I took a small break from social media last week. For no reason other than I felt that I needed to disconnect slightly from the online world and focus on things that were going on IRL. For me, there is a diminishing sense of self when I’m using social media. Which, isn’t the fault of the application, but rather how I view myself when using the platform. Social media can be (and is) an extremely powerful tool and can be used to help businesses grow, and social causes flourish. But it can also be a dark and depressing path for someone who is starring at a case of FOMO everytime they open up the platform.
We do know that social media can have a negative effect on mental health. But, it seems that there is a shift underfoot to change this. Many companies are taking a long, hard look at the tools that they’ve created, in order to determine what solutions are out there. A recent study was conducted and revealed the following:
- Snapchat users report the highest levels of FOMO
- Instagram users report the highest levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness
- Twitter users feel the worst about bullying
Is there a solution? Possibly. Social media should not be used as a replacement for real-world interactions. And I think that’s where we go wrong. We tend to think things like – I have 600 Facebook friends, I don’t need to go meet someone for coffee. But what we present to the world on social media isn’t always our true lives. I mean, I’ve mentioned my struggles with depression over the last few months. It got really bad this summer. Did I want to post something on Instagram about it? No, because I didn’t want anyone to necessarily know that I was feeling that way. While I’m not saying that you should hide, I am saying that what we see online isn’t always a good indicator of what’s happening in someone’s life.
Social media, as I said, is an extremely powerful tool. That said, I don’t necessarily think it’s the platform that’s the problem. I think that we, as consumers, need to be able to understand what’s going on. What do I mean? Well, because I was feeling pretty bad with my depression, I was able to recognize that Instagram maybe wasn’t the best use of my time. It wasn’t an easy thought for me to have. Nor was deleting the app for a week. But instead of saying – Instagram is negative, I had to realize that my focus on those posts was putting me in a negative headspace.
So what does all of this even mean? It means that we need to understand ourselves before we can use social media to our advantage. I’ve been on a health and fitness journey for the past two years. There are days that I see pictures of gorgeous women online and I think – I can do that. And then there are days when I see those same women and I think – I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m never going to have a nice body etc. Understanding how I’m feeling on that particular day will determine if I become motivated at those images or if I go down the negativity rabbit hole of despair.
This isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, but in order to minimize the amount of negativity that you consume, I think it’s essential.