Eight years ago I posted a picture on FaceBook of me laughing in a beautiful white dress at a Spring Festival. I received tons of likes and comments about how beautiful it was and how happy I looked. Someone even commented, “Living the dream 🙂”
Four days after I posted that picture I was involuntarily placed in a mental hospital. I was looking for validation. I wanted a thumbs up to justify that I am pretty. I do have a good body. I am special. I’m not sick.
I love social media, but it can affect our mental health and be a dangerous distraction from our real problems. Here are signs that social media is affecting your mental health and what to do about it.
You Use Social Media As A Measuring Tool for Your Self-Esteem
When we post a picture that we really like we get those social media butterflies. An hour later we check back to find that our image only has a few likes…delete. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We are all guilty, and yes it is a sign that social media is affecting your mental health. The higher the likes and follows, the higher our confidence. Basing our self-perception on someone double tapping their thumb, the majority who are strangers is not good. It only gives us short term gratification which makes us reliant on posting to boost our self-esteem. Social media is not the root cause of our insecurities, but it has the power to emphasize our already existing ones. Social media is not a platform to measure your success, likability, and attractiveness.
You Feel the Need to Alter Your Physical Appearance
A couple of weeks ago I got a message from a girl who had recently gotten liposuction, lip fillers, a boob enhancement, and botox. She told me, “I started following all these beautiful girls with big lips and perfect bodies. I saw all the likes and followers they had, and I wanted the same thing. I became obsessed, but it’s enhanced my insecurities to the extent that my family and friends are concerned.”
Tracy is 19 years old, and after getting lip fillers at a not so credible clinic, she went to the hospital with a severe infection. “My face is ruined. I look back at old pictures and see how beautiful I was, but I got so caught up.” Tracy (not her real name) wanted me to share this information in a blog post. “If you write about a topic like this I want you to share what happened to me.”
Maybe people haven’t gone to the extent of plastic surgery to alter their appearance, but it shows how social media can affect your mental stability in a deadly way. The apps that give us the ability to heavily distort our appearance is a danger zone. It didn’t cause Tracy’s mental health problems or the fact that she got an infection but the way it emphasized her self-hate lead to long term damages both physically and mentally.
You Have Negative Thoughts About Yourself
When you are on social media and thoughts such as, “Look at their body. “I need to look like that” or “My life sucks” come running through your head, don’t ignore it. Subtle negative thoughts about ourselves manifest over time. If social media makes you feel lesser than others or like you are not doing enough with your life because you don’t have X amount of followers, then it’s affecting your mental health.
We have to remind ourselves that those images we see of people who seem to be “living the dream” still struggle with insecurities. They think to themselves when scrolling through their feed, “Ugh I wish I was___.” Outward appearances, especially online, are extremely deceiving. Next time you are on social media make a note of how you felt before and after you used it.
It Has Power Over Your Relationships
Sarah is dating Frank. They have a strong connection, feel comfortable around each other and are really in love. Frank makes Sarah feel sexy and beautiful. One day Sarah sees on the “Following” feature ( a risky feature to begin with) that Frank has liked a picture of a girl in a bikini at the beach #ohshit. Immediately Sarah gets insecure, and questions her relationship with Frank. She starts to regularly follow Frank’s social media behavior which heightens her anxiety. Maybe Frank was into this girl, but most likely he wasn’t.
This is a real hypothetical situation meaning—its not a true story but it happens to a lot of people. When social media has power over your emotions and the way you react to others in the real world, it’s affecting your mental health and your relationships. If someone isn’t into you, cheating, or is dating other people, you are going to find out at some point. Give humans the benefit of the doubt before allowing social media to have power over your emotions and the way you engage with others.
What to Do About It?
Follow Accounts That Inspire You
Stop following accounts that make you feel insecure. Follow accounts with inspirational content. It’s an unnecessary form of self-abuse. It doesn’t mean they are bad people, it just means that we are struggling with comparing ourselves to others. Unfollowing these accounts won’t erase our insecurities but its a good first step towards practicing self love. Follow accounts that intrigue your interests instead of ones that are of no benefit to your mental health. At the end of this blog post I have listed some tags to follow on Instagram.
Inspire Others on Social Media
You are beautiful just the way you are and have your own set of unique characteristics that make you…you. Start sharing that part of yourself more often and use social media as a way to inspire others as well as receive inspiration daily. Social media can be used as a tool to inspire. Post quotes and content that help you and others. Be real with those who follow you and engage with them on a personal level. Self-service can be done on social media, and it builds our confidence.
Start Spending Your Time Towards Self-Love Practices
Self-help books, hobbies, and affirmations are helpful self-love practices. Stick post it notes on your mirror with self-love affirmations. Speak affirmations out loud to yourself. Get a hobby and act on your passion to increase your self-esteem. At the end of this post I have listed some resources for self-love practices and books.
Take a Social Media Break
Being that a lot of my work is based on social media it’s hard for me to take a break, but a couple months ago I did just that, and it was liberating. As hard as it is, take a social media break. Delete the app. It will still be there when you return. Act on those self-love practices. Maybe you can’t take a huge break, especially if it’s part of your work, but you can put it away for a couple hours a day.
Set Limits and Be Self-Aware
Ten minutes ago I caught myself scrolling through my feed and looking through an ex’s social media activity. At one point I literally stopped and asked myself two questions, “Is this helping you? No. Could you do better things with your time? Absolutely. I stopped and shut my phone off. Set limits and be self-aware.
A few self-love quotes from my Quotes & Poetry Page