How is social media affecting your life?

In the last ten years, the use of electronic communication devices has boomed. Most of us have mobile phones and the majority have smartphones. The use of computers has become an integral part of our lives. Instant messaging and emails have overtaken letters as the most popular way to keep in touch.

Two young women focus on their phones, scrolling through social media instead of talking together.

These new forms of communication have benefits but can also cause anxiety, poor self-esteem and can be all-consuming to the detriment of work and friendships. Are you more stressed since you joined a social media site? Everyone is always on the end of a line but this instant availability can also be intrusive. The jury is out on whether texting and emailing is addictive, but for some, their lives do seem to be controlled by social media.

When was the last time you were out for a meal and either you or someone at the table had their phone on and responded to a text? Have you ever gone out to lunch and discovered that you had left your mobile on your desk? How did you react - panic or acceptance? Do you scroll and stroll and ignore others on the street?

For some, social media affects their self-esteem. Knowing what friends are doing, where they are going, what they are seeing is a bit voyeuristic (but with their permission). You may end up comparing yourself to them and feeling inadequate. If you are not doing something as great or exciting you may feel worthless. Your self-esteem becomes dented. In some cases, to counteract this, you may then make stories up and, if not careful, get trapped in a web of lies.

We all need time out. We need to be able to recharge our mental batteries. This hyper-state of involvement in others' lives that technology brings can train us to be constantly online so that we don’t miss out. Even at work, there is an expectation that we ‘are on-call’. Some employees feel that they have to check work phones and emails during their holidays so that the boss knows they are dedicated. Not much of a break.

Holidays are useful ways to rest the brain. To give it time to recharge. These time-outs are very beneficial and help to prevent stress and breakdowns. So if you can’t turn off your phone, do you think you may have become dependent on knowing what others are doing? And if so, why?

Some have difficulties putting technology into place and not let it take over their lives. More and more clients are coming in because they feel inadequate. They compare and contrast their lives with the ‘electronic friends’ and don’t feel as exciting, as perfect, as fulfilled. Their lives are becoming stressful because of technology not better.

Electronic communications have a place and can be a useful tool. But if you feel out of control then it may be useful to talk to a counsellor.

Someone checks their social media covertly under their desk

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Canary Wharf, E14 4AS
Written by Owen Redahan, MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)
Canary Wharf, E14 4AS

Owen works with individuals and couples. He focuses mainly on issues around self-esteem, relationships, sexual addiction and work problems using CBT and person-focused therapies. He has a diploma in Counselling and is a member of ATSAC (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity). He is based in Canary Wharf, London E14.

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