How do you feel after scrolling through Instagram or Facebook? Inspired and rejuvenated? It is more likely that you feel lousy. Compared to the pictures that you are seeing on you feed you life now looks crummy. Worse, maybe you saw some friends doing something that you weren't invited to. It is even more intense if you follow celebrities because you don't see all the work that goes into that "effortless" selfie. Somehow even if you don't have a team of people to do your hair, make-up, clean your house, do your laundry, make sure you are eating the perfect food and working out, you think that you should be able to create the same presentation.
Moreover, even people who aren't rich, famous celebrities only present a certain aspect of themselves on their social media (the best aspect that they can). People post #nomakeupselfies with make-up on. For many it can be hard to see what your peers are doing (getting married, buying houses, etc) and not feel like you should be doing that also. I am at a point in my life where a lot of my friends are having babies- and while I love seeing the pictures of all the adorable kids it can be really frustrating because my husband and I are not in a place where we are ready for kids.
I admit that it is a struggle for me when I look at people's life presented on Facebook- I know that it is a snapshot of something nice and maybe not even indicative of their actual life but I still end up judging my life. It reminds me of how when I was little my father used to tell me that movies were fake but I would still be terrified and get nightmares. Sometimes from movies that weren't even supposed to be scary, like "Gremlins" or "Little Monster" (I just realized this year that "Little Monsters" was also a metaphor for staying off drugs). Season 2 Episode 5 of "Great News" epitomizes this effect. The main character feels like she has to prove the worth of her choices (career not family/kids) through selfies on her social media.
We know that social media has negative effects. It can be even worse for teens or mothers. One option is to ops out entirely. I have done this a few times in my life and it was lovely. Give yourself a week here and there to detox from the effects and maybe make it permanent. This may not be an option for you, though, since social media is free marketing. Although the way that Facebook (who owns Instagram as well) has set up the algorithms really reduce visibility unless business pay for it.
As a result it can seem like everyone is looking at the same accounts (not yours). My personal account has been stagnant with about 250-260 followers for 4 years. Some people combat this by "buying followers"- which are not actually genuine people but "bots". My least favorite are people who follow you just to get you to follow them back and once you do they unfollow you. There are apps that show you who has unfollowed you (I use "Follower Analyzer" from the Google Play Store for my business account).
I actually once asked an account about this, "Female.Mindset" or something like that because I wanted to know if there was something in my feed that they felt offended by or if they were just using it as a technique to boos their own following. They blocked me without responding. There are also the accounts that follow you and then unfollow you when you don't follow them back. For me that is especially frustrating because with my business account I am trying to create interesting and relevant content and it makes me wonder if people are even seeing it or if they are does anyone care?
Try going cold turkey for a few days at least. If that isn't possible, set boundaries and stick to them. No phones in the bedroom, for example, that way you make sure it isn't keeping you up or the first thing you do every morning. I knew a family that instituted a "no phones in the kitchen' rule because that was where the family congregated and spent quality time together. Or you could put time limits in place. You only look at social media on your lunch break, or you don't do it in the evening when you are spending time with you family.
It is also helpful to take a look at why you are being drawn to your phone. Are you lonely? Making friends as an adult can be difficult but you can try meeting new people with apps like "MeetUp" (I know that I just told you to reduce your phone time, but it is still a helpful tool and okay to use it that way!). I have also been told that Bumble, a dating app, has a "bff" mode to meet people. Check your local paper, community center, or library for events or book clubs to join.
The "Savannah Principle" states that even if the way that we live has changed a lot from when we were hunter/gatherers on the plains of Africa our actual genetics and instincts haven't. This is why people feel bonded to characters on TV or hosts of podcasts- if you frequently saw/heard the same people and they wren't trying to kill you that meant that they were probably friends- even if the interaction was purely one sided. Keep this in mind when you are watching people's Instagram stories- are you substituting for real social interaction?
Also, what is your purpose on social media? I like to see what friends are up to who I haven't been able to keep in touch with. I practice what is called "supportive likeing" where I like the vast majority of posts I see almost like a digital smile. That being said, I do my best to message and genuinely interact with people as well! Are you on social media to support people you know? Or to make yourself miserable by comparing yourself to others?
If you think that you have a serious addiction to your phone/computer there is help available.
Have any tips on healthy engagement? Leave them in the comments!
Don't let the internet steal your joy!
Kelsey enjoys researching and discussing. These posts are based on her research and are open for discussion! Enjoy! (For the record the credit for the title goes to one of Kelsey's favorite authors: Douglas Adams).