The rise of social media means we’re more connected than ever before. And with the constant connectivity comes a whole lot of worry. Between cyberbullying and the welfare of our latest batch of teens, to the unknown effects of hours spent scrolling through a stranger’s Instagram, there’s a lot to chew on.
Facebook executives have admitted that the platform might come with some adverse effects. And, there’s no shortage of think-pieces covering the effects of filtered influencers and their effect on our self-image.
Some studies have looked at social media use in connection with depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. Others have found notable positives associated with connecting through these digital channels.
Here, we’ll look at the root of the negativity as well as some ways you can make sure you’re approaching your social feeds in a healthy way.
Comparisons make for bad friends
Social media can make us feel socially isolated because we’re comparing our reality to the curated highlights from other peoples’ lives. You don’t know how long it took to get that selfie, just-so, so try not to sweat it.
As we scroll through our feeds, we tend to pass judgments on both ourselves and others, in an attempt to understand how we rank against our peers. While there’s a biological reason for envy — it’s a motivator, it’s easy to get consumed with these negative feelings.
This study looked at how we compare upwards and downwards to determine if we’re better or worse than our friends. Generally speaking, we only feel bad when making upward comparisons, but downward ones can be toxic, too.
How to fight the envy?
Well, it’s important to take a step back and remember that most of this content isn’t real.
How to have a healthy relationship with social media
There are, of course, some positive things about social networking. People naturally crave socialization, and social media can provide a way for people with social anxiety or less-developed social skills to make connections in a “safe” space.
Additionally, teens in marginalized groups can find support online. LGBT teens and those struggling with depression often find support through social channels they don’t get at school.
So, how does one seek out the good stuff, only? Well, there are a few things you can do.
Limit your usage
The more time people spend on social media at a time, the more likely you’ll feel isolated. Check in here and there, but make sure you’re not spending hours at a time scrolling and scrolling.
Additionally, it’s smart to quit the habit of checking your accounts first thing in the AM.
Pay attention to your loved ones IRL
There’s no doubt that talking to a friend with their phone out is frustrating. Make an effort to stop doing this and ask your partner and friends to do the same.
Try using different platforms
Facebook and Instagram rely heavily on these curated images. Make connections online through other channels. Reddit, for example, allows you to have discussions sans photos.
Or, Amino—a niche social network that prizes anonymity. This app is lesser known, but users post anonymously about their shared interests.
Unfollow those who don’t make you happy
We’ve all seen examples of bad “friends.” There are the people who can’t stop bragging about their perfect lives or their globe-trotting lifestyle. The downers who complain about their jobs or vague updates about how “a certain person” did them wrong. Then there’s the political stuff, offensive jokes, the list goes on.
Whatever the case, if you don’t want to see it, you don’t have to. Curation is going to be the secret ingredient for happiness. Unfollow the people that suck the joy out of the experience and simply mute those you “can’t” unfollow without hurting some feelings.
On your end, keep things positive
As you can imagine, negative remarks, sadness, aggression, and so on, don’t make friends online. That’s not to say that you need to be fake, it’s just that these platforms aren’t exactly the place for airing out every grievance that passes through your mind. Keep your dirty laundry to yourself and vent to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist.
Researchers from the University of Missouri found that Facebook use was linked to depression when it triggered envy.
That same study found when people used FB solely to connect with people, the social network had a positive impact on their wellbeing. Take that as an incentive to quit stalking your ex’s new mate.
Beyond steering clear of broadcasting your negative vibes, make sure you fact-check any links to articles. And, avoid posting inflammatory political content.
Follow the same values you use IRL
While some channels like Reddit let you post anonymously, people forget that even Facebook and Instagram posts aren’t a digital barrier to hide behind.
Instead, be the same person on the internet that you are in person. Be kind and don’t say anything you’d feel uncomfortable saying in real life.
Unfortunately, the jury is still out on social media and how it impacts our lives in the long-term. There’s a lot of information out there covering the risks of social media. No matter how you slice it, using the networks affect everyone in a different way.
If you can’t help but compare yourself to others, consider taking a little Facebook vacation.