Social media is a great way to stay in touch with those important to us. We can keep up to date and celebrate highlights in each other's lives.
But apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram often present a skewed version of reality. They showcase our best version rather than our everyday existence.
It’s human nature to post the shiny moments; the smiling portrait dressed in our best rather than the morning after, the child who has mastered the accomplishment rather than the tears and tantrums beforehand, and the cooked-to-perfection meal rather than the previously failed attempts.
If we keep this in mind when viewing social media, it helps to reduce the possibility of ‘comparing and despairing.’
We can feel dissatisfied with our lives or that we are lacking in some sense when we compare our true experiences to those that have been photo-shopped in more ways than one—or those that receive more ‘likes’ from virtual friends. It’s common to measure ourselves against others to estimate our standing in the social world. And we might decide we are less successful, less attractive, less accomplished, less worthy.
By comparing our everyday selves to only the best parts of others’ lives, we are using the same measure for two entirely different realities. It’s not surprising that this can lead to feelings of insignificance and insecurity.
So if you’re finding social media is becoming a negative experience, what can you do …?
Don't try to keep up with the feed
Step back and re-evaluate whether you need to use it as frequently. Perhaps allow yourself a set amount of time each day to check your accounts and then shut them down. Take longer breaks from social media every now and then just like taking holidays from work. You may find the only thing you are missing is your FMO (fear of missing out).
Choose what you view
If you know you usually feel bad after viewing certain people’s posts, then tailor your feed to limit what you receive. Avoid looking regularly at the profiles that trigger thoughts of comparison. You can control your social media rather than letting it control you.
Change your mindset
We are all works in progress and life is not easily summed up in a series of photos. Just because someone has a success doesn’t mean you are a failure. Feel happy for them without judging yourself against their finished product. Don’t forget there’s always more than meets the eye and each person has their own share of unseen challenges.
Remember life is outside your window and not inside the device in your hand. Make sure you’re not spending more time online than you are with real friends. Make a list of activities for your spare time rather than automatically checking Facebook. Do things that make you feel good whether it’s starting that book you’ve always wanted to read, finishing that odd job, getting outdoors or trying something new.
We certainly live in a culture that has fully embraced social media. Use it to connect, inspire, educate and motivate yourself—but not to define your self-worth. You are so much more than any posed photo or number of ‘likes’ on a virtual platform.
Wendy Roncolato & Prue Foster