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Social Media and Our Perception of Reality

Teenage boy checking his social media likes for facebook and instagram

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While social media can help build relationships, encourage connection, offer support, motivate young people, and spark one’s creative side, it can have negative implications if misused.

Social Media Self-Perception vs. Reality

There is no question that social media can negatively impact a person’s self-perception and mental health. Typically, this is caused by comparing ourselves to unrealistic images and videos of what we believe we should look like, how our lives should play out, and the path we should follow; both professionally and personally. In turn, this can lead to dissatisfaction with our external appearance and perception of who we are. While some are aware of this cycle, others are unaware of the harmful effects social media may have on them. 

With social media being as popular as ever, sometimes it’s hard to stop the cycle of comparing ourselves to others and reverse the toll it has taken on our mental health. 

It is important to remember that what you see on social media isn’t the full truth, and most of the time, does not accurately reflect reality. Pictures and videos can be heavily edited and staged; try not to compare yourself to something untrue.  

Group of teens holding cell phones browsing social media

Highlight Reels Tell It All…Or Do They?

Additionally, most people share their “highlight reels” with the world instead of the obstacles, challenges, and tough times they go through.Remember this the next time you are scrolling through your feed and only see happy positive things. While training ourselves to think differently can be extremely difficult, engaging in these types of intrusive thoughts on social media can stall your progress, deter you from your goals, and take a toll on your mental well-being.

Here are some ways we recommend healing your relationship with social media to turn it into a productive and positive experience:

1. Avoid looking at images and videos that can trigger dissatisfaction with your appearance and perception of who you are.

2. Unfollow accounts that you find yourself comparing yourself to in a negative or harsh way.

3. Try to spend less time on social media. If you find this difficult, remove the apps from your phone, so they aren’t as easy to log in to. 

4. Out of sight, out of mind — remove the apps from your main screen. By having to work more to access the platform one would think twice before going through the trouble of opening it, leaving access for when there is a pressing need.

5. Think of screen time as a reward. Reverse the process and instead of trying to get off of your phone, work to get back on it. Limit your screen time by allocating certain times to hop on the apps as a treat after some work. 

6. Leave your phone on your desk, bedside table, or in the other room! Having the temptation of grabbing your phone while you are comfortably in your bed is dangerous during evenings when you want to get some rest or in the morning when you want to start the day being productive.

Closing Thoughts

It can be difficult for us to separate what we see on social media from the reality of people’s lives. Understanding that there is a disconnect between what people post and what they are actually experiencing is the first step. 

Do you need to talk?

Text BRIGHTER to 741741 to speak with a trained counselor. 

Resources:

https://www.thegazelle.org/issue/221/opinion/social-media-unplug

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