Is social media damaging your life?
We are now connected through many social media channels, no doubt it is very difficult to stay away from them. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even the professional networking platform LinkedIn can have damaging effect in your mental health and relationships.
These platforms have transformed relationships at all levels, in the way we meet up, talk about global events, search for a new job, how we flirt and deal with difficulties in our lives. They have become the main communication channel of our society.
With social media, there is a distancing from the other person we are communicating with. We just have to press a key or the screen on our phones to send our message. If we choose to we can then disconnect from the device and from the person receiving the message. So, it can help with your anxiety if makes you feel more in control.
To check if you are using social media in a positive way or if it has taken over your safe boundaries and is having a negative effect on you, check the questions below…
Do the reactions to your posts affect your mood?
As human beings we all have the need to be accepted and to be validated and recognized by others. Many people choose to posts with the aim to get many reactions. So, in that sense it doesn’t really matter the content of the post, as its main goal is to get a reaction.
When the post is not liked, shared or commented on, it generates anxiety to be “liked” and frustration if it doesn't achieve the reactions expected. This can affect people who have a low self-esteem that need external approval, instead of following their own sense of self-worth.
If you notice that the effect of being seen or not seen online is having an impact on your mood and generating difficult feelings maybe it is worth looking for some professional help.
You feel bad about yourself when you see updates from your friends?
One of the most frequent feelings related to social media is jealousy. New research has pointed out that one in five people say that Facebook interactions generate feelings of greed and resentment.
Sometimes people exaggerate the joy, fun and luxury when posting online and their followers may not realise that it's not a true representation of their real lives. Also you may not notice that your posts may be having the same effect of low self-esteem on someone else.
Your friends have become distant since you have been on social media?
Let’s be honest the way we act behind the screen can be quite different to the way we relate face to face. The virtual reality provides a protection so you can express aspects of your personality that otherwise would be hidden. The problem is when the two images, the real and the virtual one are so far apart that people become unsure of what to expect from you, or start doubting your integrity. To avoid this conflict it is useful to consider the type of posts you upload and how people will receive them.
Your relationship changed after you added someone to your social media?
Studies have shown that conflict or disagreement in the virtual world has caused people to distance themselves from people in real life. Again it is very easy to expose other aspects of our personality and the same happens to the people we know. The best way to try to mend a difficult situation is to meet face to face and try to clarify what happened, before it escalates.
The first thing you do is to check your status in your social media?
It’s all right to use your mobile phone or tablet as an alarm clock! It can also help to make your mind alert in the mornings. The difficulties happen with the extreme use of these devices, when “knowing what is going on” (usually with someone else’s life) takes priority over everything else, causing delays to arrive at work or school, or to neglect relationships with people closest to you.
Another sign to be aware of is when the person reports absolutely everything that is happening online, it can be a cry for help.
You prefer to be with your smartphone than with other people?
This can be a sign that social media is triggering an addictive pattern for you, it’s so easy nowadays to have a world of information in this very small device. The problem is that it's so easy, much easier than real life relationships, where you have to travel, spend time engaging with another person, go through your own insecurities and feelings, without the protection of screen.
If your enjoyment of people and real life has diminished and you prefer to spend more and more time on your device, it can be a sign of depression or a coping mechanism for some personal difficulties, and if continue can lead to further damage to your life.
Are you finding difficult to have intimacy and love?
With the amount of information available on people’s profiles, you can find out a lot about them without asking. The truth is that although the information may be right about that person, it is not enough to create intimacy and the good feelings that emerge when we really know someone. A good relationship involves spending time with the person, listening to them, seeing and touching them, experiencing feelings and sharing experiences.
Social media can be a catalyst to meet someone and the starting point of a relationship, but it can never substitute a real connection.
When relationships end, there is another danger in “following” your ex, comparing your life choices with theirs. This can generate very negative feelings. If you can’t stop this pattern it may be necessary to look for some help, to have a healthier processing of the loss. Especially as posts online are often exaggerated and not necessarily true.
The virtual reality of social media is more and more a part of our lives. As much as it speeds our lives up, in many ways, it can take time away from the best that life can offer - sharing our time with loved ones, doing something productive and creative and having a fulfilling, happy life.
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About Tatiana Pires Azevedo
Tatiana Pires Azevedo MBPsS NCS (Acred) is an experienced humanistic counsellor, working with diversity, positive self-care, overcoming the effects of abuse and trauma, depression, anxiety and relationship difficulties.
Working passionately against the stigma in mental health and promoting human happiness.