Do you ever compare yourself to others and not in a good way?
In an age in which people can create their own digital persona, it is difficult to keep ourselves from wondering why our lives are not as perfect as theirs. We struggle to regulate dopamine levels as we scroll through our Facebook feed or wait for the ‘likes’ to add up on Instagram.
Comparison is the thief of joy. The author of This is Your Brain on Instagram: Effects of Social Media on the Brain, talks about the psychological and physiological effects of social media. She quotes psychologist Melissa Hunt who points out “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.”
Recently, I have started a new online venture and today I fell victim to this very problem. I let myself slip into the trap of comparison and spiralled into destructive thoughts until before I knew it, I was surrounded by great walls of insecurity. It took unplugging and spending the next two hours digging in my garden to emerge from the pit and feel a little lighter.
Some people struggle with this more than others (comparing ourselves and/or seeking validation on social media). As parents, we tell our son that once he is on social media, if someone gives him the ‘no’ feeling, he needs to disconnect from them. We are not just talking about inappropriate behavior or language but it could also be because of ‘hater language’ that just makes us feel icky and does not edify us or it could be because we get unhealthy thoughts, such as jealousy when we look at a particular person’s posts. I have had to do all of the above on different occasions.
Social media is responsible for a lot of complicated issues and full of dangers and pitfalls and yet, social media is also a valuable tool, especially in the time of COVID-19. It is our portal to the outside world, our window of socialisation and a source of news.
I find my current situation as an adult similar to that of my children’s relationships with screens. Screens are not inherently evil. They have certainly benefited our home-learning journey over the past month and a half but we often find that if our kids hop on screens too early in the morning they are rude, cranky and defiant and it isn’t even 7am yet. So how do we manage social media in a time when we are so heavily dependent on it and yet are at risk of becoming dopamine addicts who can’t unplug.
1. Write posts like this
Maybe you aren’t a writer – that’s okay but I find it is helpful to re-evaluate every once and a while. Take inventory: the screen time app helps a lot with this. My husband sets screen time limits for himself just like we do for our children. We need to recognise our weaknesses and put boundaries in place to help us stay on track.
2. Be ruthless
You don’t need to become friends with everyone and as I say, if someone gives you the ‘no’ feeling, cut the ties.
3. Remind yourself that you don’t know the full story
For myself, I often will post images which help me to see the beauty in my day, which means, I had to look for it…maybe hard. We can be very quick to judge a book by its cover or a person by their Instagram feed but know that it is rarely a true reflection of what their life is actually like. It is a glimpse, a small pixel of the bigger picture.
4. Be kind
Be kind to yourself and to others. We are all under a lot of stress and just like you don’t know the full story, I would venture a guess and say that most people could benefit from a little kindness right now: an encouraging word or a note to let them know you are thinking of them. Kindness goes a long way and as Mr. Browne says, “When given the choice between being right or being kind choose kind.”
We also need to be kind to ourselves, however. Let me be honest with you: I will post this and then I will tell myself to not look at my computer for the next two hours instead of obsessing about how fast the views and likes accumulate…but I won’t be able to. After 24 hours I will look at the analytics and inevitably be let down and might have to go dig in my garden for another two hours. I am not telling you this so that you will be kind to me, but I am telling you this because this is where I need to be kind to myself.
I have to remind myself WHY I am doing this. I am doing it, for the one person I can encourage today and if I haven’t encouraged anyone else, I have just encouraged myself. I am doing this because I process through writing and in the past, my writing has helped other people process their own thoughts. Remember WHY you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, Tic Tok, the list goes on. I am on social media because I have seen the value in it for keeping in touch with family and friends and I find immense support from my online Down syndrome community.
What’s your ‘Why’?
…turning off my computer now…