4 Insights To Change Your Mindset If Social Media Affects Your Mental Health
I see the first light of the day slowly pouring in through my blinds. I’m still in bed. My alarm is about to go off, but I’ve already been awake for quite a while. Actually, I’ve been awake for most of the night. Another migraine attack has kept me from getting any real sleep. I can hear the world around me waking up. The bus driving past my house, people getting in their cars. Everyone seems to be going about their lives except me. Instead of going to work or school, running errands, seeing friends and family, I’ll be at home in pain. I won’t shower, get dressed and put on makeup. I might not even be able to eat and keep it down. I will be lying in a dark room and resting all day. Waiting for the pain to ease. Praying for the pain killers to work.
I reach for my phone to switch off my alarm and open my emails. There is a notification from a career network informing me that two of my contacts were recently promoted and that I should congratulate them. Another one is a newsletter from an occupational association telling me about all the upcoming events and training they are offering that I won’t be able to do.
I roll over in bed and switch to social media. I’m greeted by smiling faces, women with perfect makeup, hair and cute outfits. Friends being on vacation, getting married and announcing pregnancies.
And all I can think of when I see this is: “I am happy for them.”
Now, a few months ago, my reaction was still very different. Seeing other people going about their lives, being happy and successful, not having to deal with pain and illness was incredibly triggering for me. It buried me under an avalanche of negative emotions. I felt sad, lonely, stuck, unproductive, unsuccessful, angry and envious. It would ruin my mood for days and make me feel depressed.
I knew looking at social media made me feel bad, but I also couldn’t stop doing it. I’m at home alone a lot, so social media is like a window to the world for me. I’m genuinely curious about what people are up to. So, instead of just deleting all the apps, I started to actively pay attention to what was going on inside my head, when I was looking at posts, and it gave me some insights that helped me change my mindset.
1. Choose wisely who you follow.
When I started using social media, I mostly followed beauty gurus, some food channels, vloggers and people I personally know in real life. And there is nothing wrong with those channels. But my life has changed a lot in recent years and most of the content I followed wasn’t of interest to me anymore. I don’t need makeup tutorials or recipes for food I can’t eat. So, I started thinking about what I would like to see on my feed and what would make me feel good and help me. I found great accounts that deal with chronic illness and mental health. Seeing other people deal with the same problems I have helps a lot. I find useful information or advice and feel less lonely. I also follow people who are not afraid to be honest and messy.
I no longer follow people with perfectly curated and color-coordinated accounts. I also stopped following a few people I know in real life. I felt I had to follow them, whether I really like them or not. Honestly, blocking some toxic people felt really good. And once they were gone from my feed, I never really thought about them again. I’m not giving someone headspace whom I don’t actually want in my life.
2. Do I even want this?
I found myself being envious, a lot. It was hard for me to see other people constantly moving forward with their lives and careers while I’m stuck at home alone and unable to work. But one day, as I was watching an influencer’s vlog and they were constantly traveling and running from one meeting to the next, I thought that I wouldn’t want that job. I’m an introvert and being out and about so much would never ever make me happy. It was an eye-opener and now, when I get envious of someone, I ask myself if I would even want this.
I think my problem is that I’m generally envious of the way people just get up and live their lives. It’s not about what they are doing and posting about. It’s the fact they get to decide without always having to think about their health and limitations. It made me realize that resenting other people for having a life I will never lead is a big waste of time — time I should use to figure out what would make me happy instead of looking at what makes other people happy. I have been working hard on figuring out what I can do to enrich my life and create my own version of happiness.
3. You never know what people are going through.
Most people on social media post their highlights. They don’t share the behind the scenes, outtakes and bad days. When you mindlessly scroll through those posts, you are going to think that everyone but you is happy, healthy and successful. But it’s just not true. You never know what people are going through behind closed doors. We have seen enough examples of influencers admitting they are depressed and burnt out. So, don’t believe everything you see and stop comparing yourself to others.
4. Limiting time on social media and finding alternatives.
I started paying attention to how much time I was spending on social media and why I was doing it. I noticed that I often scroll through posts endlessly because I’m bored. This is often the case when I’m in a lot of pain and can’t really do anything else. I was basically just killing time doing it, but I’m not any less bored. I was also on my phone a lot while watching TV. It annoyed me that I was spending so much time on something that didn’t add a lot of value to my life. So I started trying alternatives to replace social media. I have been reading a lot more. When I’m watching TV and get restless, I currently use coloring books which I find relaxing. Sometimes I just listen to music or try to meditate.
What are your experiences with social media? What do you use it for and how does it make you feel?
Getty Images photo via Sam Thomas