Social Media, it’s a wonderful tool which we have in our millennial lives, but this year I have had something of a love/hate relationship with it.
I have found it helpful, as mentioned in my Anxiety Tips post, regarding Instagram, to document the happy moments this year, the places I have visited, the things I have achieved, the plants I have grown. That this year hasn’t felt a complete failure. But on the flip side, we are only sharing the best versions of ourselves and the good times. It’s not human nature to pull out a camera when we are crying, when we are feeling anxious and life feels a struggle. We want to only remember the fond times so that’s exactly what we document. I see Instagram as an escapism sometimes, I follow inspiring people, travel accounts, illustrators and bloggers I enjoy following and that don’t make me feel bad about myself. But I also think that people presume that what we show on our social media, is an account of our real life, we need to remember we only show a small segment of our day, a grid of pictures we want others to see, and short, punchy captions, not a true representation.
Too much time scrolling through social media can often make us out of touch with reality. Sometimes I feel I’ve spoken to a friend, caught up with them and know what they have been up to. But I haven’t actually seen them, I’ve seen their Instagram stories, their pictures, their status. Social media allows us to connect with others, but is it really helping us become more social or in fact, anti-social?
My parents recently sent me this picture taken in a pub they visited and we all thought it was genius.
When we are socialising, we should be giving each other our full attention and not be distracted by what our peers are up to, no phone glancing mid conversation. We have left little time for actual human interaction, we can become addicted to our phones. I bet we have all been on a dinner table, or gathering of people who aren’t saying a word to one another, instead swiping away. I admit I am as guilty as charged as the next person, however I’ve become much more conscious now of putting my phone away, to enjoy the moment instead.
One of the elements of my anxiety disorder, is social anxiety. When googling the exact definition of Social Anxiety, it described ‘the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people, and fear of being negatively judged and evaluated by others’. I am working through my anxiety with CBT and my wonderful therapist to address this disorder.
Social media allowed me to still stay connected when I was first suffering from this disorder, no-one would have even known how I was feeling. I wanted to just take pictures for myself, to make a sort of diary of the areas I was happy, the things I was learning such as yoga, the good elements of my life, not the struggles. I was avoiding social interaction to avoid having panic attacks in front of people, to avoid being negatively judged and evaluated, but in turn appeared anti-social. We need to remember that seeing those snapshots does not tell the whole story.
It begs the question, are social media platforms helpful or not to those with these anxieties?
One of the benefits is that it connects you with others. I came across an Instagram story of an illustrator I follow who had similar troubles to myself, and we have since had numerous conversations about our anxiety and it has really helped to have that connection, to know you’re not alone out there.
But there are many disadvantages, such as seeing posts of your peers doing great things which in turn can make you feel left out or inadequate. We forget ourselves that it’s a snapshot, and make ourselves feel down and a failure. We end up knowing too much about each other which normally we wouldn’t know, without having a face-to-face conversation. Ironically the more connected we are through social media, the more isolated we might feel.
To summarise, here are a few things to think about…
- Remember what you see on social media is not a true representation of the lives of the people you know.
- Practise mindfulness through meditation or yoga, to become aware of your surroundings and prevent social media from taking over your day. It’s time for your phone to be away and focus on the present.
- Use social media to find people with similar interests, and perhaps find a group in the area that you want to join or a class. Use it to become more social in the real world.
- Acknowledge the love/hate relationship you have with social media. I now recognise it’s strengths alongside it’s weaknesses and never rely on it with regard to my friendships.
- Remember to use social media to enhance your life, not judge your life
- Balance your time on social media, make more plans through it than just sat soaking up the pictures. Life is for living!