Social media can connect you to everyone from your childhood best friend to Beyoncé herself, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be a major part of your life. Facebook, Instagram and related sites can cause real stress. Why does something that seems so fun cause so much drama? Read on to find out why social media can make you sweat and what you can do to find more balance.
Sources of Stress
Social media contributes to anxiety and stress in several ways. A 2016 study showed personalized communication with friends, family and other people we have strong offline connections with can boost self-esteem, but interactions with people we know solely from cyberspace don’t have the same result.
That’s because we’re often more likely to interact directly with our friends online than we are with strangers. Passive connections based on scrolling, lurking and mindless “liking” can lead to feelings of jealousy and damage your perception of your own life, while a heartfelt comment on a true friend’s post can have the opposite effect.
Comparison also plays a role. When we perceive other people as having equal or less satisfying lives than our own, our self-esteem tends to remain intact. Posts and profiles belonging to people we see as better than us can lead to a lower sense of personal fulfillment. That’s why instead of feeling happy to see someone else enjoying their vacation or getting married, you might end up in a less-than-joyous mood.
Why We Can’t Stay Away
You may be well aware of how social media affects your self-esteem, but you could still find it difficult to tear yourself away. If that’s the case, you’re not alone. Many social media platforms are designed to be addictive. They pull you in with positive feedback loops that reward you for liking, swiping, clicking and refreshing. Once your brain realizes new information and entertaining photos are just a click away, it can be difficult to break the cycle. This addictive design can lead to feelings of powerlessness and a lack of control, leading to even more stress in your daily life.
How to Regain Balance
Thankfully, difficult doesn’t mean impossible. With some careful planning and dedication to more mindful usage, you can make strides in overcoming social media’s stressful hold. Instagram and Facebook offer tools that allow users to set limits on how much time they want to spend on the apps and offer gentle reminders when those limits have been reached.
You can also try keeping your phone out of sight while you’re at work or school to reduce the temptation to pick it up, then check your social media accounts only at designated times. Finally, consider unfollowing or unfriending people and accounts that don’t make you feel your best. Ask yourself why you follow each one, what value you get out of that follow and how often you interact with the account. When your timeline is full of truly inspiring and enjoyable connections, you’re more likely to feel refreshed than stressed.
Social media can bring us together or leave us feeling more isolated than before. Make your usage a conscious decision each day, and check in with yourself often to help combat its negative side effects.