Looking at Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, it’s easy to see how social media can be depressing. It’s like looking at a highlight reel of other people’s lives. You see the vacations, the birthdays, and the weddings. The best of what everyone’s life has to offer.
And that can often leave you feeling inadequate or unsatisfied, wishing that your life was as exciting as the lives you see on social media every day.
A Big Problem With Social Media
It’s no surprise then that the effects of social media are starting to be researched in great detail. There’s even an acronym for feeling this way about social media – FOMO, or fear of missing out.
A variety of studies have been conducted that all point to signs that social media can negatively impact your mental health. People who use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all the time tend to be more depressed, more anxious, more restless, and less satisfied with their lives. Anxiety has become the number one mental health problem on college campuses, thanks largely to the pervasive presence of social media.
How to Get the Benefits
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to stop using social media. There’s a reason why Facebook has well over a billion monthly users. In fact, there’s a lot of reasons. You just have to make sure you’re maximizing the good and minimizing the bad. Here’s how:
1. Be Aware of the Bias!
The most helpful tip I’ve found is to be aware of the social media bias. Realizing that people are only showing the very best parts of their lives helps to keep everything in perspective. You see weight loss stories, not weight gain stories. You see graduations, not dropouts. You see success, not failure.
But when you understand that people also have struggles and stresses and dull days, it becomes easier to rejoice in their triumphs. To celebrate with them. To find their moments of success inspiring, rather than depressing. Social media at its best is all about sharing joy, and if instead you are finding it depressing, a change in perspective is definitely in order.
2. Share in the Fun
When you use social media to connect with friends and family, it really can enrich your life. You get to instantly share photos and memories and really be a part of people’s lives, even if they live far away.
One of my older sisters currently lives all the way in Australia, but getting to see an occasional photo of her having fun in the sun makes her feel a whole lot closer to home.
3. You Get to Meet Like Minded People
Social media makes it easier than ever to find people with common interests. If you are constantly shocked by popular attitudes towards prescription medication, processed foods, and dangerous chemicals, you can find pages like The Hearty Soul, where healthy alternatives are written about every day.
Of course that’s just one example. There are countless more. I personally love playing chess, and can easily interact with chess players from Europe. Or I love gardening and can learn secrets from the best gardeners around the world.
In the end, social media really is an amazing thing and can enrich your life in any number of ways. You just have to realize that dangers do exist and that often people’s happiness gets exaggerated. At the end of the day, it should leave you feeling more connected, more inspired, and more informed.
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