Healthy RelationshipsMental Well-Being

Social Media: Nuisance or Necessity?

March 12, 2020

Logging on to social media is supposed to be…well, social: interactive, interpersonal, entertaining, and rewarding. Along with the funny cat videos, news, celebrity tidbits, and the latest from your family and friends, however, social media can carry some drawbacks as well as some positives. So how do you enjoy its benefits and keep its disadvantages in check?

We’re not worthy

One of the biggest problems with social media is that it’s built for comparisons. As you scroll through your feed, you see tons of pictures. Vacations. Cars. Food. Clothes. All of it can leave you feeling less clever, attractive, or successful than other people.

Remember one of the fundamental realities of social media: Not everything is as it seems. All that outstanding-ness may be a lot less outstanding than it looks – and the people you envy may be looking at you in the same way.

If what you see on social media leaves you feeling diminished, take control of your online experience. Limit the extent of the audience for what you post. Unfriend people who don’t make a positive impact on your visits. If the insecurities outnumber the enjoyment, sign off for a while, and see if you really miss being online as much after a week or even a month as you do after an hour or a day.

Time on your hands

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media sites use what’s called an infinite scroll. Think of it as the online equivalent of a bottomless coffee cup. As you work your way down through a series of posts, you never reach the end. Instead, more material pops up to keep the feed full.

This design encourages you to stay put and keep reading, and – unlike sites that break up their content in pages – it doesn’t give you obvious feedback that shows how long you’ve been logged in. The continuity can seduce you into staying put, even if you’re ready to log off

To avoid the time suck, be intentional about when you visit and how long you stay. Rather than just using social media as an antidote to boredom, do something active instead. Call a friend, draw a picture, read a book.

Hit the mute button

Social-media notifications can pop up in a constant stream of distractions. By default, most sites want to tap you on the shoulder for any and everything that happens, from likes and tags to followers and friend requests. It’s painfully difficult to manage your social-media life when you’re constantly badgered to pay attention to it. Take charge and set your preferences so you don’t receive endless notifications.

Avoid FOMO

Fear of Missing Out on information, interactions, popularity, and other perceived advantages can prompt real feelings of anxiety when social-media subscribers become afraid to log off. If you feel worse after you put your phone away than when you sign on, maybe your online engagement isn’t giving you what you really want to get out of it. Has it become an antidote to boredom, or does it supplement other aspects of your life?

Think of your social media accounts as a spice you add to a meal that already tastes great. When you keep the spice from overwhelming the meal, it balances with the rest of your life and adds enjoyment. Too much and it’s just too…spicy.