Social media is now undeniably a part of our contemporary social fabric. As a matter of fact, Kepios’ social media analysis on Data Reportal even states that now almost five billion people actively use social media today. This is equivalent to up to 58.7% of the total worldwide population.
In the United States alone, Maryville University’s blog post on the evolution of social media, shares that up to 72% of adults now use social media regularly. This massive adoption has come hand-in-hand with social media’s transformation from direct electronic information exchange, to virtual gathering place, to retail platform, and now ultimately, a highly-lucrative marketing tool. As such, people from all walks of life with varying goals and intentions regularly flock to social media. Now while most people will state that social media is a highly beneficial platform, many others argue that it can be a medium that actually takes advantage of its users. Most pressingly, over the last decade or so, more and more people have painfully come to realize that social media is starting to shape how they view and value themselves.
Social Media’s Negative Impact
Social media is a double-edged sword that, in more recent times, has become more skewed towards negatively impacting its users. In fact, a study on social media negativities on Science Direct reveals that Social Media Burnout (SMB) is now even considered a new internet-related issue with significant impact. Users have been found to have increasingly high associations with perfectionism, anxiety, and other stress-related conditions. These manifestations, interestingly, have also been found to affect not just a person’s online life, but also their offline experiences. In my case, I found myself caring more about how I was perceived online than how I was in real life. Compliments I got in person meant less than likes or hearts I got on social media. Dislikes or ignored posts were also more cutting to me than offenses that I experienced face-to-face. Sadly, this same effect happens to many users and this eventually leads most to doubt themselves and minimize their self-love simply due to what’s happening on their social media. This has led many people to either fully dedicate themselves to social media or quit it altogether and go cold turkey.
Reclaiming Social Media and Your Self-Worth
That said, it’s nearly impossible to quit social media altogether. Personally, whenever I'd try to cut myself off, I'd inevitably end up back and more entangled than ever. This is when I realized that given how social media is now used in all industries, both professionally and personally, it’s instead important to find ways to use it healthily.
1. Stop using social media as a competition
As discussed by author, coach, and Dig to Fly guest speaker Ryan Miller, it’s almost second nature for us to want to impress others. But rather than this pushing us to greater heights, it actually only causes us to base our value on the wrong things. What’s more, living to impress others is only likely to cause us to overlook actually meaningful growth opportunities. Unfortunately, social media is a breeding ground for such a scenario. Consequently, it’s time to start using it as a platform for connection rather than competition. Try posting simply because you like it, not because you want others to. This way you’re not tainting the content you’re sharing and setting an unrealistic standard.
2. Follow the right pages and accounts
What you see does subconsciously color how you perceive yourself. Therefore, it’s important to use social media as a means to expose yourself to positive influences. Rather than simply following aesthetically pleasing accounts or popular influencers, look for those who actually have a message you relate to. This can be a positive parenting account, a mental health influencer, or a body-positive page. Furthermore, there are even many social media influencers who specifically espouse the message of self-love. By following such mindful and purposeful accounts, you’re exposing yourself to positive influences that will better your online environment and offline mindset.
3. Practice social media detoxes
So much of our lives are lived out online, to the point where it’s sometimes hard to establish where real life begins and our social media lives end. Therefore, in order to re-establish the necessary boundary between your online and offline lives, try a social media detox. In an article by Georgetown University’s adjunct professor on healthy social media use, Jelena Kecmanovic notes that taking social media breaks can be extremely beneficial. In fact, cutting back your social media use by 10 minutes a day has been shown to lower depression and loneliness rates. At the same time, going cold turkey and taking a 5-day break can encourage higher life satisfaction. A social media detox can be difficult at first, but sticking to it is well worth the initial discomfort.
Considering that social media does play a huge role in today’s society, it’s more practical for users to instead develop a happy and healthy relationship with social media instead of eschewing it altogether. This is a realization I only got to after years of painfully measuring myself based on what my social media said. By approaching social media as a tool rather than an extension of yourself and your real life, it can become a much more pleasant environment to take part in.
Specially written for DigToFly.com
By: Rylan Jayce