“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace.”
– Joan Borysenko
Social media is incredible. We can get the latest breaking news, get new recipes, or learn a trendy dance, all while keeping up with the lives of our friends and family (and even those people we don’t know).
But for all the cool things that social media has to offer, it seems like consistent use of it makes us more stressed-out than ever.
But why is it, when we have access to so much information and ways to connect, do we get overwhelmed and stressed in the process?
Playing The Comparison Game
We’ve all heard that social media is a highlight reel. Even with knowing that though, we still forget how curated the content we see can be.
Sure, it’s not necessarily fun to post a picture of the bag of chips you are snacking on while watching your third consecutive episode of Stranger Things. But when you’re scrolling through social media and seeing endless beautiful vacations, luxurious weddings, and baby announcements, it’s easy to feel a little disappointment (especially while you’re wiping the potato chip dust from your hand).
When we get caught up in the comparison game of “She’s got this. He’s got that. Look at how wildly successful they are,” we don’t realize that we are allowing discontentment to creep into our lives. We often get bitter and frustrated…focused on how our lives are nothing like what we see through other’s social media pages.
We so easily forget that every single person on social media has their own “potato chip and tv moments” – those moments just don’t make the highlight reel. And that’s ok! That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t share the fun vacation pictures or the baby announcements. That just means we need to filter those through our “reality lens” rather than our “how my life OUGHT to be lens” when scrolling through social media.
Information Spreads FAST
One of the positives about social media is how quickly information spreads…it’s also one of the negatives.
While being able to get breaking news or even see what’s trending at the time is important and fun, it’s important to be able to discern the accurate information from the inaccurate, which can be stressful!
It’s so easy now to just click the “share” button without fact-checking what you’re sharing. Gripping and controversial headlines can trick even the best of us and believing those stories (the ones that pull at our emotions over what is true and factual) can leave us feeling stressed out.
Instead of letting that instantaneously shared information get us angry and lead to an online argument (when is a Facebook argument EVER a good idea?), it’s important to remember that there’s an information overflow on our social feeds and fact-checking should be a priority.
We don’t think that any of us would deny that scrolling through social media when we are bored is an easy thing to do…but is it REALLY addicting?
“The phenomena of social media addiction can largely be contributed to the dopamine-inducing social environments that social networking sites provide. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram produce the same neural circuitry that is caused by gambling and recreational drugs to keep consumers using their products as much as possible. Studies have shown that the constant stream of retweets, likes, and shares from these sites have affected the brain’s reward area to trigger the same kind of chemical reaction as other drugs, such as cocaine. In fact, neuroscientists have compared social media interaction to a syringe of dopamine being injected straight into the system.”
It is becoming increasingly more common for social media users to develop a dependency on social media. And this dependency becomes a coping mechanism to relieve stress and depression, but often ends up contributing to it even more.
So, what can you do about it?
Again, all of this is not to say that there are no benefits to social media use. There are plenty of reasons to use it: reconnecting with people, fostering relationships with family and friends, getting politically involved, staying informed on news. But it is important to take precautions before you find yourself stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed due to your social media use:
- Turn off your notifications
- Have a designated time you spend on social media
- Fact check, fact check, fact check!
- Unfollow people you find yourself thinking/speaking poorly about
- Try connecting in other ways – walks, phone calls, coffee dates, etc.
Allow social media to be an incredible tool that allows you to stay connected and informed. But be mindful in not letting it stress you out; you’ll be much happier for it!