The next time you are in a public place, take notice, if you haven’t already. How many people are connected to a screen and how many are actually connected to the people they are physically with? Do you take issue with it? Or is just the norm now? Are you guilty of paying more attention to your phone than your partner? Than a friend at dinner? Than your kids at bedtime? Do you check social media before speaking to anyone in the morning? How much is your phone ruling your life?
There is no denying that social media has completely taken over life for many of us. While it can be a great thing for connecting to long lost friends and family members, there is also no denying that is wreaking havoc on the mental health of many users, young and old. The research that’s coming out about how social media is changing and effecting our brains is pretty mind-blowing.
Social media can be great in that you see what friends and family are up to, stay connected, learn about people’s families, accomplishments, career paths etc. You know, all of the great things that people are doing to “live their best lives”. Here’s where the concern comes in: it becomes difficult to not compare your behind the scenes footage to other people’s highlight reels.
When we are scrolling through social media, a lot of times we think “must be nice” or “how can they possibly afford that”. The problem with this is we have no idea what people are actually going through. We see smiles, and happy babies, and moms that seemingly have their shit together, and perfect marriages etc. Most of the time, we don’t see the other side. We don’t see the financial difficulties, the screaming baby, the lack of sleep, the marital issues, the health issues, the stress, the tantrums, oh the tantrums, the grief, the heartbreak, the anxiety, the depression, all of the messy stuff that a lot of us are dealing with in the other 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day. That’s not to say that these great moments don’t exist, but we have to remember that we aren’t seeing behind the scenes, most of the time. This can lead us to feel some type of way about our own lives, like we’re failing or not doing it right. Please, please, please, try to refrain from comparing your real life to other people’s social media images because that’s just what it is, an image.
Social media is a double-edged sword in this way. We want to see people doing well and succeeding, but we have to be able to step back and understand that everyone is going through their own personal battles too. Some people post about it, some people don’t. I’d be willing to bet if the same people that were posting all of their struggles, you’d be annoyed with that too. This is where it becomes a losing battle.
The effect that social media is having on our youth is also unprecedented. I could go on forever about this. All I will say, for now, is that we have to remember that this is all very, very, new and the research into the effects of social media are still in the very early stages. I will promise you, though, if you have a child or adolescent that is allowed on social media in any shape or form, it is taking a toll on them in regards to mental health and developmentally, as well. Whether it is what they are seeing on social media or inappropriate content that they are posting, or bullying, time spent scrolling, or just plain old drama, it is reshaping the way kids interact and sometimes not for the better. Most adults cannot handle the pressure, addictive properties and negative effects of social media, so how can we possible think our children can handle it?
The point to all of this is to say, especially during the holidays, please try to keep your comparisons in check. Be happy for people’s successes and compassionate for their struggles, whether they choose to share them or not. Remember that just because people aren’t posting the dark sides of their lives, they still have them. None of our struggles are better or worse than the next person. We just all deal differently. Don’t get caught up in the social media hype. Don’t feel bad about your life decisions just because you think someone else has it better than you. If social media is having a negative effect on your personal life, then take a break from it until you can get back to enjoying your life. In fact, everyone should take a social media break to get back to reality once in a while. The bottom line is, don’t fall into the trap of letting social media determine your joy.