Social Media and Mental Health
As the days begin to blur into each other under stay at home orders, social media has become even more of a prominent feature of everyday life. A portion of my days have been hijacked by incessant Coronavirus–themed TikToks, workout videos and cooking videos. Even during a pandemic, people have continued to use social media to one-up each other. Whether it is through the production of elaborate photo-shoots, or videos that show how folks are choosing to remain “glamorous” while indoors. Studies have shown that social media can be a contributing factor to depression, particularly in young girls who look to these images as blueprints for who they should be. Will this phenomena spread to the general public as we collectively become more immersed into the worlds that exist in our phones?
Your friend from high school might be learning a new language. Your cousin is deep cleaning their home. Your mom is baking a cake from scratch. Lately it feels like everyone is taking up a new hobby or skill and it can be easy to feel inadequate when you compare yourself to your Instagram feed. It is okay to feel these feelings, but pay careful attention to them when they come. This is your ego feeling threatened by the activities of others. When you observe your ego lashing out, it has been helpful to me to say the thought out loud to take away its power.
For example, when I don’t feel like working out and I come across a workout video on my timeline, my ego tells me that I’m lazy and unhealthy. I say this thought out loud and suddenly it sounds a bit absurd to make that judgment of myself. By taking away the power of this thought, it is no longer a “truth” that can harm me. Consider observing your thoughts while you scroll down your timeline. You may be surprised by what you find.
Do a timeline cleanse. I have found that picking out accounts that you follow that no longer serve the person you are now is extremely beneficial for the times we live in. This might mean blocking the posts of that cousin who constantly shares conspiracy theories, but so be it. Your peace of mind is worth more than cyber-loyalty to anyone. I have begun to follow more accounts that bring joy and hope into my days such as @ayana_therapy and @the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram. The second account is run by a clinical psychologist who shares her professional knowledge in a way that allows you to begin to do the work yourself. You might brighten up your timeline by following puppy pages and cat pages, whatever brings a smile to your face. Seek out joy.
I argue that my sweatpants and messy hair are as glamorous as I can get right now and that is absolutely fine. I might not work out every day, but I am doing my best and that is all I can ask of myself right now. We have compound stressors right now: the pandemic, financial burdens, healthcare access, family well-being and many more.
Give yourself grace and take breaks from social media if you feel that it is taking away from your ability to navigate these times peacefully. If I begin to feel overwhelmed by what I am seeing on social media, meditation and going for walks have been great tools for clearing my mind. Find a way to center yourself through all the chaos. We will make it through this, together.