Surviving Social Media
When we think of mental health we often think of disorders - whether or not somebody has a healthy mind compared to the rest of society. However, mental health doesn’t necessarily need to be defined with diagnoses. A good definition of mental health is "a state of well-being in which the individual (1) realizes his or her own abilities, (2) can cope with the normal stresses of life, (3) can work productively and fruitfully, (4) and is able to make a contribution to his or her community" Unfortunately we’re seeing more and more individuals struggle with maintaining all four of these items, or even a few of them.
We’ve all seen the memes where mental health is laughed about, dismissed, or broken down of mental health is even fully embraced. I think it’s safe to say that a lack of mental health could be described as (1) does not realize/embracing his or her own abilities, (2) having difficulty coping with normal stresses of life, (3) working relentlessly no matter how high productivity is, and (4) doesn’t feel like their contribution to their community is needed or seen.
Do you identify with any of these things? And if so, do you feel like you have the power to do anything about it?
Hard facts about living in the world today: We can find ourselves in a state of depleted mental health not only by hustling too hard to the point of mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion but also by not curating or filtering the things that are coming into our life via sight and sound, namely social media. One of the main things affecting mental health these days is social media. We see more of the world, more of other people, more of everything, than anybody in any past society has ever seen before. This allows us the opportunity to compare ourselves, our circumstances, our life, our home, our job, our skill sets, and so much more, to infinite people around us. To infinite circumstances around us. And as we well know, to carefully curated “highlights” of individuals' lives that don’t show the big picture. There has been no other time in history that one needs to more carefully guard what comes into our lives and minds. Unfortunately, most of us leave ourselves open to any and everything.
Let me give you an example… When I was little, I would have nightmares from watching movies. Oh no, not scary movies… Disney movies. Anytime an evil character was involved in a plot I had the potential of having extreme night terrors. The vision that I watched was now in my head. The words spoken, the sights seen, the feel of emotions that the character portrayed was stored in me. You name it, I had nightmares from it… From Dumbo to Aladdin to The Mummy, and everything in between. I didn’t know how to have the self-control to look away when it came to things that could give me nightmares, but as an adult I am able to do so. I know that murder mysteries are not for me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that true crime podcasts are not for me. I know SO CLEARLY that horror films are not for me. I have an extremely vivid imagination and if I see or hear some of these things I don’t have the ability to filter them out. So now I avoid them. I close my eyes or leave the room, and I avoid social interaction based around these things. That might seem extreme because I am an adult after all, but I know myself well. If I do not filter what comes in through my senses, I later won’t have control over what it does in my mind. The same thing can be true for social media.
We see hundreds if not thousands of pictures, videos, memes, dances, and endless information that our brain stores… somewhere. We don’t just see it and forget it. We use it, convert it to something that relates to our life in one way or another, and usually DON’T FILTER IT. So what happens when our brain is storing information that makes us feel terrible about ourselves? When it triggers the little part of our brain that identifies with hating Mondays? With Depression? With Low Self Esteem? With Envy of what others have, leading us to feel bad for ourselves that we don’t have what they have but we should…? Do we actively fight it? Or, do we let it move in, sink into our daily existence, and live with us there?
The great news is, we have a choice. We can choose to continue letting these things in, or we can cultivate social media to work for us instead of against us, and these are some practical ways to start doing that NOW:
- Start by muting, unfollowing, or even blocking any account that doesn’t make you feel your best. Any time you find yourself looking at a picture or video that makes you doubt your self worth or think negatively about yourself
- Start liking and commenting on posts that make you feel good about yourself, empowered, or simply happy. This will boost those kinds of things in your feed and on your explore page on IG.
- Dare I say it… Stay out of Facebook lash artist groups unless they are carefully curated. Nobody needs that kind of drama or negativity in their life. Let them goooo.
- Avoid filters if you struggle with self-image. If that means you take fewer selfies for a while, that’s ok. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a good filter when you are having a day but my suggestion to you is to leave them out of your daily life. You are beautiful. You are unique. And you are human, just like the rest of us. Trust me, we all have pores, fine lines, and shadows under our eyes just like everyone else.
- Set daily limits for yourself. Another way you can think of this is by scheduling your personal/downtime. Give yourself boundaries and Put That Phone Down. I know it’s hard. It’s worth it. You are worth it.