- Posted by Jon Harju
- On February 20, 2019
I can’t help but wonder if perhaps our lives have become more demanding since our social lives turned into a 24-hour online diary?!
The daily social media we consume has become a core part of our communication and how we express ourselves. Social media has become part of the fabric of our story, our connection to others who live in lands far away. It’s the tool to connect us with the like-minded souls whom we wouldn’t usually have the chance to meet in person. When you stop to think about it, it’s pretty cool!
It is cool, except when we find ourselves comparing our latest status to someone else’s. Do we question our life’s progression in accordance with another’s latest achievements? Do we measure our happiness against someone’s vacation photos? Do we evaluate our success in accordance with the number of followers we have? Do we allow our mental health to be shaken by a ten-minute catch-up scroll?
I have been using Facebook for thirteen years and Instagram for four! Lately, my social media feeds deliver a treasure trove full of people I adore and posts that educate and make me happy. As I scroll through, I feast on a feed that never fails to make me smile, laugh and feel inspired.
BUT it hasn’t always been like that — just ask my mental health!
Scroll and Sigh Will Impact Your Mental Health
An autopilot social media scrolling session seems to be a daily moment that many of us soak up. It’s one that fills the gap of time as you wait for your bus. It delivers a morning dose of motivation as you lie in your bed. It distracts you when you’re feeling nervous in the dentist waiting room.
“The average person spends about five hours a day on their mobile device, which adds up to be 35 hours a week, 6 days a month, and 72 days a year.” ¹
But what happens when you veer down the ‘dark side’ of a scroll hole? When you start swiping through posts that draw out the negative feelings of comparison, inadequacy, and jealousy?
Maybe you roll your eyes at a friend’s latest post that declares she is #goingout (dressed head-to-toe in a soft focus filter) meanwhile, you’re sitting at home in your baggy PJ’s, nursing a pizza and a bottle of wine?!
Perhaps you’re looking at the pristine ‘Instagram worthy’ kitchen that has produced a flat lay plate of #blessed chia seed cookies on a marble countertop — meanwhile you’re sitting exhausted on the couch of your messy living room, eating a packet Chips Ahoy Choc Chunk cookies for dinner after a hard days work?!
Maybe you’re looking at the person doing a perfect plank in their coordinated gym gear when your Sunday morning plans consisted of binge watching Netflix with a game of catch-up laundry?
“Social media is arguably the greatest source affecting our arising today. It’s sculpted so neatly around our existing perceptions and biases that it’s stunting us and preventing us from growing outward. That detracts from our quality of life”. ²
Maybe it’s Not Them, Maybe it’s Your Thoughts?
Some of these perfect pixel images will never leave you feeling good about yourself. You can sense the negativity beginning to simmer in your soul and yet you can’t seem to keep away from them either! Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
It’s good to recognize that some of these little squares seem to possess the ability to disempower you. But we need to take a moment and acknowledge that perhaps it’s not them. Maybe it’s your pesky negative thoughts that allow you to feel disempowered?
Think about the posts that trigger your eye-rolls or entice the dreaded jealousy ‘green juice’. A daily reminder of your insecurities that perpetuate self-doubt will never be a healthy exercise for your mind. So why the heck would we want to do it?
There have been countless studies on the psychology of social media and the dopamine high we receive in regularly peeking at our screens.
Interestingly, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex spoke to volunteers at Live For Tomorrow, a mental health organization for young people in New Zealand. Meghan reportedly said it was “freeing” to stop worrying about how many “likes” her posts would get. She also believes that removing herself from social media was important because “flattery and criticism run through the same filter.”
We forget we have a choice about what we see, what we care about and also what we ignore.
Tackle Your Social Feeds with the ‘Spark Joy’ Magic Wand
Anyone else mesmerized by the trending Netflix show, “Tidying up with Marie Kondo’? I say, bring it on, let’s hit Instagram and Facebook with this KonMari method magic wand too. The KonMari method encourages us to look at the excess of your life and find room ONLY for the items which, in Kondo’s words, “spark joy.”
I may not be able to bring myself to tackle my Tupperware cupboard yet, but I’m happy to roll up my sleeves and look Instagram right in the eye!
Recently, I made myself a cup of tea and dedicated an hour to unfollowing and muting a bunch of accounts from my social media.
As I scrolled through my feed, instantly I came face-to-face with a blogger who I have felt compelled to follow because she follows me.
Everything about her staged #streetstyle photo, taken by a professional photographer, as she crosses a street in #SpringFling heels, dampened out any sparks in my bucket of joy.
Why am I following her? Do I like any of her photos? Do I ever comment on her pictures? Do her photos spark joy for me?
I realize how quickly I allow this photo to tap into my insecurities and poke a stick at my mental health wellness.
I identified that I was beginning to ask myself questions such as: Why don’t I look glamorous walking down the street? Do I ever stand a chance of being able to cross the road in 3” heels, simultaneously balancing two bags of groceries? Why do I always burn the side of my forehead as I try to create those beachy waves with my flat iron?
STOP!! It felt liberating to simply tap ‘unfollow’ on her profile. There is no joy, therefore, there is now no ‘Follow’!
I sipped my tea and congratulated myself for finally taking control of my little world and making a deliberate choice of what I want to get joy from. Besides, not all of us get joy from possessing picture perfect beachy waves? I’m proud of the fact that today I walked to the store in the sunshine, crossed the street, carried home a double chocolate fudge cake in my grocery bag, and all in the absence of pastel pink 3″ spring heels! Thank you beloved Converse, that’s my joy! #reallife #ilovechocolatecake #Iloveflatshoes
Who Should You Follow to Ensure Strong Mental Health?
Imagine if you walked into a room and saw all the people you follow on social media, who would you excitedly you rush up and greet? Who would you hug, chat, and laugh with? More importantly, who would you avoid like the plague? Just thinking about that very scene in your mind will help you nail the ones who don’t need to be part of your social media friendship quilt.
It begs the question, why are we treating social media as anything other than social?
Your social media moments should consist of you commenting, liking, sharing and smiling. The warning signs of those who need to hit the bucket are the one which causes your silences, sneers, sighs and self-doubt.
Think about when you attend a house party, cocktail party or business event. You tend to navigate and work the room, chatting to a variety of people throughout the evening. Very quickly you decipher who you enjoy speaking to and who you politely excuse yourself from and move onto the next person.
This is life. This should not be a self-imposed guilt trip of “I should follow”. Likewise, we should NOT get upset if people are not inspired by us and decide to unfollow us. It’s okay to not gel with everyone.
Do You Feel Awkward Putting Your Mental Health Above Unfollowing?
For those of you who are wincing at the thought of a mass unfollowing mission, the clever peeps at Facebook and Instagram have read our ‘etiquette abiding’ minds.
You can use the “Unfollow” feature on Facebook to finally stop following those people you met once in Ibiza 15 years ago. Use the Instagram feature to “mute” either a newsfeed or Instagram story post. No more worry about offending people by unfollowing them, but you also won’t have to see everything they post in your newsfeed. Jackpot!
AND if someone calls you out on it — this actually happened to me — be honest and don’t be afraid to say something along the lines of:
“I’ve been re-evaluating my social media feeds and striving to follow accounts that inspire me and align with my current core values. You’re doing a great job on your account, and I wish you well, but your posts no longer align with what I currently enjoy.”
They should understand, and if not, don’t lose sleep over it. You’re allowed to be in charge of your life and your happiness. The end.
‘Unfriending’ is Your Friend! Your Mental Health is Counting on it
I implore you to take 30 minutes within the next week to tackle your social media for your mental health. Grab a tea (or G&T) and bring up your social media accounts on your phone or computer.
Ditch the people who you don’t know or don’t care about and embrace the people you adore and cheerlead for. Ditch the accounts that don’t align with your core values and embrace the ones who inspire you every day to do better. Ditch the fake and embrace the fabulous. It’s that simple.
It’s okay to change, and it’s okay to seek different inspirations to those you had a year ago. It’s okay to move on in your life — it is called growth and progression, and you’ve hit the jackpot if you continue to do so! Time to ‘unfollow’ what no longer serves you or makes you feel comfortable. It’s time to be you!
Download the Snapclarity Online Therapy platform today!
¹ Give me a break…from social media. (2016, September 6) CAMH. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/give-me-a-break-from-social-media
² Laurie, M. Buddhism for the Unbelievably Busy. Nero books, 2017