How social media is impacting your mental health

Would you agree that your social media outlets are a lot like high school? The spectrum of enthusiasm ranges from people who revel in the community of popularity to those who often wonder why they are here and then, of course, those who tried and dropped out. Much like high school, social media can create a range of emotions and even have long-lasting implications for your mental health and your relationships with others … even with your children.

Let’s start with the positive effects:

You’re connected.

If your dearest friend moved away or you made the move to the suburbs, social media helps you stay connected to those who you don’t get to see very often. This is also helpful for children who move away from friends. Remember having pens pals or asking for permission to make a long distance phone call? Those are actions of the distant past. Today your kiddos are one snap or musically away from their friends, anywhere.  This accessibility can create long-lasting friendships and a sense of belonging.

You have community.

Whether you are in an online group who does or does not support vaccinating, or a vegan group, a wine group or a work out group, there is plenty of community to be shared with other like-minded parents. A sense of community can make you feel supported and justified in some of the tough decisions that come with parenting. You can even find empathy from and for others who may be going through similar circumstances as you. A sense of community helps us feel normal like we aren’t going at this alone.

You learn.

Recipes, history, popular quotes from historians, sports, yoga moves, events around town and world events. Social media is where you gather information and learn, the world comes to you simply by scrolling through your feed. Did you see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s good night tweet, last night? You are more connected to celebrities than ever before, gaining insight into their practices and perspectives about culture. Ideally, the lessons learned are implemented in our lives. We make the recipes, go to new places and try new yoga pants. We live beyond the feed.

We connect, we commune and we learn but do we find value in it?  How is it affecting our psyche?

Here are signs to be mindful of:

You’re comparing yourself with others online. 

Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we measure up against others who we consider either doing better or worse. This is where social media is doing the most damage. Are we actually gauging our own success in life by the hyper-edited images posted in our social media streams? Sadly, we are and even worse our kids are too. Does your daughter ooohh and aaahhh at what other girls are wearing or doing? While she may be learning something she may also be comparing herself. According to LifeScience.com, social comparison is causing depression.  

The key to combating this is to remember that everyone is editing or strategically choosing pictures to post, with the same attention to detail as you are. Also channel feelings of motivation instead of envy, whenever you can.

You’re addicted.

How many times in a day are you checking your social media?  Are you failing to meet deadlines at work? Are your teens, not waking up on time because they’re staying up too late? Do the young ones solely turn to apps for entertainment?

Step one: monitor where you are spending your time. Check out this great article by Gizmodo, to find an app (ironically) that will help track which apps you spend the most amount of time on. If you (or worse a loved one) think(s) you have an addiction or just an unhealthy habit, commit to making a change.  

Like any new habit, plan to be different for 21 days. The key is to find something else that you enjoy doing, not just denying yourself the app.  Re-read a book you’ve been meaning to, journal, create that photobook you’ve been planning since your wedding or go outside! Take the kids on a walk, ride your bikes or spend some time playing a board game. Get addicted to your family.    

Don’t let social media eat at your mental or physical health. Be inspired by your friend’s post, think before you post and best of all don’t even bother. Just go live a real life!  

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