Today, you literally have the world at your fingertips. At any moment you can go on social media and see what your favorite celebrities are doing, what your co-workers are eating, and where your friends are traveling. Often it’s exciting and fun to take a peek into the lives of others. It can also create a sense of confusion and loneliness within you, particularly if you aren't living the 'exciting' life that you see on social media. Here are some tips to be more mindful when using social media:
1. Avoid comparing yourself to others: Going onto social media can be a triggering experience when you feel down or depressed. Looking at what everyone is doing, and how happy their lives seem to be causes further upset if you are already feeling vulnerable or lonely. You may feel that you aren’t smart enough to get into the school someone else got into, not attractive enough to be in a relationship, or not likable enough to be out with friends on a Friday night. The comparisons can be endless. Remember that you are only being exposed to tiny snapshots of others’ lives; you’re not getting the full story from just one post.
2. Remember that most posts are not authentic: The secret behind snapshots is that they are just that—they are moments in time that may be very thought out and planned ahead. Rarely do you see candid pictures on social media. Most of the time you see a picture where everyone's hair is in place, and everything around them is laid out like it should be in a magazine ad. You don't know how long someone spent or how many takes it took to get that “perfect” picture.
3. Just because someone looks happy in a photo, doesn’t mean that they are perfectly happy with his or her life: People only tend to share the good things about their lives. Think about it: you view posts about graduations, vacations, and birthdays all of the time, but rarely see posts about arguments, failed attempts, or bad days. It's also important to recognize that just because you are seeing this happy “snapshot” of someone's life, it does not mean that their life is perfect. Anyone can construct a photo that makes their life look exciting or enviable. That does not mean that the person in the photo is actually happy.
If you feel like social media might be affecting your mood or getting you down, know that you are not alone. If you notice that it is affecting your mood on a daily basis, consider unplugging for a bit or deactivating an account you frequently use. If you continue to feel negatively, connecting with a therapist can be a beneficial source of support. The next time you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, be mindful of what you’re really looking at and how you’re feeling. Make sure that social media is your friend, not your foe.