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Social Media & The Myths It Portrays

Social media, Snap chat, Instagram, Facebook-we can’t live with it, we can’t live without it!

Social Media & The Myths It Portrays

This has become the world we live in.

Adults, teens and tweens alike find themselves checking their preferred mediums anywhere from a couple times a day to countless times. When we’re bored, taking a break from work, when a notification pops up, the times and reasons we justify checking in with our “friends” are limitless.

Like most things in life, social media is not all good or all bad.

It can be great to reconnect with old friends, stay informed about events in your community, stay connected to friends and family that live far away. But are all of the people/pages you follow or friend really people you know and/or like?

Just as we often need to clear out our closets and drawers, it can be helpful to go through your friend lists and do a little spring cleaning. Ask yourself if their posts and comments make you feel good and have a positive impact or does their appearance in your life have a negative effect on your mood or outlook. I’ve seen several memes recently floating around saying that our diet is not just about what we physically consume, but also the information and energy we take in through all of our senses. Make sure what you’re taking in has a positive effect on you and be aware when you have a negative response or increase in stress.

As a psychotherapist and Mom, probably the biggest myth/issue I hear about social media is the feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out), feeling excluded and left out and the dangerous comparison game. I have had clients from age twelve to middle aged adults express these feelings because of what they’ve seen or read on social media.

I recently heard the perfect depiction of the falsity of what social media portrays. A teenage girl saw a snap chat from a friend and thought “wow, that looks like a great party” then she realized it was a picture from a party she actually was at and the party was awful in reality! But somehow, through the magic of filters or the right moment depicted by a photo or just the power of our minds, it appeared to be a great party.

Take a moment to really think about this and how often this probably occurs.

We’ve all heard the saying “the grass is greener on the other side”, that’s never been a more relevant sentiment than in our age of online social connection. How easy is it to be envious of a party you’re not at, other people’s houses, vacations, families etc. You see a picture of a peer, a couple or family and your mind can make all kinds of assumptions and interpretations about what their lives are like.

When the truth is, nobody’s life is perfect, absolutely nobody’s!

Consider this, I’m willing to bet that other people have looked at your posts and have been jealous of you. This is something most people probably don’t think about, we tend to only think of a situation from our perspective. My point is to be careful about assumptions and interpretations you make based on pictures and posts.  Also, be careful not to compare your internal world with other people’s external world. Meaning, you know what your life and issues are from the inside out but most people seeing your posts wouldn’t know because they only see the external and what you portray. So don’t assume they have it all together because of a one second snapshot of their lives-often one that has been carefully edited and chosen.

The irony is not lost on me that as I talk about the potential pitfalls of social media that you will most likely be reading this blog on my Facebook page.

So what’s the answer?

As with most things in life, in my opinion, it’s moderation. I love that most of these apps, in addition to the phones themselves, have time limit settings. Last year I turned off my notifications for my social media and emails so that I have to go into the apps to see if I have any messages or alerts. When a notification pops up, it’s just too tempting to check it “real quick”, meanwhile, ten minutes later (conservatively) you’re still scrolling through and have been bombarded with images and information.

I’ve read articles discussing research that’s been done about the effects of social media on our brains.

Getting a “like” or “share” or comment on our post actually can give us a shot of dopamine (the neurotransmitter related to our pleasure and reward center). Because this feels good, it makes us seek that out even more and can create an endless loop. This is good to be aware of, especially for impressionable teens, who’s self-esteem can rise and fall based on the response they get on their posts.

If you want to set some social media limits for yourself, be realistic and don’t take an all or nothing approach. If you spend two hours a day on Facebook, cut back to an hour and a half initially, then go from there. Small, realistic, achievable goals is the best way to create long term changes and habits. If you feel like social media is affecting you or a loved one negatively and you want to make changes, feel free to contact me. I love to help people become more mindful of their mental, physical and emotional health and work towards to feeling their best!

Kathy Most
Therapist in Westfield, NJ
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