In recent months I have seen so many articles posted online about ‘facebook depression’ and the negative effects social media can have on our mental health. I have spoken to many different people who agree that social media plays a huge role in how they feel on a day to day basis.
As an active blogger, social media is a huge part of my everyday life and I use it to share my content with my followers and connect with the world around me. As much as I love social media and all of the wonderful opportunities it has given me over the years, sometimes I just have to step away from it for a bit and take a breather.
I really do believe that social media can be detrimental to our mental health but I think it’s how we choose to use it that affects us the most. I suffer with anxiety and I found that how I use social media can have a profound effect on anxiety on any given day.
Over the past few years I have done some experimenting with this theory. I deleted my personal Facebook page for the better part of a year about two years ago and quite honestly, it really helped with my anxiety. The reason I deleted my Facebook in the first place was down to a conversation I had with a friend of mine who swore that deleting her own account made her feel emotionally and mentally healthier. I decided to give it a go and see how things went.
If I am being honest, I seriously didn’t think I’d last a week but a week turned into two weeks and before I knew it I was Facebook free for over a year. Which is pretty much blasphemous in this day and age! Especially since over 1 billion people worldwide are signed up to Facebook alone, never mind all the other social media accounts we feel pressure to join.
A few days before deleting my account I posted a status letting my friends know I was leaving for a while and I posted my email address for anyone who wanted to stay in touch with me. Posting status turned out to be one of the most interesting aspects of my social media cleanse. People who I didn’t expect to email me did and I soon began forming stronger friendships with these people. It was such a positive experience and I loved getting to know these people away from social media.
On the flip-side I noticed that some of the people I thought would keep in contact with me just fell off the radar and that was quite disappointing but overall, I was happy about my decision to leave Facebook for a while. It did wonders for my mental health and I felt much better overall.
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media but it can be dangerous to our wellbeing if we focus on it too much. In a study done by Dr. Margaret Duffy, a University of Missouri journalism professor she concluded “We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression. Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect.”
Let’s be honest, viewing other people’s statuses can make us feel inferior and can make us envious of other peoples lives, even thought those happy-go-lucky statuses might be fictitious or sugar coated. It has been documented that the longer we spend on social media, the worse we feel. We begin to compare ourselves with others and measure our lives against that of our peers or online friends.
If social media is effecting your mental health, known that it is okay to remove yourself from it for a while. Take some time for yourself and do things for you, rather than for the sake of telling people on the internet what a great time you are having. Be mindful and enjoy each moment for what it is. Playing the comparison game can be addictive and the only way to break free from it is to live as authentically as possible.
Social media may connect us to the world but it most certainly isn’t the only way to connect with people. If you feel like stepping back from using social media as often, why not call up an old friend to arrange a coffee date, skype a friend who lives abroad and catch up with them, heck how about writing them a good old fashioned letter? I for one think that receiving a handwritten letter is one of the most beautiful things in the world! In fact, during my social media break a few friends and I decide to start sending postcards to each other to say hello and let our friends know we are thinking about them. I think people appreciate the effort that goes into writing a letter by hand and posting it off. It’s the simple things in life that count!
Just to clarify, I re-joined Facebook eventually but this time I no longer felt the need to constantly log in and see what was going on. I still send postcards to brighten peoples days, I choose voice mailing over texting whenever I can and my fear of missing out (FOMO) was gone and to this day I only log in a few times a week at best. I am really happy I decided to delete my account when I did, it was a very interesting experiment and I think everyone should try it out and see what they learn from it themselves.
Anyways, I am starting to sound like an old fart right now! Haha. What I’m trying to say is don’t let the arbitrary numbers and braggy posts get you down. Social media creates a fantasy world, so just remember, Facebook isn’t real life. Live your life for you and not for social media.
Those are my thoughts on this topic. What are yours? I’d love to hear them!