Social media getting to you? Here are 5 ways to keep your mental wellbeing intact in the age of instant gratification
Millennials and Gen Z constantly battle with a constant fear of missing out, or ‘FOMO’. This is especially so since we are living in the time of carefully constructed online personas that may or may not reflect reality. However, spending too much time online, flicking through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, is also causing several mental health issues in social media users.
Isolation, loneliness, low self-esteem and self-worth, depression, and even suicide are some mental health concerns cropping up due to excessive use of and reliance on social media. With technology making it easier to text someone, face-to-face interactions are given a miss and this makes us a very lonely, alienated generation.
But there is hope, and we at SocialStory tell you five ways by which you can keep your mental wellbeing intact in an age dominated by social media:
Detox, detox, detox
It starts simple, with you giving a cat video on your Facebook timeline a ‘like’, but before you know it, you have spent three hours on the app. If you are guilty of this, you need to get some detox time from social media. Taking frequent time away from social media is not only beneficial for your mental health but will also free up time and make you more mindful so that you live in the present and are in tune with your senses.
Instagram and Facebook now have options to limit the time you spend on them, by monitoring the number of hours you have been on their apps.
There are also several apps to help one analyse how much time they are spending on social media. Some of them include Ofttime, Flipd, Freedom, and Brain.fm. These apps will send alerts to you and help you on your journey to break the pattern of mindless scrolling on social media. Further, some even track your daily progress in overcoming this addiction.
Recognise the lie
Recognising that social media is not the real world is important. Oftentimes, one gets carried away with social media connections, and believes them to be real friendships.
True relations and connections are always formed over time, in person, and over several meetings. Relationships are built on shared interests, respecting the other individual’s boundaries, and giving time for things to flourish into something meaningful and profound. This certainly cannot happen via social media.
Hence, it is important you create a support system beyond your social media handles. When life gets rough and you need a shoulder to cry on, social media is not going to help you. It is the true friendships you take time to foster in person that will hold you in good stead.
Don’t compare, don’t care
A major reason youngsters struggle with self-esteem, fall into deep pits of depression, and struggle with body image issues is the unrealistic posts on social media. People often portray the best aspects of themselves, or what they want others to see on social media, when they are often far from reality. Photo editing tools are used liberally to craft dishonest images that can leave anyone feeling lacking. No one portrays their bad days or struggles, so it’s important you realise that what you see online may not necessarily be the accurate snapshot of life that one leads every day.
Further, we look at other people's lives on social media and compare ourselves to or ape our peers, as a means to conform and fit in. Originality, therefore, takes a hit, and impressionable social media users tend to follow the cookie-cutter mould of Instagram rather than exploring their own personality, likes, and dislikes.
It’s important to stop living life through a screen, and actually go out there, and start living. You can do this by questioning what you see online and recognising that no one is without flaws. If your social media handles are non-negotiable for you, we suggest you delete the apps on your phone, and use your handles only when you are on your laptop or tablet, thus limiting your exposure to messages and images that may provoke you to compare.
As the famous saying goes, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reels.”
Check in with yourself, often
Pausing and asking yourself how you feel is one of the best ways to check on your mental health. Recognising your moods and patterns of behaviour and how social media affects them will definitely come in handy. If you notice that you are spending unhealthy amounts of time online and it is impacting the way you think and feel, then it is time to seek help or intervention. But first you need to be in tune with yourself to recognise that.
We suggest you take a moment or two a few times in a day to become aware of your breath. Ground yourself in reality and see how you feel. And if every time you do this you feel hopeless, despondent, and trapped, seek the help of a mental health professional. If you feel you are not ready for that yet, talk to a friend, your partner, or a parent. This is where the friendships you foster in the real world will come to your rescue.
Move. Make time for hobbies
Spending time off social media and looking after your mind and body is extremely necessary. Studies have shown that exercise helps release feel-good chemicals vital to combat depression and anxiety. Sneak in a yoga class a few times a week, go for a liberating run every morning, or sign up for a Zumba class… whatever floats your boat, but do move, as it helps you stay healthy, focused, and very much in the present.
There is also immense value in exploring your interests and taking up a hobby. A new language, learning an instrument, or taking up gardening or painting can help you learn something new and have fun at it. Exploring your creative side promotes wellbeing and will benefit other areas of your day including your social life, as you will meet new people with similar interests.
Exercise and hobbies will keep your mind focused on the right things so even if you spend some time on social media every day you will be able to let posts that used to get to you slide. A good workout will help you sleep like a baby, while learning something new will increase your self-confidence.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)