The Ups and Downs of Social Media
Social media is always a hot topic in my world, but it seems to be amplified for my clients during summer. This month, I am noticing how it makes my girls and guys feel about themselves… summer seems particularly difficult.
I think because it is summer there are high expectations to be having fun. This is different in the winter when people tend to hide out more, stay inside, and have an easier time hiding their feelings. When the weather changes, people are out and about whenever it is nice out. They take even more pictures than usual: from extravagant vacations to Greece to weekending in the Hamptons and all that’s in between… falling in love, showing off their summer bodies, and sharing anything they can that may make another person feel less about themselves in that moment.
Social media in and of itself is not a bad thing, at least for its original purpose which is to connect people, it is an amazing tool for business and it is also a way to reach people that was not available to us in the past.
That being said, it also brings up a lot of emotions.
We used to live in a world that when you went through a break up, as painful and difficult as it was, you were able to let go and move on towards something new. Now the way it plays out on social media is that you still have access to knowing what your ex-partner is up to. You even get to “stalk” the new person in their life if you choose - which unfortunately too many do. Disconnecting is much harder.
These social media platforms trigger insecurities within us because we are exposed to seeing that other people have the things that we want most in this world. What feels missing to us is what others put on display.
If you feel old, you envy the young. If you are single, you envy couples. If you lost a figure in your life, you envy seeing those who still have that person. If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, you envy photos of babies and families. If you are in the empty nest phase, you envy those in earlier stages. If you are rejected from a school or job, you envy those who are accepted. If you dislike your body or looks, you envy those who appear to have high self-esteem. If you do not have many friends, you envy seeing group photos. If you are struggling financially, you envy those who are posting affluent lifestyles. If you are unhappy with your career, you envy those who seem to be thriving in their own. Do you see a connection between this and the shoulds? If you are feeling less connected in your relationships, there will be countless reasons that so many posts will find a way to sting you.
In these moments it is so easy to forget that we are only getting a glimpse of what is only a snapshot of a person’s life. What we show to the world is only that: what we show. The rest is hidden.
It is easy to forget:
- We are all human and therefore, we cannot feel great about everything all the time.
- Social media makes everyone look as if they are living their best life and no one’s life is perfect.
- At times, life feels amazing and sometimes it hurts. This happens for us at different times.
Social media gives makes us capable of giving off the old mystique of Hollywood. The generations that came before us would compare themselves to Hollywood actors; beauty and wealth was on full display. How could life be so perfect? It is amazing how people bought into this no matter how intuitive they were. Today, we all get to create this mystique. The photo someone posts of a beautiful beach may not reflect the clouds that are looming in the background.
So what do we do about this? How do we prevent ourselves from getting hurt by what we are feeling badly about in these moments?
I will start off by being truthful and saying that I do not believe anyone can be totally disconnected to social media in today's times… we can change the way we cope with it.
Here are my tips for my clients on how to live in a world with social media without letting it bring us down:
1. Take a “dry month”.
Or give yourself longer, if needed. This is important when you are in a hard space. I compare this to the way I encourage clients who are drinking too much take a dry month.
2. Limit the amount you go on in the day.
Many of my clients will remove it from their phones. That way, they do not have access to it all day long. If they want to check it, they can sporadically from the computer. We also put limits on the amount of time they can spend on it in a day. After fifteen minute intervals, they turn it off. *Pro tip: you can set limitations on your iPhones now.
3. As with anything else, I ask them to write down what is triggered for them when they do look so we can work on it in therapy.
This is something you can practice with your own therapist or a person that can hold you accountable.
Here is the upside (you can always find an upside!)
Social media is not what creates your insecurity, it just triggers what is already inside you. With awareness work, you always want to know what hurts inside so we can move the needle and you can begin to feel better about yourself - so use it to grow, change, and empower yourself to withstand the images that preoccupy you.