If you’re like me and spend any amount of time on social media, then you’ve seen them a lot in your feed.
You know who I’m talking about.
The perfect people.
They’re the ones on Instagram and other social media sites with their clean houses, gorgeous hair, cute outfits, healthy meals, and smiling kids.
Meanwhile, you’re over here with your unwashed hair in a messy bun, dishes in the sink, yoga pants covered in dog hair, takeout containers in the trash and think, “How do they do it??”
They make it look so easy, so effortless. All while you’re trying to keep your head above water and just keep everyone alive, much less coordinate matching outfits for weekly family photo shoots.
I’m going to let you in on a secret.
Are you ready for it??
Most of those pictures are a lie. Let that sink in for a minute.
What do I mean when I say most pictures on social media are a lie? I mean they aren’t showing the full truth.
When you see a shot of a clean kitchen, you don’t see the rest of the room cropped out where there’s toys on the floor, piles of laundry waiting to be folded, and dust bunnies in the corner. You don’t see the mom that fed her kids McDonalds for dinner or who has a teen who won’t get with the program.
No one likes to advertise that stuff. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
What other “truths” aren’t shown by these images? Here’s a few possibilities:
- We don’t see the stress and anxiety created from getting that perfect shot, not only for the person who took it, but also for their family. (Can you imagine being the kid whose mother is rage cleaning for an Instagram pic? Talk about stress for everyone involved!)
- We don’t see the internal pressure felt by the person who needs that shot to feel like they measure up, matter, or are valued.
- We don’t see how many people beat themselves up and don’t feel good enough, no matter how beautiful their posts are. Beautiful content doesn’t mean they don’t also have a mother-in-law who makes them feel like shit or a husband who isn’t doing his part.
- We don’t see the time it costs to curate an image of perfection and what things are sacrificed in the process—things that might bring joy. How many naps weren’t taken? Movies not watched? Books not read? Walks not taken?
- We also don’t see how these images fuel our own sense of inadequacy and inferiority. It’s hard to feel “good enough” when you’re constantly surrounded by people who seem like they’re doing better than you.
So, what can you do about it?
Should you banish all social media from your life?
Well, some people decide to do just that, and if that’s a solution that speaks to you, go for it! For many people, however, social media remains an important way to stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues. If you’d like to learn new ways of negotiating how you use social media in your life, keep reading!
5 things you can do to reduce the negative impact of social media:
Curate your feed.Follow hashtags and profiles that keep it real, show the less-pretty parts of life, and welcome honest discussion.
Limit your time and exposure.The more time you spend immersing yourself in the lie, the harder it becomes to see it for what it is.
Notice how you feel when you scroll.Check in with your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and any urges that come up. Use that information to make decisions about whether taking a break or doing something different would be helpful.
Give yourself regular reminders that it’s okay to be wherever you are in this moment.You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Period.
Reinforce to yourself the things you do well and are proud of.If you can’t identify anything that you do well, that could be a signal that something deeper is going on, like depression. If you’re struggling with this, please reach out for help and talk to your doctor or another therapist for support.
Like most things, what works for you might be very different than what works for another person. I always say that we can’t change something we aren’t aware of, so if you haven’t considered whether, or how, you are affected by the influence of social media, start there! Just sit with that and notice–without judgment–whatever comes up for you as you scroll.
I personally love social media and enjoy the connections with people and access to information it gives me, but I also have to be mindful that exposure to certain types of posts is not helpful for me.
How about you? How do you feel about social media and is it helpful or unhelpful for you?