What toll does the constant comparison of ourselves to others via social media have on our self esteem? As research shows, not a good one. After scrolling through newsfeeds, we are left feeling unsuccessful, unloved, unattractive and boring: particularly when we how well off others depict themselves.
For examples, after scrolling through your news feed and seeing numerous beautiful, filtered vacation photos? Are you left feeling overworked, burned out, stressed and poor, thinking that if you weren’t, wouldn't you be on that fabulous vacation too?
Pictures of your friends hugging, kissing and laughing with significant others? Does it often lead you to feel lonely and unloved?
Those unending photos of adorable, cherubic children? Does it trigger you to think your priorities are mixed up because you do not yet have kids?
The infamous #OOTD (Outfit of the day): This hashtag is used for photos of people (mostly women) showing off their well put together look - almost always accessorized with a pricey purse and shoes. Its easy for these images to trigger thoughts centered around I never look that polished or put together. I could never afford those labels or brands.
And then of course - food pictures, check ins at restaurants, trendy bars, photos of people having the best time ever, #yolo – do you find yourself thinking I feel lonely, unhappy, unwanted, and bored with my life that would never look so fabulous or glamorous.
And my favorite thought - everyone else seems so happy.
Stop!! Stop the negative thoughts and the self-deprecating inner monologue. This is the negative side effect of social media. While laying in bed late at night scrolling, letting our self esteem and self worth plummet, we forget that these images, check ins, hashtags and comments are only showing us a small glimmer of a person's life. And that glimmer is not necessarily an accurate perception.
Even people who project their internet image as someone who is living life "footloose and fancy free," may experience their own share of self doubt, self loathing, anxiety and sadness. We forget that it only takes a second to smile for a camera, or pose happily for a selfie – but that that one second smile does not necessarily equate to a happy life.
This video demonstrates this point, and is powerful in driving this message home. Its well worth the 2 minute watch.
It tells the story of a man whose life is in shambles, and who, completely taken over by depression and loneliness, turns to Facebook to make sure everyone else thinks his life is perfect. The film dives into the dark reality of social media, the realization that the lives people create online may not be what they seem to be.
While the research on the negative effects of social media of our constant connection to each other through social media is overwhelming and includes links between sites such as Facebook and feeling miserable, an overall decline in our wellbeing, anxiety, increased feelings of inadequacy, sleep problems, depression and stomachaches.
But we do not need scientific evidence to prove the point that social media feeds often makes us feel sad about ourselves as well as unfulfilled and lacking. Patients report this connection in my office all the time, and cite it as something that contributes to their depression and anxiety.
How can we limit the negative effects of social media on our own emotions and wellness? Here are some tips:
1) Understand your social media use.
How much time do you spend a day on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat? Most people grossly underestimate their frequency, and forget how often we check just to pass the time (Think: waiting for the train, riding the elevator, on line at Starbucks…) RescueTime can help. It will give you a breakdown of your internet activity at the end of the day. The awareness of how much time is spent on social media alone may be enough to change this behavior.
2) Limit scrolling time – Boundaries
Create boundaries for yourself. Maybe you need to cut down on the number of times you check your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. Make a pact with yourself to only check after lunch and dinner.
3) Limit scrolling time – Where else can you waste your time?
Most of us will incessantly check social media throughout the day to distract ourselves, to take a break, or to pass the time. Instead of using social media, what other sites can you direct yourself to? Is there a game you can play on GameCenter? Is there a book you can read on your Kindle? Find other websites to use as a mental distraction throughout the day. Check out Mashable’s list of the 50 Websites to Waste Your Time On
4) Limit Scrolling Time – Calling in the big guns
Sites like RescueTime can help limit the actual amount of time you spend on a particular site by tracking your internet use and creating alarms and limits. AntiSocial does the same thing - it will block particular social media sites for a preset amount of time.
5) Adjust who you follow - Delete and hide
There's nothing wrong with hiding, deleting or unfollowing the people who are constant triggers - either the over posters, oversharers, or juse those with overly fabulous lives that regularly makes your self esteem plummet.
6) Adjust who you follow - Make better follow choices
By the same token, start following better, more inspiring people, places and organizations. Break up your social feed by following those who you find inspirational, motivational, interesting or funny.
Like to travel? Add www.instagram.com/goodtravelyoung or www.instagram.com/muraosmann
Like to laugh? Sites like https://www.facebook.com/ToMakeYouLaugh and can offer you a few giggles and a nice break from people bragging about their sunday funday.
Like to workout? Try www.instagram.com/toneitup
Like to be inspired? Follow https://www.facebook.com/thispageisaboutwords
Like to read? Add https://www.facebook.com/EatSleepAndRead
The list is endless. Think of your interests and hobbies and tailor your social media feeds to include those as well.