Social media platforms are great ways to keep in touch and stay updated on important people in our lives — but how many of your 623 followers do you keep up with in real life? Social media is an entertaining, but dangerous black hole that we can find ourselves falling into.
After mindlessly swiping through my feed, double-tapping or swiping up on my friend’s pictures, I find myself face-to-face … well, face-to-screen, with many social media “influencers.” These influencers are usually extremely fit, well-dressed, photogenic people who get to explore many areas of the world with their bright smiles. Often my first reaction is, “Wow, they are really living life!” Then I look down at myself and the homework on my desk, immediately comparing my body and lifestyle to that of the influencer.
Not only do negative emotions arise from us excessively scrolling through social media, but we contribute to this cycle! After seeing other people’s pictures on instagram, I found myself constantly finding places to take cute pictures with friends. After going out to take an infinite number of photos with various poses, we would go inside and stare at our phones, getting input from each other about which picture was most “post-worthy” and then call it a day. In this situation, we may have enjoyed each other’s company, but did we have any meaningful interaction? Doesn’t matter. Everyone who double-taps my picture will think “Wow, they are really living life!” Ring a bell? This endless cycle encourages other people to go out and take, edit, and post more pictures, limiting meaningful social interactions that are important for our emotional and physical health. If we feel so negatively impacted by social media, why don’t we delete it? In the past, whenever I’ve wanted to delete an account, I’d find myself worrying about missing out on what other people are doing. My first thought would be that I wouldn’t be “in the loop”; I felt like I needed social media to stay up to date. Society has integrated social media so deeply into our lives that we feel incomplete without it, truly believing we cannot live without knowing what all of our followers are doing.
So what are the main problems associated with social media?
- We don’t realize these “influencers” we idolize have trainers and makeup artists, while their photos go through photoshop and some major editing
- We never know what someone is really going through by looking at their feed/timelines. Commenting on their posts is not the same as talking to them one-on-one.
- Often times, insecurities regarding one’s body-type, looks, or lifestyle arise from constantly comparing our daily lives to the idealized versions we see on social media.
- We get caught up in the numbers. We dwell on how many likes or comments we will get on a post, and we post what we think will get the most attention from our followers, instead of posting what we want.
How do we navigate social media in a healthy way?
- Keep in touch with people, but outside of the app! If someone is on your mind, hit them up. Ask them to a cup of coffee and find out how they are really doing — not what their captions say.
- When hanging out with people, avoid the temptation to take pictures of every cute moment (even if it’s “just for the mems”). Each second you spend staring at the camera is time you are taking away from actually enjoying yourself. Know that having fun without everyone knowing is still having fun; you don’t need a photo on instagram to prove this.
- Now, I understand that this step takes a lot of work (even for me). It’s important to take baby steps. If you want to take pictures of cool things you do, go for it (but in moderation)! Keep the pictures to yourself or to people who you think would gain something from the interaction. You are going out to have fun for yourself —not for others.
- Limit your social media time! If you want to check your socials, set a timer and stick to it or schedule a specific time to check it. Turn your social media notifications off so that you are not tempted to open it every time your screen lights up. That way during your social media time, you can answer all your notifications at once. Trust me, if someone needed to reach you immediately, it would not be a 2 second snap!
- Be aware of how you feel with what people are posting. If you find yourself feeling negative emotions like jealousy or insecurity when looking at someone’s feed, unfollow them or mute their posts. Don’t be afraid to go on an unfollowing spree. You deserve to look at things that make you happy! Social media platforms often have algorithms where your feed will pop up with posts based on what you like or share, so share things that you want to see more or things that make you feel good!
Social media is a form of entertainment. You can have fun with it in moderation, but when you feel your hand start to cramp up from scrolling, swiping, and double-tapping, remember these tips! You are beautiful and deserve to be happy, even if it takes looking away from the screen to realize that.
Art by Anna Schmidt