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Social Media and Mental Health

Kaitlin Broderick LCPC

Social media can be a wonderful tool. It can keep us connected to people all over the world and help us keep in touch with people we may have lost touch with otherwise. However, it can also be self-sabotaging and destructive and may cause us to feel poorly about ourselves. How can we tell if we are using social media in a beneficial way or in a way that makes us ultimately feel worse about ourselves? If you are using social media for any of the below reasons, it is probably a sign that it is harming you rather than helping you.

  1. You are using social media to help “boost your confidence” and image. For example, you post a picture online just to see how many people will like it. After posting the picture you find yourself somewhat compulsively checking your account to see what people have said about your photo. The ultimate problem with this is that you are looking for something outside yourself to validate your self worth and relying on others to make you feel good about yourself. Also, be mindful of your motivation in posting pictures. Are you posting simply with the intent of making others feel jealous or with the hope that you will catch your ex’s attention? If so, this is probably going to make you feel worse in the long term if you don’t get the desired reactions you are looking for.
  2. Are you using social media to compare yourself to others? Some people follow fitness and beauty blogs and then end up comparing themselves to the people they are following and always coming up short. You may end up feeling like you aren’t good enough, thin enough, fit enough, etc. If you find yourself feeling worse after following certain people, it may be time to re-evaluate. Instead, find people to follow that inspire you and motivate you rather than those that take a negative toll on your self-image. Be honest with yourself about how you feel after looking at certain people’s accounts. If you feel inadequate and worse about yourself, simply stop following that person. Negative comparisons can also happen when you start looking at someone else’s profile and feeling jealous because their lives seem more exciting than yours. We are all guilty of doing this. For example, you are browsing through someone’s vacation photos and suddenly feel like your life is mundane in comparison. People tend to present an overly positive self-image or facade on social media that isn’t an accurate depiction of their everyday life. Remind yourself that you are comparing your insides with their outsides when you start feeling like your life pales in comparison.
  3. Be aware of how often you are using social media. Starting your morning off by looking at other people’s profiles can put your entire day into a negative downward spiral. Suddenly, you are resentful that you have to go to work while this other person is on vacation, or you feel poorly about how you look after looking at other’s beauty and fitness posts. If you do have a little extra time in the morning, spending it taking a walk or doing a 10-minute meditation can be a much more beneficial way of starting your day rather than automatically logging into Facebook or Instagram. Also, be mindful of if you are using social media to avoid responsibilities or to avoid looking at something in your own personal life. Ask yourself if you would feel ok giving up social media for a week? If the thought of this fills you with dread or anxiety, it may be time to evaluate the role social media is playing in your life.

Reach out to Symmetry Counseling to meet with a Chicago therapist for mental health care. We provide in-person counseling sessions, as well as text therapy and Tele-therapy in Illinois.

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