It’s been a while since I’ve logged on here and written something. While there are a few honest excuses I could throw out there (uni has been intense, I’ve felt a little uninspired, I even forgot my password for a while there), the true reason is that I’ve become deeply burnt out on social media.
In my undergrad, I majored in Media and Communications and now I’m doing my master’s degree in Publishing and Communications. Obviously, this entails being constantly plugged in and logged on. Most of the time, I love it. I haven’t yet met a postgrad subject I don’t like and the thought of class and assignments gets me excited. But at the same time, I had no idea the mental and emotional toll my constant social media use was taking. It took me until it came to a head in an explosive argument with someone I love to realise that I was in too deep.
While I’m certain that I’m not the only person who’s experienced personal issues caused by social media, I still couldn’t believe that I had let something so seemingly trivial come between me and a loved one. I’ve never been that person before, and not once before did I stop to self-reflect and consider that I was becoming someone I didn’t necessarily like.
Social media was causing me to excessively compare myself to others, and as a result my self confidence plummeted. I became obsessed with people I’d never met who are leading what seem like perfect lives and I began to question everything I’ve accomplished (or, more accurately, everything I haven’t). Instead of unfollowing accounts that made me feel bad, I somehow got sucked into a void of self-loathing and followed more and more of those accounts. I couldn’t pull myself out of this hellscape of people with perfect bodies and families and jobs and houses. I was finding validation from likes and comments from people I barely knew or didn’t know at all. I was taking everything personally and my mental health was suffering because of it.
After a whole undergrad degree plus a little bit of a postgrad degree, suffice it to say that I know a lot about social media and how it works. I know that everything on there is carefully curated to convey a very intentional, specific message. I know that people show a highlights reel rather than a BTS look at their lives. I know that you can create an entire life that isn’t real on social media. I know all of this. But it’s so easy to forget all of that and get sucked in.
But the solution isn’t necessarily to use social media less; it’s to use social media right. Deleting all my social media and pulling a Carrie Bradshaw Throwing Her Phone Into The Ocean move isn’t really an option in my field of study. So I’ve had to set some rules for myself to keep my emotional and mental wellbeing intact:
- Before I mindlessly open an app, I analyse my headspace. I ask myself how I’m feeling and what purpose that app is going to serve in changing my mood. If I’m not in a great mood, I should probably take a step back or choose a different app to open.
- Unfollow without feeling guilty. The thing is, very few people actually notice that they’ve lost a follower/friend (if you are someone who notices: welcome! You’ve found the right post to read). If a person or an account is making you feel discontent, anxious, sad, self-conscious, etc.: unfollow them! There is ONE person who controls what you view on social media—you. There’s no reason to keep following someone who isn’t making you feel your best. If you are worried about unfollowing someone you’re close to or someone you know will notice and care, try just muting their posts for a while.
- On the flip side, follow more accounts that make you feel good! I’ve begun to follow tons of accounts that motivate me, inspire me, make me happy, and make me think critically. Less bad, more good! It’s so easy!
- Are there certain features that make you feel bad? Avoid them. At all costs.
Social media is a very weird phenomenon that we’ve invented for ourselves and it’s up to us to make sure we’re using it consciously and responsibly. I firmly believe that humans were not created to comprehend the reality that social media presents. We have constant access to news (most of which is bad news); anyone, anywhere, at any time is able to tell us exactly what they think of us with almost no repercussions; we can see highlights from everyone’s lives, but we see the gritty realities of very few of them.
We forget that social media isn’t real life and we treat it as though it’s the ONLY life. It’s imperative for your mental health and emotional wellbeing that you’re kind to yourself on social media and prioritise your state of mind above how you’ve been conditioned to act. Safe scrolling, kiddies!