I’ve been a part of and overheard a number of conversations in the past six months about social media in an attitude that feels like ‘keeping up with the Jones’. People see an update by someone and internalize the message, likely without realizing what they are doing or how it impacts their mood. Something in a post makes them feel like they’re missing something, not experiencing enough, or maybe are not living up to par, and their mood is affected.
Your news feed may be filled with baby posts, happy couples, and new homes, and you feel left out as a single person, childless, or renting. Maybe you have a child, and see your unattached friends being spontaneous, traveling the world and leading lives of adventure. The single person doesn’t see the sleepless nights, the frustration when you can’t understand your child’s crying or the disagreements between partners. The attached parent doesn’t see coming home to no one, or the courage it takes to attend an event alone. Social media doesn’t give a full picture, and yet we are impacted by these small glimpses others provide for us of their lives. Suddenly we wonder if our new relationship is enough, or if we will ever have the child we long to hold, or wonder if we settled down too quickly and regret not moving overseas for a few years.
I love the story recently done by Zilla van den Born who faked a trip to Southeast Asia with some well-done Photoshop (see here), or this video by the Higton brothers depicting just how much we can manipulate the messages we provide to others about our lives (see here). They each beautifully depict how easy it is to manipulate appearances.
The questions remains, how do we manage our reactions to what we see on social media to decrease the negative impact?
1. Leave social media. Sure, this is an option, though not ideal or realistic for many. Take a step back, if a lot of things you see on social media are getting you down, a hiatus may be helpful, even for a day or two.
2. Block a few friends. Do you have a few friends who post a little too often, or spark strong emotions in you? Go ahead and block them, they won’t know, and they will forgive you for not catching everything on their newsfeed (they assume you have a life outside of electronics).
3. Get outside. Leave your phone at home. Take in the clean air and green (or white) scenery and take care of you. The more grounded and healthy you are, the less impacted you are by external messages.
4. Stop Comparing. Life is not a contest. Consciously remember there are a lot of mundane day-to-day moments people generally do not take the time to tell their online community (un-appetizing looking meals included). Are you really wishing for a partner or child right now? If so, what are you doing to help you gain this? When is the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?
5. Take stock of what you do have. Count your blessings. Really. Look around you for a moment and be thankful for things and people in your life you often take for granted.
Karyn is a Registered Psychologist, who primarily practices from a Cognitive Behavioural perspective. She received training from Dr. David Burns, and loves collaborating with her clients to find the thoughts and actions creating obstacles in their lives, and leading them through steps to test if these thoughts and actions are true and helpful.