Is Social Media Making You Sick(er)?
Ask any expert and they’ll tell ya that when you live with a mental illness, social isolation is not only devastatingly difficult, it’s downright deadly. The less meaningful connections we have, the lower our self-image becomes. The lower the self-image, the worse the symptoms, and the worse the symptoms get, well, you know where this is going. Conversely, when we lead lives filled with healthy, give-and-take relationships, we flourish. And the more we’re able to love ourselves, the more we’re able to invest in a life worth loving.
So you’d think, then, that living in the age of social media, where quality connections can be a mere mouse click away, would be a goldmine for anyone battling their brain. Wrong. You’d be wrong there. Unfortunately, we’ve developed a number of horrible habits that make humaning way too hard when we live our lives surrounded by screens.
But don’t worry! That’s why you’re about to read this bangin’ blog post that’s going to tell you all about the ways you can harness the power of social media to do better, feel better, and get better without having to throw your phone in a lake!
👆🏼Horrible Habit Number 1: Playing the Comparison Game!
Back in the day it was fashion magazines and sultry commercials that made us feel bad about ourselves. Now, it’s our friends and family and that chick we went to high school with who lost 30 pounds and posts non-stop filtered pics of her rockin’ bikini bod! Scroll through your feed and check out all the feigned happiness: white-toothed selfies, exotic vacations, exaggerated wealth, endless weddings, Pinterest perfect baby showers, ahhh it’s endless!
When your life isn’t peaking at a perfect 10 all the time, it’s not exactly easy to embrace and deal with the darkness when everyone else seems to have it better than you. When you compare yourself to these photogenic phonies, your life can seem way worse than it actually is. And, when you’re already struggling to find the motivation to move forward, believing that you are super far away from the path to wellness is often the reason you’ll choose to give up and go back to bed. Good grief!
🤔What’s the solve? Perspective!
I would love to tell you not to compare yourself to anyone else… that you’re above that and if you invest in self-love enough you’ll never, ever do it again. But I’m not going to tell you that because it’s bullshit. You’re horribly human, just like me, and no matter how great my life is going or how good I feel about myself, there’s always going to be a moment where I think, “Ugh! I wish I had hair like that!” And you know what? That’s okay!
What’s not okay is when you convince yourself that what you see on social media is what’s going on in real life. Case and point: everyone is going to get painful gas. It’s a universal experience that literally everyone can relate to and yet no one is going to share about it! So the next time you start getting green with envy when your third cousin posts that perfect pic of her fabulous family, remind yourself that at some point, somewhere, they’re going through some tough stuff too and that may or may not include some seriously awful gas. (Laughter helps too.. clearly!)
😞Horrible Habit Number 2: You’re Bringin’ Me Down, Man!
Have you ever joined a group, discussion, or thread about your mental illness on social media? If you have then I’m about to say something that is totally obvious to you: depressed people with depressing illnesses can be, well, extremely depressing.
Everyone needs to vent and sometimes it’s pretty rewarding to be able to connect with others who understand exactly what it’s like to live with the challenges you’re facing. It’s liberating! But there’s a huge difference between people who are coming together to share their experience and people who are coming together to share strategies for dealing and healing.
🤔What’s the solve? Moderation!
First, figure out what you need from these connections. In my life, for example, I have a lot of people I talk to regularly who live with mental illness, so I don’t really need a shame-free outlet where I can share my latest symptoms. I do, however, need to talk to people who understand specific issues and are willing to both encourage me and point me in the direction of new tools and strategies.
Sometimes you just need to get it out there, talk about it, let it have some air. That’s perfectly fine. But don’t get stuck on a merry-go-round of unsolvable sadness. Use a 2 to 1 ratio; for every 2 serious sites or subjects you expose yourself to, visit 1 thing that’s positive, funny, or just plain makes you feel good.
😬Horrible Habit Number 3: Living for Likes!
There’s likes, dislikes, pins, retweets, follows, upvotes… so, so many ways for us to cast instant, compulsive judgement on everything and everyone. On the one hand, it’s relatively awesome to be able to throw a little heart out there every time your friend eats at a fancy bistro. On the other, it’s a great way to immediately devalue yourself, your worth, and the way you live your life by counting up and caring about the interactions you receive.
The more importance you place on the actions of others, the less you’ll like living. And guess what? Yep. You guessed it. That’s a one-way ticket to Breakdown Town.
🤔What’s the solve? Reality.
People are going to have all kinds of reactions/interactions with the content you post and guess what? It’s none of your business what they do/don’t do with your social posts and, even better, you are under no obligation to care at all!
Instead, turn your focus to the real world and the in-person relationships you have every time you start worrying about your likes. How many members of your family have downright disowned you because they didn’t like your pic? How many coworkers forced you to eat lunch crying in your cubicle because your retweet was untimely? When you have situations where you actually upset or offend others in your life, put on your apology pants and deal with it. In the meantime, when the counts go down try to think about how many people gave you in-person feedback about it and, when that number is less than 3, learn to let it go.
🙀Horrible Habit Number 4: Holin’ Up Like a Hermit!
Many mental illnesses put people in a place of utter isolation. You’re stuck in your head so you retreat from the world because you just need a damn break to try to figure it out! I get that, I do.. mostly because I do it too. But, unfortunately, social media makes it a whole lot easier to stay there because it gives you the absolute perfect excuse to keep the shades drawn: you’re talking to people!
“I’m talking to friends!” You’ll say. “I’m doing online therapy!” “I’m in an online support group!” All of these statements may be true and there is definitely a lot of value in them. None of them, however, are an adequate replacement for the comforting chemicals your brain produces when you’re able to hear, smell, touch, and feel another person who genuinely cares about you.
🤔What’s the solve? Escape.
Sometimes it going to take a little time before you’re ready to rejoin the world and you know what? That’s totally okay. Don’t beat yourself up if you need to isolate for awhile. We all do! But you also need to put together an escape plan to help you ditch the darkness.
Start with small, meaningful steps. Since you’re already interacting with people online, there’s no reason you can’t do it in public. Grab your phone or tablet and go to a coffee shop. Sit at a park. Dine at a restaurant. Get used to it and then designate your social media time exclusively to the out-of-doors. Before you know it your beautiful brain will help you associate feel good chemicals with positive practices which will lead to a happier, healthier you!