Followers, likes, retweets, and shares have become a new currency among teenagers and young adults in today’s technology driven world. In fact, a recent report by the Pew Research Center confirms that about 81% of young adults use social media. Everywhere you look, someone is on their iPhone texting or tweeting, following new and interesting people with perceivably amazing and adventurous lifestyles; and sharing what they’re currently doing with the world through the click of a button. But what happens when you are constantly plugged into social media and less involved in your own life and well-being?
According to teenhelp.com, 20% of teenagers and young adults will experience depression before adulthood. This statistic has increased 68% over the last ten years (youngminds.org), and a recent study conducted by the University of Missouri concluded that Facebook, as well as other forms of social media, can cause envy and feelings of depression (munews.missouri.edu). The National Institute of Health (NIH) also concluded that online social networking is related to the feelings of sadness and depression in many high school and college students. Viewing post after post of people you know, and people you don’t know, living what looks to be the perfect life full of constant traveling, fit bodies, exotic foods, and endless socializing can take an emotional toll on someone who feels as though their life doesn’t compare.
So, teens and young adults are following these “ideal” people and lifestyles online that ultimately make them feel bad about themselves…but why? The answer is FOMO, otherwise known as “fear of missing out.” There is pressure that surrounds the idea of needing to be constantly plugged into the online world to stay up to date on what’s going on with the people you follow. People with FOMO tend to have anxiety surrounding the fear that something is always happening and they’ll be the last to know about it if they aren’t staying up to date. You want to know about your friend’s great new job, the Ivy League school your coworker’s daughter was accepted to, the once-in-a-lifetime concert that your classmates went to that you couldn’t afford. You want to know about all the great things happening to the people around you, even when it starts to make you feel negatively about your own life in comparison. Nobody wants to feel out of the social loop, but continuously comparing your life with an apparent “ideal” life others post on the internet can be damaging to your self-esteem.
So what can you do to avoid falling into the trap that is routinely checking your phone and feeling bad about your life when you do? Here are 3 tips that can help you:
- Remember that people only post what they want you to see. No one’s life is 100% perfect, no matter what their Facebook or Instagram pages look like. People post photos of the highlights of their life, type out statuses that relay their great day off work, publish albums of their fantastic vacation in Hawaii; but you’ll rarely see someone post a picture highlighting their recent breakup, or type out a story that describes how they got fired from work right after they got a flat tire in the rain. Most people post about the good, the exciting, the fun events that take place in their life. When their whole page is back to back, constant good news and happiness, we may not know about the less positive things they may be coping with.
- Do things because you want to, not because you want to post about it. Many people today live to post their fun adventures online, and “likes” have turned into a currency for self-validation and self-worth. “Not enough likes” tends to equate to “not good enough” in the minds of many active social media users, and this can be a dangerous way to live. Instead, go out because it’s something that will benefit you as an individual and because it’s something you will genuinely enjoy doing, not for the sole intention of getting good photos or pleasing your Twitter followers. There’s nothing wrong with documenting your adventures and good times, but when you let it control what you do and where you go, it can turn into an unhealthy habit or obsession.
- Digital detox. Log out of all of your social media accounts (or even temporarily delete the apps from your device!), put down your phone, and surround yourself with people and activities that you enjoy. Ignore the little voice in the back of your head telling you to post about it. This can end up being a nice way of refocusing your motives and intentions regarding which activities you choose to participate in, and give you a chance to do something you genuinely enjoy doing.
Try to minimize the negative impact of social media on your mood and your sense of self-worth, and remember that there is more to life than what is shared on social media! Ignore the irony if you happened to click on this article through a social media link, we just thought that would be the best way to reach you. 😉
Article by Asha Bailey