Have you ever sat there and mindlessly scrolled through your social media feed? I’m fairly confident in saying that almost all of us have, but have you ever mindlessly scrolled through your feed and noticed that you just felt badly after? Whether you notice yourself becoming irritable or even sad, you feel worse off than before you embarked on your Instagram binge. Why is this? Well, quite frankly there are a lot of reasons why this could be happening to you, but here are some of the most common reasons along with some helpful tips for feeling better about your scrolling.
Comparison. Whether we consciously do it or not, social media is one giant platform through which individuals can compare one another. On social media, we are constantly subjected to what looks like the ins and outs of the daily lives of people we follow. What we don’t always stop to think about is that, more often than not, what we are really looking at are people’s highlight reels. I am not suggesting that there are not people on social media who are not genuine and transparent about what is really going on in their lives, but I do argue that those individuals are few and far between and that social media is primarily dominated by the former type. Think about it. How often do you see someone post an actual average moment in their life? “Here’s me at my desk at work with no makeup on running on 4 hours of sleep because the cat kept throwing up in my bed.” No! There’s almost always a filter, a pose, an angle, something to make that moment look better than it is. Social media has become such a part of our daily routine, we fool ourselves into thinking that what we are seeing is part of other people’s daily routine as well. Not only that, but we see our friends posts right next to posts from models, celebrities, authors, and artists. We are literally connected with any person with an account, which means that sometimes a small part of us can feel like we have to compete with everyone on the web. How is that a fair comparison?
Fear of missing out. Social media is a constant reminder of what we are missing out on. We see travel posts about places we may never go, people we will probably never meet, concerts we may never attend, cars and houses we feasibly will never be able to afford, and experiences we may never have. Sometimes we are able to accept that. Most of us aren’t millionaires or have unlimited time on our hands, but sometimes, when it hits closer to home, it’s harder to accept. Sometimes we see something we would very feasibly be able to do. We see a group of friends or coworkers being tagged at the pub down the street and we feel disappointed we didn’t get the invite even if we didn’t really want to go. Sometimes we notice that someone from high school or college unfriended us, and even if we don’t keep in contact with them, we wonder what we must have done wrong. This all comes back to our fear of missing out. Inherently humans have a need for connection with others in our lives and when there is something that we perceive to be hindering that connection, it leaves us discouraged.
Feeling overwhelmed or that you can’t keep up. We all know those Instagram accounts. The ones that have about five amazing posts a day with about 5 million likes a piece. We wonder, do these people just wake up every day and spend hours finding the right lighting or pose. The answer is yes! Many Instagram models take hundreds of pictures before getting the right shot and spend a large amount of time networking and marketing to gain more likes and followers. Yet, all we see is that one perfect post. So, we think to ourselves, how can we keep up with that? How can I achieve the same effect not spending 8 hours of my day taking and editing photos? You can’t. Not only that, but the sheer amount of people we follow can be overwhelming as well. Not bragging by any stretch of the imagination, but I have over 1000 Facebook friends. If I sat through my feed and made sure I read everything each and every one of my friends posted, I wouldn’t have time to write this blog right now. How overwhelming is that?! Sometimes it feels easier to give up all together than to try to sort through that never-ending feed.
Not using social media to connect. Okay, we have all lurked. Whether it was on an ex’s new boo or the person we have always been a little bit jealous of, most of us have been guilty of some version of this at one point. A little bit of social media lurking is no big deal, but a lot of it can actually be damaging. Studies have shown that individuals who use social media primarily to view other people’s accounts but that do not interact with those individuals feel more alone than those who use social media as a means of connection. The danger in this is that we are engaging in something that we think is connecting us with others without receiving any of the feedback that would indicate or reward that connection. It’s the same as going to a party only to sit in the corner and watch everyone else enjoying themselves. This can end up making us feel more alone and discouraged because we feel like we are simply trying and failing.
This is not intended to disparage social media or to completely warn against it. I recognize that there are so many positive innovations that have arisen out of social media and the human race has no doubt benefited from those innovations. My goal with this is to point out some of the negative consequences that can arise from its use. If this article rang true for you, take some time to examine yourself. How have you been feeling lately, about your life and about yourself? Chances are, if you are experiencing some of these negative consequences, then you may be going through a difficult time.
One step to take would be to take a break from social media. Start out with at least a week and then reassess how you are feeling after. There is no need to put a time limit on it. Another step would be to be more selective with who you follow. If that daily female fitness motivation Instagram leaves you feeling more shameful about your body than motivated, then unfollow them. Do the same for friends that leave you feeling irritated or leave a bitter taste in your mouth most times you read their posts. Catch yourself lurking. Notice when you are spending a lot of time on social media without actually interacting with anyone and check your motives. If you find yourself in a bad mood, not wanting to speak to anyone, yet you continue to scroll through your feed, put the phone down. Pick it up only when you are ready to connect. Remind yourself what you are seeing is not real. Unless you were the one behind the keyboard or camera, you will never really know what was going on in that photo, so there is no need to allow it to alter how you think about yourself. Know that you are enough. This last one may be the most difficult one. Many individuals struggle to truly believe this even after years of bettering themselves through therapy or other self-growth exercises. We are all human, we just want to be accepted and loved. It can be difficult to believe we will be accepted over the talented musician or gorgeous model we follow. When you get caught up in that comparison game, the best thing you can do for yourself is bring the focus back to yourself. Be kind to yourself, do something nice for yourself, and if you feel you cannot do it on your own, seek the help of a friend or mental health professional. No matter how many likes, followers, comments, you are still enough.
By: Hayley Nelson