How to have a healthier relationship with social media
I see you over there. Scrolling through Instagram. Feeling not-so-great about yourself. Constantly comparing yourself to others. Wishing you had what they have.
It's time to stop.
Ok, that might be hard. But, what I am here to tell you is:
- You are wonderful and amazing and perfect the way you are
- It's completely normal to fall into the comparison trap; in the real world and in the online world
- Other people's online lives do not have to dictate your physical life
- It is possible to have a healthy relationship with social media
This post is really important to me. I can’t even count the number of times I have heard people express how overwhelmed they get about social media. Frustrated and worn down by the pressure to fit the mold. Tired of being inundated with images of “should bes” and “have tos”. Feeling that being "positive" means slapping a smile on your face and throwing an inspirational quote on your feed. Believing that this is the recipe for happiness because if the outside looks happy and successful, then no one will know the truth. No one will know how you feel on the inside. Not even you.
If you can relate to any of this then my dear, this post is for you.
We all long for belonging and connection. And social media offers that to us. We get an instant connection and a sense of belonging. We have a place where we can express ourselves. Where we can be inspired. We have a whole new world where businesses can grow in ways they never could have before. We can motivate each other. Advocate. Showcase our talents. And so much more.
I have had my fair share of issues with social media, and my feelings towards it change constantly. I use Instagram to share my blog and my business with others. And lately, I have been trying to tune in with myself more and notice how much I'm letting these little apps dictate my life. And I was surprised to realize how much that actually was.
Despite all the wonderful things it can offer, sometimes these apps can just be another place for us to feel inadequate. To feel frustrated with ourselves. Or jealous. Or even anxious. Social media has changed the meaning of the "comparison game". Today, you can compare yourself to someone you have never met, celebrity or not. You can compare yourself to someone who lives across the globe. Someone whose circumstances and history you may have absolutely no idea about. There are literally no physical boundaries to this comparison game anymore. You can even start to scrutinize your home life and your personal relationships. You might start to feel like nothing is good enough unless it looks #pinterestinspired. All because you hold yourself to a standard that is dictated by the online world. And. that. is. exhausting.
(Ps. If you aren't one of these people, and you simply use social media as a tool to stay informed and up-to-date on things that interest you, then kudos to you! I want to hear from you! Is this something you actively work on? Or something that just comes naturally?)
So how do we find a balance? How do we use social media, personally or professionally, and leave feeling filled-up, rather than run-down? That's where you come in. Never forget that you can choose what you want your relationship to be like to technology and social media. You get to decide. And nobody else can (nor should they) tell you otherwise.
Change starts with awareness. So here's my first challenge to you: be aware of how you feel when you are scrolling. Don't make the scroll mindless anymore. If you notice those all-too-familiar negative emotions coming up as you look at someone's feed, then you know it is time to shift your mindset or shift what you are doing completely. Maybe close down the app(s) or consciously try to shift your reaction to motivation rather than envy or jealousy. My favourite business guru Marie Forleo offers some great advice in this video on how to change your perspective on "jealousy".
Change Your Tune
Once you are aware of the emotion being triggered by what you are looking at, you get to decide how you react to it. Sit with it for a bit. Notice how it makes you feel. Acknowledge it. Then be aware of your choices. You can go into that space of inadequacy (sometimes we just need to go there), or you can choose to admire and appreciate it and leave it at that. It is in your control. I promise. It just takes some practice.
If you are anything like me, you easily get swept up with technology and a lot of time passes by before you realize what you are doing. That is a heck of a lot of time for those negative feelings to be brewing within you without even knowing it. Sometimes, you just need to set a good ol' timer to bring you back to earth. Set a time that is realistic to you so you don't push past that time. Once the time is up, you can get back to your life, guilt-free.
Start Your Day Off Right
Don't let any social media platform be the first thing you look at when you wake up. I know. I know. This is a hard one. It's just so cozy in bed and you want to take your time getting up and leisurely scroll through your feed before braving the cold. And obvi you need to be updated on life since last night, right!? I get it. I've been there. I did this all the time (and sometimes still do), but I have truly noticed the difference in how I feel on days when I don't start scrolling first thing in the morning. I'm no longer bombarding my mind with all those negative emotions before I even get out of bed. Our brains are constantly receiving and sending out information based on our surroundings. We might not even be conscious of the messages we are taking in. Something seemingly harmless can actually be detrimental to our mental wellbeing. Give it a try. Even if you wait a bit before checking. Spend a few minutes allowing your body and mind to wake up before reaching for your phone. Or reach for a book instead, or turn on your favourite motivating podcast. And see if it makes a difference.
Take A Break
Sometimes, you just have to pretend social media doesn't exist for a bit. Of course, this one is work/job permitting. But truly, there is always some time you can set aside that becomes a social media-free period. This break could be long or short, it's completely up to you. Sometimes, even spending a day away from any social media makes me feel significantly better. Recently, I took a week off of Instagram. I had to physically delete the app (as recommended by a friend) to stop myself from wanting to open it. It was hard in the beginning, but I noticed how often I open an app simply out of boredom! Or avoidance of real life. It gave me insight into what I was really feeling. And it helped me reconnect with myself. And when I re-downloaded the app (your profile stays as is, so don't worry!), I didn't feel so insta-addicted anymore. This one has lasting effects!
Don't Jump to Conclusions
We forget something very important about the people we see on social media. This material is curated. People get to choose what parts of their lives they want to share. And they have the choice to make it as truthful a representation as they want. They have a choice whether or not they show the ups and the downs or just the ups. We can make our bodies look completely different. We can make relationships look "happier" than they are. We can make ourselves look like we aren't lonely. That is the beauty and the danger of social media. There are things like filters, editing apps, enhancers, etc. that are frequently used. I used to wonder how every girl on Instagram had that beautiful skin glow. Then I realized that there is a filter for that! Silly me. Of course there's a filter for that!
Here's another thing to remember: Everyone you see has a different circumstance than you. Different history. Different life experience. And everyone has challenges and suffers in ways we don’t see. Everybody and every body is different. Try not to forget this the next time you realize you're putting yourself down because you think you don’t measure up to the person you see on your screen. Do you really even know what you are comparing yourself to?
Think Before You Post
This one turns the tables a bit. Because true change starts with you. If you feel yourself getting frantic to post something, because "everyone else is doing it" or because you want to prove something in response to a post you saw, I encourage you to rethink this. Take a minute. Why are you posting it? Are you doing it because you want to share something, or are you doing it to make yourself feel better about something? The online world offers us instant gratification. I urge you to try not to feed into that. Know your WHY. Once you are solid in that, then every post will feel more authentic to you.
Choose What You See
Sometimes I come across someone in my feed who I don't know and don't even remember when I started following them. I realize that I am being bombarded with images that don't mean much to me. In fact, sometimes they are doing more harm than good. I'm slowly working on unfollowing accounts that don't inspire me or accounts that make me feel not-so-good. Instead, I am trying to follow accounts that do the opposite!
Someone who I love is Kaitlyn Bristowe. She truly is a role model for many young women and has really advocated for "real-stagramming". I encourage you to check out her hashtag page if you need some realstagram vibes. Another one is Erin Treloar who runs @rawbeautytalks on Instagram. TONS of realstagram inspiration on there.
There's so much more I could talk about with this topic, but I'll leave it at that for now. Maybe I'll do a part 2 in the future. I know that taking some of these steps can be difficult for most people. Last thing I'll say is, I'm a social media lover just like you. And I don't claim to be an expert on any of it. And trust me, I do see the irony of posting this blog on social media. Regardless, these steps made me feel better. And happier. And I truly believe they can do the same for you, which is why I wanted to share them. We can connect through our compassion for ourselves and for others. Be kind to yourself, you are doing the best you can. Let's not beat ourselves down and hide our pain behind a screen. We can support each other by being honest and real about it. And we can use social media in a healthier way. Because it's definitely not going anywhere anytime soon!
And always remember: YOU ARE ENOUGH.