I often get asked by clients if I think they should delete their social media accounts. I try reserve giving direct advice for things that pose a serious and imminent danger to the lives of my clients, so my response varies from “it depends” to “yes and no” to “what are your thoughts on that” (no surprise there - classic therapist response!). Here’s the deal, when it comes to our relationship status with social media, it’s complicated. Like almost anything else in life, I would say moderation and intent/motivation are the keys!
Let’s start first with moderation. If one’s use of social media is getting in the way of being in tune with friends or family or staying focused while at school or work, then chances are there is an imbalance there.
On the other hand, if social media is a fun way for you to stay in touch with your friends by seeing pics of their kids or projects they might be working on and you visit in person and schedule phone dates occasionally, that might be a great balance for you.
It’s hard to define an exact “right” amount of time, but making sure social media use does not get in the way of you living your life with things that need to get done everyday and staying engaged with family and friends is a good thing to strive for.
Intent and Motivation
I also like to consider one’s intent and motivation for engaging with social media. A lot of times it starts off with good intentions of following others for inspiration, but it can quickly spiral into severe comparison. “I want what she has.” “I’ll never be that good/successful/happy/fit/beautiful.” “Why is my life the only one that stinks, everyone else seems to have their stuff together!” You get where I’m going with this.
It can also start with healthy motivation just to stay connected to friends. But self doubt and low self esteem can often creep in after seeing pics or posts of people hanging out when you weren’t invited.
Another scenario I see a lot is one of extremes when it comes to posting. Some post only the “good” things in life and others may use social media as a place to vent or maybe even “overshare” (given you may not know your followers or friends all that well) so much so that you end up losing a lot of social connection over it and it can become very isolating again. Isn’t it amazing how lonely we can often feel as we’re scrolling through hundreds of posts or pics of all these people we’re connected with in some way?
So how do we have a healthy relationship with social media?
Ignore all of this and bury our heads in the sand? Or maybe officially break up with social media? The truth is, social media can be used for the good if we have healthy boundaries and a strong sense of what it can do for us.
For example, Pinterest is so great if you’re a planner or visionary! Instagram can be a great way to find inspiration from wonderful causes such as following a non-profit or your favorite author or maybe an influencer who is body positive. Facebook has all sorts of community forums and groups that when moderated well by admins, can be strong social supports for individuals who do not have a lot of close friends or family. Twitter can be great for a quick laugh if you like to follow certain comedians or funny friends. Snapchat is a fun and easy way to stay connected with your social circle throughout the day or week. Linkedin may have just lead you to your next job! YouTube may have just the video you need to learn a new skill.
Know why you’re setting up an account or deciding to follow, friend or connect with someone else and check in with this intention and motivation every now and then to see if you’ve drifted off course without realizing it.
Consider doing a social media fast a few times a year if you begin to feel disconnected from your self or others. Working with eating disorders a lot, I’m a huge fan of fasting from social media rather than food and often use this as a suggestion for Lent and other religious holidays clients may feel torn on how to honor in their recovery from an eating disorder.
Finally, don’t hesitate to go through and audit your account a few times a year. Stop following people or organizations that are not uplifting for you. Delete old posts or pictures that are triggering to you now.
If you’re looking for positive accounts to follow, Harmony Therapy Group has you covered on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube!