Is social media actually messing with my head?

Is social media affecting me?

After reading a number of articles on the linkages between social media, depression and anxiety, I have found it hard to get a definitive answer. There are so many factors to take into account - why, how and how often we are using it. Most studies only present a snapshot of what might be happening, and research can be limited by anecdotal evidence and self-reporting. 

My personal opinion however? Absolutely! There is no doubt in my mind that anxiety, depression + social isolation are on the rise, and that social media plays a serious contributing role. The problem lies in how we are spending time on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

It occurred to me recently just how much time I was wasting in a battle of comparisons. Telling myself that I wasn’t doing enough, that I needed to have a successful business like this person or a shredded body like that person. That I need to be living in this area, have that car, that morning coffee, travel photo, surfing shot, and the list goes on… There is nothing wrong with seeing what’s happening out there in the world, and feeling motivated to become the best possible version of yourself. The trouble is when we cross that line of curiosity to a place of resentment, jealousy, self doubt or self-comparison.

Through social media I believe that we are altering our mindsets slowly over time, like the fable of the frog in a boiling pot. We begin to submerge the frog (our minds) in a pot of lukewarm water, but over time we are cranking up the heat in the form of dangerous self talk and confidence issues until we reach boiling point.

On one hand, social media can be an unbelievable tool for communicating with friends, meeting new people, checking out world news, entertainment and events. It has become an opportunity for many businesses (like MANA) to thrive, and gives people an opportunity to break free from the 9 to 5 lifestyle we once all accepted as ‘the norm’. With social media we have also seen improved levels of self expression, self identity and community building.

On the other hand, Sean Parker (First President of Facebook) and Chamath Palihapitiya  (Early Facebook Developer) talk openly about how they (and other developers like them) use psychological exploitation to get us hooked on social media. We experience short term dopamine hits from ‘likes’ and comments on socials, and over time this can be likened to a heroine addict looking for their next fix. Pretty wild stuff if you ask me! After hearing this, I thought that surely if social media has been compared to an A-grade drug there should be regulations around its use… I found that I wasn’t the only one thinking this. The CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff has suggested that Facebook should be regulated like the tobacco industry, ‘Smoking, drinking too much, & spending too much time on social media: none of these things are good for you, & they definitely aren’t good for our kids. Social media is virtually unregulated, while cigarettes & alcohol are subject to stringent regulation’.

 

So how do we achieve a balance? What is a ‘healthy’ dose? At MANA we believe it all comes back to education and knowing your own worth. It used to be that we only had access to social dramas, news and sources of fear in our local communities. Now, with the internet in our pockets, we are exposed to social news and commentaries on a mass scale. When we broadcast our own lives we are allowing other people (who may not even know us personally) permission to respond and even determine our sense of value through likes, comments and shares.

So this week at MANA we are making a conscious effort get grounded again in the brick-and-mortar world. To go outside and make real human connections. 

Recognise that you as a human being are truly one of a kind. Just as special, beautiful and unique as the person next to you. You are perfect the way you are. Remember that, and tell the ones you love and care about the same thing. Switch off your phone, make a conscious effort to really be present with those people you connect with and watch your life take a turn for the better. Watch true happiness begin to fill you from the inside again. Teach the next generation this skill and lead by example. Watch as your stress, exhaustion and anxiety begin to melt away. 

Take the challenge of halving your time on social media this week, then halving it again the week after. Let us know what happens to you physically, in your mood and in your energy levels :)

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Cover image credit for this article goes out to Hans Vivek who’s awesome work can be found on Unsplash