Social media is a large part of our culture—from status updates about career changes to sharing albums full of family photos. There is no doubt something so prominent in our society makes a big impact, but is that impact a positive one?
“From my perspective, it can go both ways,” says Steven Taylor, MD, psychiatrist at Beavercreek Behavioral Medicine. “I have seen many applications where people can be supportive, such as creating a community around illness.”
From this standpoint, social media can form a virtual space for people throughout the world to connect on something they have in common, which can be valuable for someone struggling to find those people in their direct proximity. However, as Dr. Taylor points out, social media can have other effects.
“Sometimes social media is not so helpful when you start comparing your life to what you see being posted, which is, a lot of times, not reality,” Dr. Taylor says. “If you forget you are seeing only a select view of the other person’s life, you are going to come up short by comparison.”
Beware of trolls
Dr. Taylor also advises that everyone using online platforms be wary of the “internet troll,” which is defined by Psychology Today as “someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation.” Dr. Taylor warns that engaging with this type of online avatar can be damaging to a person’s mental health.
“Your best bet is to disengage and not get into heated arguments,” Dr. Taylor says. “They often do not care what you say; it is all about provoking you.”
Be aware of the signs that your online involvement may be having negative repercussions. If you notice you are becoming more agitated, anxious or sad after using social media, it might be time to take a step back.
Take a break
Dr. Taylor suggests healthy behaviors to replace your social media time may be exercise, reading a book or just getting outside. You should also watch your eating habits, as excessive screen time can lead to unconscious snacking.
“Getting outside and away from screens is a good way to have that offline time you need,” Dr. Taylor says. “Life is about balance.”
A good way of achieving balance is to practice what’s often called mindfulness. Mindfulness can mean staying present in the current moment. So if you’re bothered by what you’re seeing and reading online, try to bring your focus back to the present. Many times, a good way to do this is to take a moment to breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths when you’re stressed can calm anxiety about the online world and bring you back to reality.
Here for you
If you are struggling, seek help by calling Kettering Behavioral Medicine Center at 1-855-788-2895 or visiting our website.