When I was growing up, social media wasn’t as popular as it is now and I am very thankful for that. Over the last few years it seems to have taken over the world. I read news on it, watch videos, message my friends and I make comparisons through social media.
Comparing is damaging
Comparing our lives to others online can stop us from accepting how our lives are and from being content or happy with them. When you suffer with anxiety or depression, you tend to be a lot more critical of yourself, your life choices and what you have achieved. Social media can be dangerous in the sense that it allows you to see what everyone else is up to and what they appear to achieve. You can end up comparing everyone else’s lives to yours and become more critical and think less of yourself.
A highlight reel
I cannot stress this enough. I know people that are feeling down about their lives, or are in bad relationships and yet what they have put online makes things appear perfect. Not many people show the real version of their lives; it is just a snapshot. People tend not to want to share the bad days or the times they failed at something and they don’t write about what they’re lacking. This in itself is fine, but you have to remember that not everything you see is real. Social media lacks context, it only shows what someone wants you to see.
So, when it comes to social media you have to be very careful to take it all with a pinch of salt. When you are feeling down about yourself and scrolling through your timeline take note that this is potentially an idealised version of real life. Next time you compare your life to someone else’s; remember no one’s life is perfect.
Using social media too much?
Using social media too much can have a negative impact on our brains and our sense of calm. There is so much information flowing through us at the time that we are scrolling, so many thoughts and feelings are evoked. It’s not a very relaxing activity to be doing. I think it’s very sensible to limit the amount of time that you are on social media each day. It is much healthier to practise other hobbies to help boost your health and mental wellbeing. Why not try alternative activities like adult colouring-in books, going for a walk in nature, taking a relaxing bath while reading a book, or watching your favourite TV show on Netflix. These are all more likely to boost your mood than obsessing over social media.
Using social media and smart phones too much can disconnect us from the real world. It doesn’t help us to connect or bond with those around us. Whenever I am with a friend, I always make sure that my phone is out of the way so that I can give my friend my full attention. It’s great I can message my friends online and keep in touch with their news, but social media and phones should not replace real friendships. It’s far more meaningful to meet with a friend for a coffee than to send a funny meme of an evening.
Watch out for those endorphins
The endorphin dopamine, which controls the desire to seek and be rewarded, is released when we use social media. This means we get an instant gratification. That could be from a like, re-tweet or a comment. It encourages social media users to repeat this behaviour as the effects wear off quickly, so they use social media more and more which creates addictive behaviour. Social media releases endorphins to make us feel good, but it’s a toxic and unhealthy means of receiving them. Meditation, getting enough sleep, music and exercise are all healthier ways of getting your fix of dopamine.
Social media for the good…
There are so many informative and positive social media accounts that help spread good. These can be accounts of your friends, accounts that help save the planet and pages that promote positivity or charities. If it wasn’t for social media, I wouldn’t have connected with so many wonderful people whilst blogging.
There are inspiring resources online and accounts that can help improve your wellbeing. Be wary of accounts or pages that make you feel down and low. It’s beneficial to notice what accounts create negative or anxious feelings. Why not have a cull and get rid of them? Instead, start following healthy ones that will boost your mental health and your wellbeing.
Dorset Mind has very active social media channels across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube. Their youth division ‘Dorset Mind Your Head’ also has an Instagram and Twitter account. You can find them by using the handles in the image at the top of the page!
Don’t forget, you are in charge of what you view online.