Social media, mental health, and strategies to avoid overusing it

This is probably one of the most talked about issues right now. Most people love social media. Sharing pictures, liking, commenting. It feels like socializing. You get in touch with people that are far away or close by. It’s fun and a time waster. It’s addictive. Every notification is a dopamine spike. We get hooked and spend more and more time on it. Too tired to do something productive, it’s easy to just scroll through Facebook or Instagram.

It’s an artificial world, where everyone is happy and on their best behavior. Or not but we are always in PR mode. “Look at this beautiful place”, “Look at this wonderful food”. If you’re not in the best place right now, it’s better not to be on Facebook or other toxic social media sites.

woman

At least here on WordPress, people get vulnerable. They talk about their victories, their defeats and everything in between. You are not bombarded by selfies or animal abuse videos or all that other crap you see on Facebook. This is a social platform for readers, writers, and curious people.

I definitely feel much better since I stopped using Facebook so much but let’s see what science says about it:

According to a recent study by UK disability charity Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62 percent reported feeling inadequate and 60 percent reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201703/mental-health-and-the-effects-social-media

Social media can cause depression, according to this recent study.  If you feel jealous or envious of your Facebook friends, it’s better not to have an account. As I’ve said before, it’s addictive, so it’s easy to keep going despite the fact that it’s making you miserable. It causes more sadness and less joy. It’s only natural for us to compare ourselves to others and on Facebook that is inevitable.

depressed woman

Human beings are always looking for satisfaction. Most people aren’t satisfied with their lives and virtual socializing seems safer. But it’s not. It can be in a sense but we need to feel a real connection. To be with people in real life, create bonds, etc. We weren’t made to be alone all the time. Humans are social species.

In fact, another study found that social media use is linked to greater feelings of social isolation. The team looked at how much people used 11 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and Reddit, and correlated this with their “perceived social isolation.” Not surprisingly, it turned out that the more time people spent on these sites, the more socially isolated they perceivedthemselves to be. And perceived social isolation is one of the worst things for us, mentally and physically.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#721f75612e5a

You’re shaping your reality and isolating yourself, under the false pretense of effortless socializing. You will perceive yourself to be more alone and that also contributes to depression or sadness.

Meanwhile another survey of 1,000 British women by Forza Supplements found that 82% of respondents “edit” their holiday photographs before posting them online in order to ensure that they are shown to the greatest advantage; 34% use filters on Instagram to finesse their appearance. Additionally 76% of respondents said they have felt embarrassed by photos posted by friends or family members that included them, and 57% have actually asked these friends or family members to take a photo down because they considered it so unflattering.

Source: https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/230900/social-media-makes-users-feel-ugly-inadequate.html

So, people are altering themselves to fit in, to have more likes and receive compliments. We have to be flawless at all times. This isn’t healthy, it’s shaping our perception and putting pressure on us. It’s unrealistic and harmful. Artificial is the new natural. I fear the impact of this on society.

Everything that exists, in this life, is connected to something else. We are all connected and the internet connected us even more (even if in an illusory way). A comparison is inevitable in this environment. We see other people’s lives and automatically compare it to ours. This is very toxic and can lead to depression. It also leads to jealousy.

 (…) it can become a vicious cycle: feeling jealous can make a person want to make his or her own life look better, and post jealousy-inducing posts of their own, in an endless circle of one-upping and feeling jealous.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#720d85352e5a

We should always look at things this way: this person looks like she has a perfect life but everyone has trials and tribulations. They don’t show you when they cry, when they scream, when they are angry and frustrated. No one is perfect or has a perfect life. If you feel like you’re in this infinite loop of jealousy, avoid Facebook or unfollow your most successful Facebook friends or the ones that like to brag about their lives.

Part of the unhealthy cycle is that we keep coming back to social media, even though it doesn’t make us feel very good. This is probably because of what’s known as a forecasting error: Like a drug, we think getting a fix will help, but it actually makes us feel worse, which comes down to an error in our ability to predict our own response. One study looked at how people feel after using Facebook and how they think they’ll feel going in. Like other studies suggested, the participants in this one almost always felt worse after using it, compared to people engaging in other activities. But a follow-up experiment showed that people generally believed that they’d feel better after using, not worse. Which of course turns out not to be the case at all, and sounds a lot like the pattern in other types of addiction.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#720d85352e5a

I remember one day, I was particularly sensitive and I came across a video of animal abuse. Distressed and uneasy, I logged off and swore I would never log in again. One hour later, I was back. Just like an addict who is caught by the police, while buying drugs and buys drugs the day after that, most of us return to Facebook after seeing something distressing or disturbing. It’s important to break this cycle.

man thinking forest

Strategies to avoid Facebook and other social media sites

Evaluate your relationship with Facebook, how it affects you and make a conscious choice. There are strategies to avoid Facebook or other social media sites. If you have a pc and a cellphone, try to make it a habit not to use Facebook on your computer, just on your phone. Spend time doing other things on your computer, like watching movies, series, doing a course, watching interesting YouTube videos or documentaries. Even better is to see your friends in real life, take a walk, enjoy nature, read a book, meditate. There is a number of great things you can do in real life.

Set a time to check Facebook or just go with the flow and you may forget it exists for a few hours. Then, check your notifications and scroll for a few minutes, ideally less than five. Don’t get sucked into the rabbit hole, there’s a world outside. A palpable, more real world.

As you detox from it, you’ll start to notice that you spend less and less time there. You will start to value your other activities and understand that Facebook and other social media sites are a trap.

Conclusion

Facebook and other sites were created and designed to keep us hooked, in order to sell things to us. Gather our information and sell it to God-knows-who. It knows almost everything about us, based on our likes. It’s also an echo-chamber, somewhere where we just see what the algorithm thinks we want to see. This is also harmful, as we should be informed about various points of view., in order to not have a very biased opinion.

It’s also important to think that our time is finite and that wasting it on toxic platforms is not the best way to live. There are other activities that are more constructive and positive.