6 tips for a healthy relationship with social media

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Social media has become a vital part of young adults interaction today. Currently, 90% of young adults use at least one form of social media daily but most use 2 major sites (i.e. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter).1 People use social media as a way to stay connected with friends, for business/brand development, or simply to stay up to date with what’s going on in the world, which are seemingly good reasons.

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I can personally vouch for the benefits of social media. After starting my Instagram page, Nourishing Nena, I was able to connect with people from all over the world, which I obviously wouldn’t have had the chance to do without it. Because of the success I had on my Instagram page I decided to jump onto another social media platform, Word Press, to create a blog.

It’s amazing to see how social media has allowed people to launch and maintain successful businesses while also developing connections with other like-minded individuals. There are Instagram pages dedicated to positivity, health, wellness, food, fitness, yoga- you name it. You have unlimited inspiration and education at your fingertips, which gives you the chance to learn or try something new out.

No doubt there is a lot of positivity to come from social media use. But after realizing how my own experience resonates with so many other people, there seems to be an elephant in the room that no too many are talking about.

The Negative Side of Social Media

Social media has caused numerous young adults to experience anxiety and stress, which can take its toll on your mental health without suitable boundaries.

stress

Studies have been conducted that legitimately support this claim and have found an association between social media and stress. The higher amount of time spent of social media was also linked to greater anxiety and the increased likelihood of an anxiety disorder.2

Stress is the outcome of social media use mainly for these reasons…

  • You receive negative comments or experience cyber bullying 2
  • You become aware of stressful events in other people’s lives2
  • You internalize the pressure to maintain social network updates or appearances2
  • You experience general communication overload2 (i.e. being bombarded with dieting advertisements or other marketing images for products that pretty much make you feel like sh*t)

Another stressor of social media, and in my opinion the biggest killjoy of them all,

COMPARISON.

Whether you own a business or personal account the comparison game runs deep and is hard to escape on any social media platform.

Maybe this sounds familiar…

You see your co-worker vacationing in Italy and automatically FOMO sets in. You start to think, “Why can’t I have a job that allows me to vacation whenever I want?”

Or maybe it’s that Insta influencer with a perfectly toned body. You wonder, “If only I didn’t want to eat everything or love food so much maybe I could look like that?!”

Perhaps it’s your old classmate living the dream with his picture perfect family. You ask yourself, “When is it going to be my turn to get married and settle down?”

You see, social media has a HUGE flaw that we all forget in the moment. If you’re not following what I’m hinting, let me lovingly remind you.

Social media can be extremely misleading because it features people’s highlight reel, essentially the happiest and best moments of a person’s life in the form of pictures or posts.

Most people don’t disclose their bad days or personal struggles on social media. For all you know your co-worker that vacationed in Italy could’ve had the worst trip because she was constantly fighting with her boyfriend. That influencer with the perfectly toned body could have an eating disorder. Your classmate with the picture perfect life might be sacrificing time with his family for money because their struggling to make ends meet.

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Not trying to be negative Nancy over here but I just want to keep it real. You’re not going to know what other people are ACTUALLY going through unless you ask them or they choose to tell you.

I’m not saying everyone should reveal his or her personal life on social media. We all have a right to privacy and can share what we want. But if you don’t have a game plan on how to have a healthy relationship with social media then there’s no doubt that you’ll experience what I did.

Life WITH and WITHOUT Social Media

I created my Instagram page over a year ago as a way to inspire and help women with health and self-love. I had good intentions but as I began to learn more about how I could grow my page I was sucked into a virtual vortex experiencing the negative aspects that accompany social media when you use it frequently.

Every time I’d post a picture I’d get a knot in my stomach wondering if it’d strike up enough engagement or break 100 likes. I realized that I had slowly weaved my value into the success of my Instagram page, which was insane and the complete opposite of what I actually believe in.

In the real world we all know likes and followers hold no true value. Yet, when you sign into your account you enter a virtual world than can sometimes suck out the happiness of the present moment.

Because I wasn’t down to keep living with anxiety from social media, I did what was the BEST decision for my mental health. I deleted Instagram and Facebook off my phone for a month.

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Without surprise a lot changed for the better. My anxiety was pretty much eliminated and I was able to give my family and friends the focus and attention they deserve.

Since I spent a lot of my time crafting mini blog posts for different pictures on my Instagram, which cut out at least 30 minutes to 1 hour of my time each day, I was able to use that time to craft actual blog posts and revamp my website.

I also spent a lot of my spare time checking the likes I’d get or scrolling through my feed. In the stolen moments I decided to freshen up my Spanish and downloaded the app Duolingo, which is helping me slowly reach my goal of becoming a fluent Spanish speaker.

Aside from the comparison game and feeling like my joy was being stolen from the present, I had another key reason (aka. the big one) why I needed to detox from social media.

I wanted to grow closer to God and hear his plan for me. I needed to figure out if God wanted me to continue to chase my dream, which social media was highly involved in.

If you’re a Christian and find yourself struggling to hear God, getting off social media for at least 1-2 weeks will definitely help! I’ve completed a 3-day, 1 week, and a 1-month fast (this recent one) from social media.

Each one has helped me grow closer to the Lord and listen for the plan He has for me.

There is SOOO much noise on social media. Stepping away and creating healthy boundaries will not only improve your mental health but it can also help strengthen your relationship with God. Instead of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram you can use that free time to pray and talk to God.

Healthy Relationship with Social Media

If you’re ready to take a break from social media but aren’t 100% sure that you want to call it quits forever, I’ve put together 6 tips that will help you set boundaries and create a healthy relationship with social media.

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1. Be selective with who you follow. Know your triggers.

Follow accounts and people that ADD value to your life. When you see positive and inspirational content most of the time it’ll put you in a good mood!

With that said, it’s also important to be aware of your triggers. For example, if you’re recovering from an eating disorder and notice that every time you see a picture of a fit girl you find yourself tempted to engage in a disordered behavior than it may be a good idea to delete that user AND similar pages until you’ve obtained help from a therapist.

2. Delete apps from your phone

If you find yourself scrolling endlessly in your spare time then delete the apps from your phone. This will minimize the time you spend on these social media accounts and still give you the chance to access them via desktop (i.e Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

3. Latergram

Most of us use social media as a way to document vacations, birthdays, events, etc. in the moment. But if you’re like me, picking the right filter, GIF, and hashtags can eat away at your time and actually take you out of the present moment.

Challenge yourself to post pictures after the event happens rather than when it’s taking place in real time. This will help you be more mindful in the moment.

4. Create boundaries

Give yourself a timeframe of when you’ll use social media. You might decide to check it only in the morning and at night. Instead of using your stolen moments and spare time to scroll or post, you can start to use the extra time on your hands to learn something new or even pray.

Download educational apps, e-books, or i-books to learn something new. I like Duolingo to learn another language and YouVersion Bible to connect with God.

5. Be mindful of comparison

When you find yourself feeling jealous or not good enough, stop yourself and realize that you’re beginning to compare!

Remind yourself that it’s not fair to compare your life to someone else’s highlight reel. If someone’s beauty or accomplishments have you feeling like you’re not enough, remember that their being & experience doesn’t take away from your own. You are uniquely made and beautiful just as you are, right this very second!

6. Assess your feelings

Pay attention to how you feel when you’re using social media. Are you not fazed? Or do you get anxiety, sadness, etc. from viewing people’s pictures or scrolling through a feed? If you’re unable to be mindful of comparison consider deleting the apps altogether and commit to a social media detox. Take the time away to work on yourself. When you feel like the time is right you can decided if reintroducing social media into your life is a good idea for you.

 

References

  1. Primack BA, Shensa A, Escobar-Viera CG, et al. Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among U.S. young adults. Computers in Human Behavior. 2017;69:1-9.
  2. Vannucci A, Flannery KM, Ohannessian CM. Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2016;2017;207:163-166.

 

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