friends and family or, in some cases, to influence others.
It’s only natural to feel a little envious sometimes.
Social media turns us all into the toddler who’s sitting perfectly happy with his bag of sweets until another child ambles along and sits next to us, but with a much larger bag.
If you struggle with low self-esteem and/or are experiencing any feelings of self-doubt, it’s best to limit social media so there’s less risk of feeling worse.
GETTING INTO FIGHTS IN THE COMMENTS
What starts off as harmless banter can easily descend into a slanging match of atomic proportions. One choice insult, for which you have no comeback, and that’s your day totally ruined. And then, as you finally close your eyes after 24 hours of brooding, you think of the perfect retort. But it’s too late. It’s always too late.
How does this leave you feeling? Is it worth getting involved or making that comment?
ALWAYS CHECKING YOUR PHONE
There was a time when reaching into your pocket would mean you were getting your wallet or your keys. Now, it’s the phone. At dinner. The theatre. Walking down the street. At a wedding. While others are trying to talk to you. Times when you should be listening.
And you can’t help yourself. You want to stop. You want to stare into your partner’s eyes over lobster thermidor, but you can’t because there’s something new on the timeline and you don’t want to miss it.
Ultimately, social media can be fun and a great way to connect with others online however it can also be destructive and damaging to our mood and our relationships if we become disconnected to those around us and lose focus on why we are using it.
If you find social media is affecting your emotional wellbeing and playing havoc with your mood, take a step back and consider your motivations and what you could do differently. Alternatively, speaking with a counsellor can be a great help in understanding your emotions further.
Do you need Counselling Support?
If you need counselling support, contact Kylie Lepri for a FREE 15-minute phone call to discuss your situation and find out how she can help. Call us now on 0404 032636 or book your free phone call online.
Kylie Lepri is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist, and Marriage Therapist. Since 2003 she has helped individuals and couples work through life stressors, develop new goals and create better relationships. Get Kylie’s FREE ebook: 5 Proven Strategies to help manage stress today, by joining her newsletter below.