More and more regularly I find myself having conversations with my clients about the impact social media use is having on their mental health and personal and professional productivity. More and more I see clients presenting for therapy feeling depressed, anxious and often even suicidal, wanting to take a break from social media but finding it difficult to disconnect because of a variety of factors such as a fear of missing out or often even a fear of “being forgotten about”
The psychological stance on the fear of missing out views this experience as one driven by feeling excluded, isolated or unwanted and the anxiety which is part of the interpretation of withdrawing from social media from a behavioural point leads to excess social media use, checking in regularly and posting, often even abandoning or procrastinating things that need to get done due to this overwhelming feeling that there is a need to be on social media to keep up with the world. I use the word interpretation because again, I believe this is just an interpretation. An interpretation that has become globally quite common.
With the above considered, many of my clients evidently present discussing how they want to take a break from social media but due to their thoughts and beliefs about coming off social media and what that means for them such as lack of validation or feeling connected, they soon find themselves back online on the hunt for fulfilment. Personally I believe the words approval and validation here, while may be hard to believe about ourselves, are relevant...because in reality - Why do we feel the need to post a “selfie”? I won’t even say much more, further than I would like you to ask yourself for a moment, honestly, why do I do that? What is the goal? Is there a goal? Or has it become the “norm” to do that? Why has it become the “norm”? Does it affect me negatively or positively?
What an existential awakening moment to make you truly question where your time is spent. That moment where you spend so much time scrolling Instagram, forgetting your own life and consuming the lives of others, that Instagram tells you “That’s it, you’re all caught up” nothing more to see here. If you are familiar with that notification for this reference. Great. Well, maybe not great. I believe it’s a representation of where our priorities are at and it takes a while to get to that point. In that time, what have you been looking at? Is it helpful? Did you learn something? Or are you sat there wondering why your hair isn’t as cool as John’s? Or why your body isn’t as slim as Sarah’s? Do you ever come away from social media feeling fulfilled? Or do you feel unfulfilled? Does social media make you feel confident within yourself or is there a constant aspiration to change and become more and more like every one you see online? Is that helpful? Still not feeling satisfied and also feeling like you need to change your life to be like those you follow? Again, I ask, Is this pressure helpful? Do you question it? Are you questioning it now? Do you see how it may be leading to feeling poorly? Would you like to make a change? It starts with awareness. If you have read this far and relate, awareness has begun. Awareness is the beginning.
If you post regularly on social media, you will know the undeniable feeling a notification or a like brings. Ive been there, you’ve potentially been there. I say undeniable because if you are denying it, I believe you are in denial. Why? Because again psychology proves that for the vast majority using social media, this now viewed “norm” of getting likes, brings the same dopamine release to our brain’s as eating chocolate brings and this can be seen in the matter of the brain and evidence suggests we chase this feeling, this high, more and more. We come away temporarily satisfied, searching for more even though we may not even recognise how we are continuously sucked in, often feeling trapped, under pressure and overwhelmed.
If you are reading this and maybe don’t feel the negative affects of social media, great. However, I would still encourage you to question, what impact does social media have on your life? Are these “influencers” you follow influencing you to become a better healthier happier you or are these “influencers” actually putting pressure on you and influencing you towards a belief to be something you don’t actually want to be. As humans we have an innate desire to be wanted, to be loved, to fit in. So what happens? We usually go with the flow and don’t question what has become societal norm and follow the rest of the sheep. Makes sense. However, this doesn’t work for everyone and leads to distress and poor self esteem. Social media use and poor mental health have more and more evidence based research as time moves on which show’s that this phenomena is one which continues to impact the lives of so many globally on a daily basis.
More than anything, this blog is one which I hope has caused you to reflect. One to bring that inner questioning as you read this and can be honest with yourself and maybe contemplate making a change. If you would like further information or support within the realm of social media use and poor mental health, please get in touch with us here at Evolve Mental Health and we would be more than happy to discuss this and support you as best we can.
Take care. God bless you.