Is Social Media Making You Unhappy?
This Is Why & Here’s What to Do About It
by: Ciana Fallon
Over the last decade, social media has grown from an interesting aside to a dominant online force. Facebook alone has nearly two billion active accounts, and around 75% of people with social accounts use them on a daily basis. All this makes social media look like a massive success story, which it is for the owners of the sites involved, but there’s a significant dark side: social media can be bad for your happiness levels, and even risk your mental health. Why is this?
It Can Cause Loneliness
This may seem like a contradiction for sites dedicated to social interaction, but social media can cause feelings of loneliness. Constantly reading other users’ busy timelines and enormous friend lists can make you feel you’re missing out, especially if you’re sitting alone on your phone while everyone else appears to be partying happily.
It Invites Damaging Comparisons
Similarly, social media makes it simple to see what all your old school friends, colleagues, and even old flames are doing with their lives. It’s far too easy to compare your own life and find it lacking but this ignores the simple fact that everyone else is only presenting their best face online, and they’re probably not the amazingly happy success stories they paint themselves to be.
It Narrows Your Life
Once social media use becomes more prominent in your life, it’s often to the detriment of other things, causing a lack of balance. If you’re refreshing and refreshing your feeds to the point where you get nothing else done, your life can become alarmingly narrow.
It Can Resemble Addiction
For some people, the end result of this process is that their social media habit can start to resemble an addiction. As with any addictive-style behavior, this usually has significant downsides. Without your hit of social media you’ll feel anxious and scared that you’re missing out on something important, and there’s also the rumbling sense of worry and shame in realizing you’ve lost a little control over your life.
It Gives a Skewed View of Others
It’s well known that online communication can prompt some people to lose their inhibitions and type aggressive or thoughtless things they’d never say in a face to face situation. Combine this with a tendency for the most unpleasant people to shout the loudest, and your timeline can quickly seem to have been taken over by angry, obnoxious people.
This makes it a disturbing place at times, but also gives an exaggeratedly negative view of society at large. This effect is only magnified by the recent emergence of fake accounts posting fake news with ulterior motives.
Lastly, this effect can sometimes degenerate into outright trolling, where you become the victim of harassment or other abusive behavior. While this is rarely physically serious - the trolls usually give little thought to their actions, seeing it as a game - it’s nonetheless disturbing in the extreme. What can be done?
Social media remains a success story with the potential to enrich lives, but if it’s starting to make you unhappy, then clearly something needs to be done. Some people choose to give it up altogether, closing their accounts and moving on, but this is easier said than done. If you’re not ready to make that leap just yet, take back control with these tips.
Use a time-tracking app like RescueTime or Time Doctor to monitor your online activities. This will give you a clear view of how you’re spending your internet time and whether there are obvious times when you need to cut back.
Use an app like Freedom or Self-Control to automatically limit your access to social media at certain times, such as at family mealtimes or during working hours.
Make sure you have at least an hour’s break from all devices before sleeping to give your brain a chance to prepare itself for a better night’s rest.
Consider deleting your social media software from your smartphone and only accessing it from your computer or tablet to provide a natural reduction in availability.
Don’t be afraid to mute or block people who make your timeline an unhappy place. There’s no loyalty online, and strangers that you only know through social media aren’t true friends in any real sense of the word.
Turn off social media notifications so that you’re not constantly interrupted by your friends’ activities, putting you back in control of when you visit.
Scale back your activity by thinking twice before posting a new update, meaning you’ll spend less time checking for responses to your posts.
Lastly, try taking your important relationships away from social media and back into the real world. Make the effort to phone a friend rather than writing on their wall, or even turn to email; this may still be digital, but at least it’s outside the all-encompassing influence of your favorite platform.
Social media can be a greatly enriching, influence giving access to people, opinions, and information you’d rarely otherwise come across. However, the potential downsides can’t be denied. If you’re starting to feel your social media use isn’t entirely a positive experience, don’t be afraid to bring the changes and step back a little.