Today's post is the first in a series about healthy social media enjoyment and how to avoid cyberbullying. This is a new phenomenon that is affecting preteens and adolescents in ways that are difficult to keep up with. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series, which will delve into signs you're being cyberbullied and what to do about it (directed towards teens), and Part 3 of the series, which will describe signs that your teenager might be dealing with cyberbullying (directed towards parents.) I hope you enjoy this series...
In today’s day and age, most everyone has one or more social media accounts and profiles. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr… the list goes on and on. Many people seek copious amounts of “likes” in order to feel validated in what they have put on the internet for all to see. While this can be a fun pastime, it also has the capability to be detrimental to mental health. How, you may ask? It’s all just fun and games, right? Well, usually, yes. The following tips and tricks can help you reign in the overwhelming hand of social media, and help you maintain control over your own thoughts and feelings:
1 | Remember, you are only seeing others’ highlight reel
If you are like most people (including me), you check social media every day, or even several times per day. This allows us to keep in almost constant contact with our friends and family, but it also provides the opportunity for self-comparison. It is easy to begin comparing ourselves and our lives to the people who dance across our page, wall, feed, etc. However, the important thing to remember is that we are not seeing an accurate representation of their lives, we are only seeing the best moments. Would you post a picture of yourself when you are having an absolutely terrible day, detailing your unfortunate circumstance? I know I wouldn’t. When the only information we receive about a person is the wonderful moments posted on their profile, it can make their life seem better than ours, when we see not only our good times, but our bad times. Remembering that social media is not an accurate platform for self-comparison is very important, especially during this time in life where this technology is so aggressively present.
2 | Your worth is not correlated with your “likes” or “followers”
The age of social media has inadvertently provided a physical meter to measure quality of photos, which many people see as representative of themselves. The more “likes” that one gets generally can correlate to how good they feel about their post. This emotional response can range anywhere from being excited when you reach a “new high” of likes, or deleting a picture if it does not receive “enough” likes in a certain amount of time. Similarly, sometimes people can be so intent on gaining followers, that they will follow random accounts just to receive a “follow back” and boost the numbers on their profile. For a modern satiric take on this, you can check out “Nosedive,” Season 3, Episode 1 of a Netflix series called Black Mirror. It is so imperative to remember that a number on a screen has nothing to do with your worth or value as a person. In the age before social media, people carried on their daily lives and made connections the same way we do today, only without the burden of whether or not we got more online likes than our friends.
3 | Not everyone is on social media all the time, even if you are
Regarding the aforementioned point, a rational way to think about your number of likes (or lack thereof), is to remember that while you might be checking social media regularly, not everyone else is. So, if ignoring your virtual numbers is not too easy of a task, try to think of that fact that maybe these potential “likers” have not even checked their pages yet. Speaking from experience, every once in a while, I check to see if certain people have seen and/or liked my photo…. And full disclosure, I do feel that twinge of disappointment when my search comes up bare. However, remembering the possibility that my photo hasn’t scrolled across their screen yet does lessen the blow a bit.
4 | Social media can allow people to say unkind things from behind the protection of a screen
A large issue with the world of social media is the emergence of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs when people say especially cruel and taunting things to others online. It is easier to speak your mind when the fear of personal retribution is extinguished by the distance traveled by the virtual messages. Many people who engage in cyberbullying are not brave enough to speak their mind in person, which can allow their words to have more bite since they do not have to confront anyone. Cyberbullying is very difficult to deal with, and if you are being cyberbullied it is imperative to seek help from someone you trust, because it is difficult to go through these things alone. For more information and avenues for help, you can talk to a therapist, close friends or family, or visit websites such as:
5 | Every now and then, take a break
Finally, everyone needs a break from social media sometimes. Whether you are worrying about likes, trying to gain new followers, or even just playing on your phone instead of interacting with the people around you, it’s healthy to close the laptop and put down the phone, and just enjoy your life as it continues around you.
While social media can undoubtedly be a fun pastime, there are definitely down sides to our new technological advances. It is important for your mental health to differentiate the importance of social media and the importance of your personal interactions with people. Social media is not, and should never be tied to your worth as a person. You wouldn’t stop being friends with someone if they had less followers or their pictures had less likes than yours, would you? Exactly… no one will do that to you either. Now I'd like to hear your opinion. What do you think about the advantages and disadvantages of social media? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
about the author
Hi! I'm Jackie, a psychology undergrad at Vanderbilt who loves dogs more than just about anything. When I'm not busy mentoring, you can find me playing or watching volleyball, playing the violin or, of course, watching a ton of Netflix!