Photo by Gian Cescon from Unsplash
In this day and age, almost everyone, whether a kid or a senior citizen, has access to social media. Everyone has enjoyed the benefits of social media, from getting the chance to communicate with loved ones in long-distance to building your brand across various markets without start-up costs. Social media has become our daily newspaper where you can shift from controversial headlines to entertainment scandals in just a swipe of a finger.
Different types of people from far places all over the world fuse into one massive network combined with various social media platforms and share each other’s content all day. As social beings, we live by the interactions we get with other people amidst the risks we face by communicating with strangers and even faceless friends. Our conversations impact our beliefs, attitudes, principles, and mental health daily, but this is something we overlook.
Instead, we interact in this vast market of information every single day while not checking up on our mental health from time to time. As much as we are exposed to different pieces of information in social media, we must learn to become responsible and media literate users. It is an essential ability to open our minds to the risks and threats of social media and use this knowledge to shield ourselves from them.
We do this by filtering the information that we’re constantly exposed to, as to which is important, beneficial, and considered new knowledge to you. You don’t have to digest every bit of information because not all of them are helpful to you. Develop your intelligence of scrutinizing and filtering which is credible, truthful, and reliable by checking the authoritativeness of the source.
Humans are interpretive creatures, and what may be true to you may not be necessarily true to me. In the end, you have the power to decide if you will let this new knowledge replace the prior knowledge you have or vice versa.
TO WHAT EXTENT IS OUR ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THE EFFECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON US?
A lot of people blame the existence of social media for the millions of teenagers and full-grown adults spiraling into a cycle of depression, anxiety, and self-pity. They believe that it’s the fault of technology that people all over the world are suffering from these mental health issues right now. They are drowned in the insecurities and fears they’ve been concealing all of their lives. They insist that it’s because of social media that their weaknesses are magnified and now the rest of the world will know. Try to think about it, there wouldn’t be social media without social beings with the need to socialize in a different, more modern avenue.
To a great extent, we are accountable for the effects of social media on us. We are responsible for our choices on what we post and how we react to the content shown in front of us. Social media is simply a tool that lets you post, share, and make content online, but you as a user are the one looking at it from a jealous point of view. You are the one who thinks that the other person is flaunting his riches when all he’s doing is sharing what he has accomplished out of hard work.
HOW DOES SOCIAL MEDIA AFFECT OUR MENTAL HEALTH?
When you spend a ridiculous amount of time on social media, you are opening yourself to your deepest fears and insecurities publicly when it’s supposed to be a personal journey for introspection. Social media constantly reminds you of what you don’t have, what your mistakes were, what you’ve lost, and many more awful experiences in your life that you’d rather bury. The successful people you see online living the ideal life you dreamt for yourself is a slap on your face for not being in that same place yet.
Every time you see a cute couple on Instagram, you reminisce with your ex-partner who never loved you. These situations and so many more examples cause great chances of feeling lonely, isolated, and anxious about your future. The problems you have which you aren’t aware of might worsen with social media because you haven’t dealt with the demons in your mind.
Nobody is saying social media, in its nature, is harmful and dangerous to mankind. On the contrary, the impressive tool is designed to commune with all kinds of people and to create an engaging community whose encouraging words and efforts make dreams come true. However, spending too much time online and compromising the real-world interactions off the screen negatively affects the way you perceive the world.
Like a vacuum, it sucks you into this world of pretentious people chasing instant gratification and hiding flaws. It shows you a fake, utopian environment that escapes you from the real-world problems that you’re facing. Every person decodes messages differently. Your opinion about an issue may change after hearing the side of someone else’s point of view online. This will affect your beliefs, rewire your mindset, alter your behavior, and change the quality of your relationships.
YOUR VULNERABILITY TO SOCIAL MEDIA DEPENDS ON HOW MUCH YOU KNOW ABOUT YOURSELF
The challenge is to gain the benefits of social media while not letting it ruin your mental health by exposing it to harmful topics. You can never be too careful when scrolling through the feed because you might see something that would trigger you to do things unpleasant. It is the man who is exposing his true colors and naked soul in a tool where it can intensify anything you put out there to a certain degree.
Long story short, you are accountable for how much you are vulnerable to social media because it’s a matter of self-awareness and perspective of how you see life. If you know yourself, for the good and the bad, you wouldn’t be too affected when seeing things that hurt your pride on social media because you know the truth in yourself.
5 MANAGEABLE WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH FROM SOCIAL MEDIA:
TAKE WHAT YOU NEED AND LEAVE
Train your mind to use social media not out of habit, but out of necessity. If you view social media as a tool to make your work more efficient, then you can learn to use social media intentionally. When you visit Facebook or Twitter, ask yourself why you’re doing so and ponder whether your answer is reasonable enough. Confront yourself with the reason for your visit. Is it to entertain yourself from a long day at work by watching memes? Is it to get updated on a sale of your fridge at Facebook Market? Whatever it is, make sure it’s more important than maintaining a bad habit or getting yourself out of boredom.
Figure out the reason you’re spending a few minutes of your time scrolling through a site that may or may not put you in a good mood, because it matters. If you want to protect your mental health, you should view social media like buying groceries in a marketplace on a tight budget. You go inside, grab what you need according to the grocery list you have, and leave. You don’t spend an unnecessary amount of time staying in a place where you don’t have anything more to gain. It will only leave you spending more time and energy than what’s on your budget.
CLEAR OUT YOUR FEED REGULARLY
Getting access to social media means having your account for which you have control over. You may not have absolute control over the algorithms and tools of a social media platform, but you can filter which people you would want to see every time you open the application. You are responsible for the people you follow and whose philosophies, stories, and values you allow into your online life.
Pay close attention to the people who enable you to look down on yourself and crush your self-confidence. One of the perks of the virtual world is you can alter your relationship status with someone if you decide to cut them off completely.
If their online presence, content, and influence no longer serves you right, you have the choice to unfollow, mute, or even block them. You can control what you see, and therefore, protect yourself from the people who fuel the negativity and fear into the virtual space and turn it into a toxic environment.
LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA USE MINDFULLY
When you’re mindful about the present, you acknowledge the number of hours you dedicate to aimlessly scroll on the web. You’re aware of the effects of every media content you see on your physical and mental health. Once you evaluate your relationship with social media, you learn to set boundaries that benefit you. Try to limit your social media use daily by making a schedule on when to access the internet and when not to.
Make it a strategy to only get into social media after doing the tasks that you’ve set for today to avoid more distractions. It’s difficult to stop doing a habit that’s already second nature to you, so do it gradually and understand that you’ll have many failed attempts in the first few tries. You’ll be tempted to watch the viral video on Tiktok or check out the latest trend on Instagram. The less social media, the fewer chances of getting stress and anxiety.
PRIORITIZE YOUR OFFLINE LIFE
Remember that your online life does not sum up your worth. Don’t replace real-world communication over an artificial, fake community. It’s without a doubt that social media is a great way to make new friends, especially from far away places. It is a tool that merges the distance between two people and makes the communication more meaningful as if it feels like you’re with one another.
However, like any relationship that heavily relies on social media, this is not a stable form of friendship unless you see each other regularly or on a scheduled basis. Moreover, not everyone you meet on social media is the person you think he is. Everyone is not the way he seems online, so be vigilant and careful with whom you trust and call a friend.
To protect yourself from the many chances of being fooled, betrayed, taken money from, give more value to your real-time friends instead. Granting time and effort to spend with your closest friends and family off social media is an effective way to nourish mental health.
ESTABLISH A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX ROUTINE
One of the crucial times that affects your mental health is after you’ve used social media, especially before you go to sleep. It’s important to acknowledge your actions after you’ve processed the information you’ve seen to see how much it affected you. Having a social media detox can straighten out your bad habits because there wouldn’t be anything enabling you to do those habits.
Taking your mind off that depressing video you just watched before you head to bed can do wonders for your mental health. By doing this, you are letting go of the knowledge that isn’t good for you. If things get worse, you can always delete your social media apps temporarily until you’ve managed to control your emotions.
There’s no escaping the influence of social media, despite its perks and compromises, as it is now deeply rooted in every human interaction and livelihood in this digital age. Almost every human activity involves the use of social media, from manufacturing to promoting products and services in the business industry to communicating with people online. Given its huge grasp on us, we must never forget that social media doesn’t encompass our entire life.
It’s easier said than done to discipline yourself of your screen time because it has already come second nature to us. It feels like an instinct that you do when feeling bored, out of place, distracted, or when you’re searching for answers to questions. Nevertheless, make it your daily goal to be straight with yourself with whom you’re following and how their posts affect you mentally. Your mental health must always more important than what is in your social media account. Seek out help from experts if necessary.
“Humans are lamentably insecure creatures, and often they pick up their modern devices to alleviate that insecurity, in a subconscious attempt to receive some thrill and reward. And the longer we keep on practicing such habit, the more hooked we get to our devices, often to the point of losing our mental stability. So, devices that were mainly invented as means of communication have become weapons of mental devastation.”Abhijit Naskar, The Gospel of Technology