Social media — happy place or hater maker? It all depends on how you use it.
Social media in one form or another is here to stay, but the reviews are mixed at best about whether all of this online "connection" is actually good for our emotional well being. We certainly have more digital access to each other than ever before, yet we are also now able to constantly compare ourselves to those hundreds of "friends" around us. As a result, a lot of us are feeling pretty down about ourselves.
The way I see it, there are 3 ways to use social media and which one you choose can make or break your happiness:
- Compare and contrast: Constantly scanning other people's profiles to see how your life stacks up in comparison will only leave you with a sense of lack. Your children will seem like failures and your relationship will appear in dire straights. Why? Because how likely is it that someone will put negative posts or images of themselves? I don't do that, do you? Comparing ourselves to others is a recipe for self-esteem disaster, especially when you're already feeling insecure about yourself. Social media comparison sessions are sure to only make you feel worse.
If you're feeling insecure or unhappy about yourself or some area of your life, I recommend doing some work on that before you subject yourself to the perpetually perfect persona that most of us fabricate online.
- The haters club: It's so easy to judge and criticize online, isn't it? People are constantly bragging and sharing way too much information about themselves. Safe behind your device screen, you can snark at their appearance, laugh at their lame humble brags, deride their political positions, and (if all else fails) nitpick their grammar and punctuation. Yet, will doing so make you feel any better about yourself? Will being anonymously unkind online make you happy for longer than an evil moment? I doubt it and therefore, I strongly recommend against it.
- Search for the sunshine: There are plenty of people posting interesting articles and compelling content. Use social media to learn, think, grow and connect. Sure, you can find like-minded people who will solidify your existing beliefs or you can open your horizons to new thoughts and opinions. Social media can be a great resource for job offers or volunteer positions. It can be used to connect with others in your chosen field or to support each other in life's endeavors. Or, at the least, on a hard day, social media is always good for a few funny posts and/or kitten videos. Aww, don't you feel better already?
The bottom line is, social media will always be what you make of it. It can bring you joy, happiness, connection or comfort or it can add to your feelings of being ostracized, angry and alone. You are in charge of how frequently you interact with it and how you choose to respond to others while there. If you are struggling with feelings of insecurity and unhappiness, social media might not be the best place for you unless you are able to cultivate positive connection with others while on it.
So, pay attention. If you feel terrible after spending time on a social media site, it's time to take a break from it and figure out why you are responding that way.
Social media is a permanent part of our lives so learning how to use it to improve our connection and happiness to the world will be beneficial to us all. Understanding it's shortcomings and flaws will also help us to keep the power and influence of social media in check.
So, spend your time online wisely and carefully, your happiness might depend on it.
Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist and life coach at smartwomeninspiredlives.com. You can find her on Facebook @Smartwomeninspiredlives or Twitter @LisaKaplin. She periodically visits Linkedin and Pinterest as well. You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com.