In the past decade social media has evolved into a showcase of ourselves. We tend to present the most exciting parts of our lives online. We post accomplishments, fun times with friends, our travels and even our meals. After posting, we wait. Then someone clicks that “Like” button triggering the pleasure center of our brain and we get a hit of the “I feel good” sensation. Much to our dismay, the opposite happens when someone responds with a negative comment or, even worse, doesn’t comment at all. Suddenly, we feel down and our self-worth is affected.
Then there’s the time some of us spend e-stalking friends and famous people, envious of their lives and nice things. We may notice friends hanging out without us or exes dating someone new. We begin to compare and feel hurt.
Social media researchers found that these comparing behaviors increase feelings of loneliness, frustration and anger. The duration of time we spend online also plays a part in how we feel. A study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that the longer we spend on social media, the stronger the feelings of social isolation.
So, how can we harness good energy from social media? Social media is a tool used to connect with others. If we learn to use it effectively, we can turn some of the online noise into a positive experience. Here are some things we can focus on:
Understand Social Media Behavior
The first thing we need to realize is that most people are going to post pretty pictures. Hardly anyone puts up pictures of themselves having a bad hair day or doing ordinary things. It’s not fair to yourself to compare other people’s online facade with your real life. You’re only seeing a sliver of their life minus the drama, sadness and everyday errands.
Social media connects us with all sorts of people. Sometimes, we come across people who have such different viewpoints that we see or read things we may strongly disagree with. Forums and comments sections have become breeding grounds for online arguments. It’s best to agree to disagree and avoid the negativity. The internet makes an easy hiding place for bullies and trolls who get pleasure from riling people up. Block, leave and avoid – preserve your inner peace.
How often do you check your phone in a 24-hour period? Social media has become a distraction for us during the daytime, nighttime and sleep time, so try containing it to certain times of the day. Set an alarm for 30 minutes to an hour. You can even split up the time and check your accounts once in the afternoon and once in the evening.
Look for the Positive
Social media doesn’t have to be a negative experience if you know how to use it to your advantage. Try counterbalancing what you expose yourself to by also following pages and people who inspire you (ahem *mygrateful.life plug). Follow friends who are uplifting and pages that report on stories of kindness and compassion. Join a group for an activity you enjoy – such as yoga, meditation, or even Star Trek. Groups that share your common interests can help to reduce anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness and a perception you may have of feeling judged. These groups also provide a safe outlet for you to express yourself to people who understand you.
The most important recommendation is to make sure you keep life balanced. Social media helps connect you with friends and strangers online but equally important is spending time doing things and meeting people offline. Practice being in the present moment, bask in the sunlight for at least 10-15 minutes a day, walk or sit in nature and get in some physical activity. A healthy balance of life online and offline is certain to give you the positive energy needed for a healthier self.