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Your Biggest Hater on Social Media is You

Wow! Generic college friend looks like she’s lost some weight. She looks really good…that Beachbody is really working for her. Maybe I should look into it. 

Generic work friend is in Europe for two weeks, here come the photos…

Mom hasn’t been posting in a while…maybe she’s lonely. I should call her.

Is this really my best profile pic? Maybe I should put up a throwback pic.

Reason Number One for Quitting Social Media: It’s a Lonely Time Suck

In a 2017 Harvard Business Review article on health, professor Holly B. Shakya of UC San Diego and Nicholas A. Christakis, director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale, stated that we spend an hour a day, oftentimes first thing in the morning, scanning our feeds (feed me feed me feed me) and friends for anything that’s changed in the last 24 hours. This important step into our first day isn’t a positive one according to their research.

The article does have much to say about diminishing meaningful social interactions and how they relate to loneliness but what I was really interested in was the cited data Gallup Poll collected from 5,208 people in a three-pronged approach to interaction and interpretation of the participants.

This was the big find:

“Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.”

I haven’t partaken in social media since September of 2018 and this study just confirms my motivations for doing so. My mornings are bad enough already and I was definitely one to check the feeds.

My personal social media obsession did nothing for my self esteem. I have the most horrid habit of remembering uncomfortable things in the early morning when I’m in the shower and inarguably at my most vulnerable. I wonder if there is such as thing as “shower” or “long drive” Tourettes where I am left to my own thought bubble and sweeping allegations against myself are levied.

What did I have to feel bad about myself for? After all, I was an aging thirty-seven-year-old mother of two who hadn’t been to a gym in six months…or contributed enough to her Roth IRA…or finally gone vegan.

Recently, after that deluge of not-so-helpful thoughts about myself, I remembered a late-90s television show from MTV. I always looked forward to their spring break episodes and specials where they would pan crowds of bikini clad women and beefed up men to show that every day during spring break was a party with people who were physically blessed enough to be camera-pan worthy. The show that I was recalling at that particular moment, peering down at my not-so-bikini-ready body was the show “Hot or Not” where contestants would walk a catwalk, show their moves, and get voted on their purely aesthetic qualities. 

The anxiety of a bikini…

This did nothing to help my teenage self-esteem then and remembering it wasn’t helping me now. It’s like people who watch the news on police and gang violence and then think that their backyard is a war zone. I was completely convinced that everyone in my high school was viewing me with their “Hot or Not” lenses and that I was being scrutinized and deemed unworthy by my peers. I had an inkling of that feeling again as I stepped out of the shower.

“Not enough” has become a mantra whether we realize it or not and we usually make the subject of the sentence all about us. How egotistical.

With that in mind, let me talk about me. For my teenage years, I can forgive myself for being polarizing enough to either suck people closer and push them away. I think that’s a trait of youth before you find a better balance. However, if I fast forward to year thirty-eight, I still have that same attitude of “not enough.” Sure, I’m not bawling in my bedroom under the more audible blanket of U2 and The Sundays but I do mentally check off my inadequacies as I make my bed or do the dishes. These were especially vivid thoughts while I perused social media and I wasn’t innocent of fronting a controlled image.

Reason Number Two for Quitting Social Media: Social Infidelity is Wrong

Remember back when you would romantically link yourself with multiple people and then have to make the difficult choice of which one(s) to let gently back into the dating pool? Me neither…cough cough. 

We squirm at the thought of turning away from someone or something that could be that answer to all that we are looking for. This has been the foundation of progress, after all. We can’t know where we stack up unless we we measure ourselves, our interests, and our loved ones against the ideal. 

According to Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and a contributing writer to Forbes, and a 2012 study published in Computers in Human Behavior, people with a lot of Facebook friends tend to have low self-esteem and try to compensate by friending more people. 

But what if you didn’t keep up with people through social media? Who would you still talk to? What different things would you be saying to yourself? What if you stopped giving EVERYONE your attention and instead starting paying attention to the people at arms length or that person, inadequate at they may be, looking back at you in the mirror?

I have a friend (don’t we all) who shows her best self on Facebook. Her children seem to be geniuses, he husband is super successful and she’s the picture perfect SAHM (stay-at-home-mom). She is enviable by all angles on social media.

She’s better in person. She show immense strength, intellect, and resourcefulness in how she approaches life with a child with special needs, homeschooling, and finding what little time she has to pursue her own interests. I know she has challenges because we talk through them in person whereas she is barely visible as an individual on Facebook. It’s not because she doesn’t have many friends but it’s because, like me, there are few pictures of her on her own timeline compared to the ones posted on her children.

So, in closing, take a month off Facebook. See what it’s like to meet people in person again. Who will you take the time to talk to? Will you take more time to talk positively to yourself?

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2 Comments

  1. Yes! All of this… When our only view of someone is a perfectly-filtered-and-curated snapshot, we don’t get to see who they really are. Instead, we’re seeing their advertisement for who they want to be (or wish they were). And this is why I use social media for work (essential anymore, no?) and not much more.

    1. I fell into this trap too without really thinking too much about it. I would post a photo of my kids and I out and about and it added to this narrative that my life must be perfect. It’s taking an element of your life out of context.

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