Social media, you can’t get away from it can you? Everywhere you go someone is
snap chatting or linking to some kind of social media platform, so what’s the problem? and why can they exasperate feelings of anxiety?
Social media was created as a means to connect with one another, in the most part that’s exactly what it has done, hasn’t it? You can now see the whereabouts, updates and live feeds of you friends, old work colleagues and past acquaintances. We can network, apply for jobs, meet new people and purchase incredible items from the luxury of our sofas or beds. Its increased ournetworks and contacts tenfold but what happens when it goes wrong?
1. We start comparisons
When we see the old school friend who has recently gotten married when we just split with our partner, or we cannot fall pregnant but your old work colleague is posting about their baby shower, or we fell out with our best friend and they are out with someone you dislike it can commence a negative thought spiral, a downward spiral of self-doubt, worry, comparisons and the ‘why not me’ approaches. Furthermore we detach from the fact that this is merely a highlight roll of someones life and instead sit worrying that we don’t add up. This can create feels of inadequacy, anxiety or fear that escalate the more that we engage in looking in through a small window. In cases where an individual is already experiencing feeling of self-doubt we can quickly identify how this can trigger further negative thoughts.
2. We stop communicating
10-15 years ago picking up the phone and chatting to a friend in the evening was a normal event, we were accustomed with knowing each other’s personal home numbers and recited them off the top of our heads. A catch up over dinner took time and lengthy discussion as we deliberated what we had been up to and shared our time and memories. Fast forward to the launch of social media and phone calls to many are a thing of the past, if I asked you for the home numbers of your 5 closest friends – could you tell me? Whilst dinner conversations often involve ‘did you see xxx on Facebook?’. Using social media can be a great way to let people see what we are up to, especially when close friends have moved up and around the country or across the world but the art of communication is slowly dying out. For someone with anxiety or low mood this can trigger more negative feelings or create a cut off as it is to easy to post an updated status and people to assume that you are ok and not pick up that phone. In the same regard rather than share important events and experiences with friends many deem it as socially acceptable to share a post and forget that for many close friends this can be extremely hurtful and make them feel cut off from a friendship as the first news they have is a social media posting.
3. We only share extremes
Social media provides a platform to vent, argue, commiserate, thank, remember, celebrate, share and brag….. however it is often violated and misused. Whilst living in a world of emotions that are often not communicated effectively, in the heat of a moment many can share a moment which will come back to haunt them. The friend or family member that posts of a baby’s arrival before the parents (ouch), posting photos of friend’s children without permission, ranting at a friend, sharing inappropriate content which can be offensive, writing about someone else without mentioning names, tagging in at home addresses…… the list goes on. However in many cases the click of a button in the moment of emotion (happy or sad) can have dire consequences, as they say once its in the web its there forever, and you cannot take back the hurt created by postings. For some people these posting can have long term feeling of anxiety, betrayal or anger when a friend or family member posts something that they felt was seemingly innocent. Before clicking that button take a moment to consider how you would feel if you were just scrolling past that comment.
4. We can break relationships at the click of a button
When in history could you break up with a partner, stop talking to a friend or ignore a family member by pressing ‘delete or block’. 10-15 years ago we would have ignored phone calls, written a letter or take the time to have a conversations, whereas now in 2 seconds you can completely sever a relationship that took years to create. Whilst some would see this as a great advantage for those on the receiving end this can cause great emotional distress and leave the person wondering what they did wrong, when in truth they may have done nothing (or everything). For the person walking away it may be the easiest option, or in the moment of anger a feeling of release but severing ties via social media can make it very difficult to rebuild relationships at a later date if the opportunity arises. The emotional impact on the person who was rejected can also be fundamental, especially if they were already experiencing low mood or negative thought patterns.
5. We can offend at the press of a button
When did you last post a status that you later thought ‘I wish i hadn’t done that?’ (or has come back to haunt you via timehop or similar?). the issue with social media is that once we write it – it will be seen….. and it may be seen by the wrong person. Whether you’re selling the unwanted gift, posting a photo of a party you didn’t invite some people to, or checking in at a night out without your closest friend (who you forgot to tell) that person will see it, and it will hurt them if they had no knowledge about the event. In the same regard posting about an engagement that you forgot to tell a family member about or sharing a heart ache that your friend knew nothing about – our desire to overshare can have consequences. Or maybe you prevented a particular friend from seeing you update but forgot that you have other mutual friends – how would you feel on the receiving end? For some people this can be soul destroying
So what can we consider before using social media to avoid unnecessary or additional negative feelings?
Ask yourself ‘could this hurt someone’ – intentionally posting things that can hurt others is an element of cyberbullying and isn’t acceptable. If your post is being used to cause upset/hurt or get back at someone press delete and walk away – these posts can create huge consequences even if you didn’t use a name
– Remember its not real – Social media is a highlight reel, and in many cases what is posted is not real life, often those with the happiest social media postings are those struggling personally and in the same breath some of the people with the most contacts can be the loneliest. Enjoy the highlights, but much like the cinema remember that the story goes on even when the credits are rolling…. pick up the phone, talk to a friend and ask them how they are, don’t assume that everything is hunky dory just because the photos look happy
– Think before you post – Before you post ask yourself ‘how would i feel if i saw this?’ If you are about to make a huge announcement but haven’t told your closest friends or family let them know first, if you are about to post photos of you friends children – ask permission, if you are about to congratulate someone on their news – check whether they want it made public before you do, not everyone wants their engagement, pregnancy, marriage or bereavements broadcast and not everyone wants to read about it on social media before they are told in person. Think before you post and you can prevent a great deal of animosity.
– its not your diary – avoid oversharing, remembering that sometimes this can trigger emotional responses in others, keep you trapped in a box, and also cause some people to switch off as they are so used to long posts that they don’t notice that something is wrong or retreat because it is overwhelming. If you are using social media to overshare then where possible pick up the phone and talk to a friend or family member, write a diary or take some time out to do something that makes you feel more neutral or positive. If these are not possible or you find yourself using social media as a platform to share your feelings about everything it may be time for a check in with yourself to identify why you cannot talk to close friends or family about these issues or it may be time to utilise a professional to support you in changing your mindset and approaches.
– If its too much log out – if you find yourself continually pouring over photos and highlights from friends lives and it is having a negative effect on your mindset take some time out, limit your social media usage or deactivate your profile for an agreed period of time to allow you to reconnect with reality and talk to real life people. If you find yourself addicted to social media contact a local therapist who can help you in breaking the addictive behaviours.
– If you are struggling – reach out The one great thing about social media is if you are struggling you can contact so many great charities and organisations, those such as the Samaritans can be spoken to in seconds, if you find social media having a negative experience on your mood reach out to organisations that can help or locate a local therapist who can work with you to overcome these. In the same effect if you are experiencing cyberbullying you can utilise the bullying charities for help and guidance.
Social media was created as a networking device, remember that more and more companies are watching your social media before offering employment and that you postings can influence you future. If you find it is having a negative impact on you or those close to you encourage some time out and re-establish boundaries for how this is being used.