Ah, social media. A peek into the lives and souls of others. From the exciting (vacations! job promotions!) to the mundane (lunch! workouts!) and everything in between, social media allows us to stalk, er, follow people ... and learn alllllll about them.
This comes with a price, however. Because how many times have you followed a celebrity or super-successful person or former classmate who seems to have everything? (And I do mean everything.) At first, it's fun and voyeuristic and maybe even inspiring. But then . . . then their constant awesomeness starts to wear on you, and suddenly even the freaking photo they posted of their salad has you wondering how your life went so astray. I mean, why isn't your salad that glorious? Why is yours a wilty mess that you threw together at midnight last night? WHERE DID YOU GO SO WRONG?
The sad thing is, I'm not even being dramatic here. Because even the most seemingly innocent social media photo can trigger an internal avalanche of self-doubt, sadness, comparison, or dissatisfaction. Suddenly, you're forced to admit that your job is crap compared to this person's or that your marriage is a bore compared to that person's, or that you can't even bake a decent batch of cookies like that person. You're left feeling like you're not good enough, you're not reaching your full potential, you're giving so much but you're not being rewarded accordingly. And on and on. Tell me this hasn't happened to you. Really, you might be completely thrilled for the person whose bum is plopped squarely on a Hawaiian beach, but that doesn't mean that won't rile up thoughts of inadequacy deep within your soul. (Unless you are the most self-assured human on the planet, in which case I BOW TO YOU.)
So, what to do about this? Well, here's what I've started doing. Mind you, I'm just getting underway with this Social Media Behavior Modification Plan of mine, so I'll keep you posted on the results as time presses on.
- Limit your time on The Socials -- Could this solution be any more obvious? But it's a whole heckuva lot harder than it sounds, isn't it? Well, it is and it isn't. Here's what I mean:
In our daily lives, we're pretty reliant on our devices. And by "pretty reliant" I mean "I would die without it." But we won't die if we don't check Facebook eight billion times per day. Proof: Yesterday was Mother's Day. As of almost two years ago, I no longer have a mother, and, not surprisingly, I miss her pretty hard on Mother's Day. Knowing that seeing everyone's Mom-and-Me pics posted all over every social channel in creation would turn me into a sobby, jealous, and--I'll admit it--bitter mess, I promised myself I'd stay off Facebook for the entire day. The. Entire. Day. And guess what? I DID. Well, I did log on at 7pm or something just to clear out the zillion notifications I had, but even those weren't important. The best part? I'm still here. I survived not being a slave to social. Woot! Sure, I may have missed some cute pics and some loving sentiments, but I made it through the day relatively unscathed and instead of obsessing over the mother I don't have, I turned my attention to my own kids and enjoyed the fact that they have made ME a mother. And that's something to celebrate!
- Set up parameters -- So going cold turkey for a full day might not be your thing. I get it. (For the record: I haven't scrolled at all today yet, either. Just logged in to check notifications and immediately logged back out.) But I still think that if you end up having feelings of anxiety or self-doubt after a spin through Facebook, you definitely should ease back a little, even if it's just certain times of the day.
For example, maybe you don't scroll before bed? That way you're not thinking about how amazing everyone else's lives are before you hit the hay (and thus sabotaging your subconscious). Or, maybe you don't start your day with a scroll, which immediately thrusts you into comparison-mode. (I have absolutely begun doing this. I WILL NOT scroll first thing in the morning anymore. I check my phone for missed calls or texts and then turn it off. No need to even go there so early in the day.)
Instead, maybe you start your day on a mindfulness website like MindBodyGreen. Or you flip through an inspirational memoir like Rachel Brathen's YOGA GIRL. Or maybe you enjoy a little silence or the sound of birdies chirping or even some uplifting music. Just take a break from the scrolling. It'll set the tone for your mind, I promise!
- Keep it all in perspective -- As my bestie said the other day, unless the person is a hardcore whiner or poor-me activist (which lots people are, I realize), the stuff you're seeing on social media is almost always their "holiday best." Or, the "highlight reel" as I've also seen it called. Mostly, people are showing you the best of their best. And sometimes they're even stretching the truth. Sure they may seem smarter or look prettier or appear to have angelic children, but the truth? That's probably not the case at all. So keep that in mind as you compare your double-chin pic from yesterday to the five-years-ago-but-she'll-never-admit-it picture your Facebook pal just posted. Truly, we never know what's going on in other people's lives, so remember that they may be riding the social comparison train just as far as you are.
While completely avoiding Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever might be an option for some people, for most of us staying connected socially depends upon these platforms. But they don't need to control your life and they most certainly don't need to control your mood. If you find that scrolling through these sites trigger feelings of inadequacy within you (and I'm willing to bet this is true for most everyone), take some care to manage the time you spend on these sites. Truly, your well-being is worth more than the opportunity to comment on someone's incredible salad. I promise you that.