What To Do If Social Media Has Got You Down
Use of social media is prevalent in modern life. It can be a fun way to keep tabs on friends, family, acquaintances, or even celebrities, but it can also be a major trigger for FOMO (fear of missing out) and other negative hits to the self-esteem. If adults can be susceptible to feeling this way and getting sucked in to the time suck that is scrolling on social media, all the more for your teenaged child. Today’s blog provides some background on why social media can be harmful to one’s developing identity, as well as some strategies you or your teen can use to keep social media from being a toxic influencer.
THE DARK SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA:
- Anxiety and depressive symptoms – There’s lots of research on this. One study following 3,000 7th to 10th graders over a period of four years revealed that the more screen time the teens spent, the higher their rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms. (you can read more about this research here: https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/01/09/social-media-anxiety-depression-teens)
- Filtered view of the world – We see filtered and altered pictures on social media and then compare those images to our real lives. Even photos that have not been manipulated with filters, photoshop, creative cropping, etc, people tend to only share their best moments and best pictures on social media, not the real day to day ordinary stuff we tend to experience. Parents, you may remember the Dove Beauty ads that ran a few years ago; here’s a great one on how much it took/ takes to get that one perfect pic for an advertisement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KN2yunRynks
- Competition for ‘likes’ – For the purposes of this blog, I did a few google searches. One google search, “how to make your Instagram pictures get more likes” , brought up 466,000,000 results. It feels like such a bummer to me that there are that many articles and youtube videos on increasing likes on Instagram. People can get almost addicted to checking their account notifications and it can be a surge of validation and happy chemicals with each additional like or comment. Likewise the opposite effect if you don’t feel like your posts are getting enough attention.
- FOMO (fear of missing out) – Growing up before the advent of social media, if two friends were hanging out without me, I didn’t have to hear about it and/or I’d never find out about it. But in modern times, so much of that stuff gets put on social media. So, teens can go from being perfectly happy spending time at home to all of a sudden upset and feeling left out. But the truth is, when you go spend time with a friend, you don’t likely invite all your friends, all the time, so it’s not personal, it’s just that every event is not a large group gathering; sometimes you’re hanging out with that friend, sometimes they’re hanging out with someone else.
- Feelings of envy – a close cousin of FOMO, scrolling social media can bring up feelings of envy or jealousy as we see the fun things others are doing, the expensive things they have, how we can imagine how perfect their lives are compared to ours. Within minutes, your anxious or obsessive thoughts can spiral downwards into a comparison trap and in to viewing your own life through a more negative lens.
WHAT TO DO:
Parents and teens, You might consider some of or a combination of the following suggestions for your social media use:
- Limit your time on social media – some smartphones even have screen time apps where you can set your own time limits on app usage per day. Turn off your notifications or put your smartphone on airplane mode for several hours a day so you’re not tempted to be mindlessly checking.
- Consider taking a social media break – taking a few days or a week off might give you valuable insight as to how social media is impacting your day-to-day. Likewise, taking a day or multiple days off weekly on a regular basis might be a good longer-term strategy.
- Unfollow, mute [on Instagram], or snooze [on facebook], etc people who are triggering – if they’re not a friend irl and they’re triggering, unfollow them. If they are a friend irl and they’re triggering, consider the snooze function (facebook) if you don’t want to unfollow them completely
- Start following inspirational, motivational, body-positive, and/or funny people and pages – this will infuse your scrolling with some positivity peppered in there
- Post things on your own accounts that you feel good about – you may not be able to control what others are posting about, but you can have control over your own page and showing up in an authentic way.
- Consider putting a sticky note on your laptop or as your desktop image or the background on your smartphone something that’s inspirational and/or ‘reminds’ you that social media distorts so that when you’re looking at your screens, you have that friendly reminder.
- Remind yourself often that what you see on someone’s social media is usually the filtered version of their life – it’s hard that we tend to compare our inner lives to others’ outer lives. I bet there are people who do the same to you – they look at your social media and interpret it as how great your life is
- Keep in mind YOUR values, YOUR job, YOUR priorities – Yes, Kylie Jenner gets paid $$ to post pics of her in expensive clothes but remind yourself that it’s OK that that is not your life. Her priorities are not your priorities and not your job, so you focus on what YOUR priorities are (school, work, etc)
- Make a second account where you only follow positive things and positive people. Keep your first account with your friends on it, I know that’s important, but maybe a second account that you check when you’re itching to scroll you can be following only people and pages that make you feel good about yourself.
- Use a real alarm clock instead of your phone, so that your phone and apps aren’t the first thing you look at in the morning; why start your day out with something that might make you feel bad about yourself or your situation?!
- Replace your social media time with other things that are meaningful to you – are there other apps, games, podcasts, or reading you could be doing?
- Consider getting off of select apps or social media altogether – this may be a good choice for some. If social media isn’t fun and it makes you feel bad about yourself, maybe this is not a relationship to be in. Or consider if certain apps are more upsetting to you than others, maybe those would be the ones to cut.
NEED MORE?/ Therapy with Sue:
If you are a California resident and would like to talk with me about how counseling for yourself or your teen can work, please contact me, I’d love to hear from you. I have a psychotherapy office in midtown Sacramento, an office in El Dorado Hills, or I can provide tele-health through a secured platform. I can be reached at https://hopeintherapy.com/contact/ or (916) 764-8360.