Let’s get one thing straight: I have a terribly low self-esteem. But my relationship with social media doesn’t affect me (as much).
It’s the usual dilemma of jealousy, envy, and annoyance, that comes with the comparison game: another person every day is engaged, married, received their Masters or PhD, pregnant, bought a house, bought a new car, gave birth, etc. It’s the question of whether you missed out on the school wide memo that you’re supposed to have all these things accomplished by 26 or 30 or 35.
As a content creator and blogger myself, my social media feed is no stranger to the comparison game: another one of my influencer friends is collaborating with a high-end brand in our niche, or one of my actor friends landed a supporting role, or one of my model classmates scored a print campaign, or another classmate got their Juris Doctor and passed the Bar exam. See why my self esteem is low too?
Ask yourself if your relationship with social media stems from this comparison game. Is it? If so, would you want to change this? How do you envision your ideal relationship with social media? I’m not saying you’re expecting holding hands with your phone during long walks on the beach with #sunset but I guess what I mean to say is: where do you see yourself in relation to social media?
Let’s explore how you can improve your relationship with social media ~
1. Understand the world of social media is (mostly) staged
This is beyond the usual reminder that everyone posts the best of what’s happening in their life.
It’s quite exhausting to attain and pretend that everything is ok. That morning coffee latte aesthetic shot you saw? Probably took an extra 20 minutes to take out all the clutter, add some texture, get the right angle and lighting, edit, write a nice caption, and make sure that latte slow-mo looks delicious.
If you think that pretty girls actually look like that, just know they spent months toning up, having particular diets, sucking in their tummy and waist training (please don’t). Those #wokeuplikethis selfies were probably after their morning coffee, a bit of fake freckles, mascara, and a lot of effort “effortless” waves. Mirror selfies are my faves to debunk because I know full well they decluttered their space, Windex’d that mirror, and tried different angles before taking that photo.
I can tell you right now that when it comes to getting that cohesive, color coordinated, aesthetically pleasing Instagram grid, it takes a lot of work. You have to live, breathe, wear, and be the color palette you chose. Editing can only do so much that yes, *sigh* sometimes you have to sacrifice those cute color options for the brand/[Instagram] grid. That doesn’t mean I didn’t get that t-shirt, dress, bag, or shoes in the color I wanted. Maybe I just didn’t put it on the grid.
Finally, the thing that is mostly FAKED: metrics.
I’m sure there’s at least 5 people that you’re following that bought followers. I’m sure there’s at least 5 out of 5 of them that bought a bot. I’m sure their followers are fake because if their following is 22k but their posts have less than 100 likes per post, their engagement is poor, and comments look spammy, then yup — they’re fake.
The most important thing to remember from this section is to differentiate the world on social media versus reality. People post the best of what’s happening in their life. It doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain everyday. It doesn’t mean their life has been perfect and happy all the time. Your reputation does not depend on how many likes you have or who follows/subscribes to you. Outside of the internet, no one can differentiate that from you versus the rest of the world.
There’s a reason editing, social media strategy, and content batching exist: no. one. ever. wakes. up. like. that.
2. Exercise Emotion Regulation
There’s a module in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) that is called Emotion Regulation. This module focuses specifically on checking in with yourself and understanding what you are feeling. I made my own version of the DBT Emotion Regulation: “STOP” skill for social media.
Whenever I see a post that triggers me into a rabbit hole of depression, anxiety, and shame, I do the following:
- STOP. Step back.
- Identify: What is the feeling? (Hurt, angry, shame, guilt, sad)
- Observe: Where am I feeling this? (Heavy chest, numbness, ache in the stomach, etc.)
- Regulate: Why am I feeling this way? Why is that [post] triggering this reaction?
- Mindful thinking: How can this feeling resolve itself or ease down? How can [you] proceed forward? How can this be prevented? How can this be improved?
- Act: Unfollow/mute/restrict what doesn’t serve me. Step back and [temporarily] deactivate accounts that are detrimental to my peace of mind. Schedule times when to use these accounts sparingly.
Remember that with this skill, you need to be factual with no judgements.
This will take practice. It is a [coping] skill that becomes a habit.
3. Implement habits/accounts that make you happy.
A popular thing that people do nowadays is make a private account for people that are closest to them or just for themselves (I think the kids call it “finsta”, but for now, let’s call it your “happy” account). I love this idea because you can do whatever you want on social media without the confines of branding and content strategy.
For your happy account, follow/subscribe to whoever and whatever interests you and brings you joy. Whether it’s miniature foods being cooked in tiny kitchens, stop-motion claymation, or photos of round animals, (yes, I am subscribed to all of that) give them support by following/subscribing to their channels and liking their posts. Make it a habit so the algorithm can implement more of that content into your feed and you’ll see it more often, thus bringing more joy into your life!
Finally, the best thing for your happy account: CONNECT WITH NEW PEOPLE WITH SIMILAR INTERESTS! Find new friends through communities on Instagram that interest you (e.g. sustainability, slow fashion, and non-toxic makeup), connect with others on Facebook groups, and if you’re really into it, download and create accounts on apps to meet people.
Now, if you’re someone who refuses to make another account, here’s the alternative: do all of that on your current account. Don’t bother scrolling on your timeline/feed if who you are current following is making you unhappy. Mute/restrict/unfollow people’s posts so it never shows up on your feed yet their beloved vanity metric still shows you still follow them (I love this feature on Instagram). Search interests and accounts that bring you joy. I make it a routine so that my search bar can memorize what accounts I routinely like to check on to save me the typing. Then, I limit myself to only looking at those accounts.
Above all, remember this: Social media is a reflection of you, not you according to other people’s standards (or aesthetic).
Remember that each social media platform has its own device and vehicle to deliver content. FaceBook is great for connecting with family and friends and creating groups online with like minded interests. Twitter is my favorite for reminding myself that not everyone is happy every day. Instagram is good for photography and that #aesthetic feed and cohesive neutral palette. TikTok shows the endless scroll of hacks, cooking trends, people’s dance skills, the new trend of the week (please don’t ask me to do the silhouette challenge), and what song snippet will make the song show up on Spotify’s charts or AppleMusic’s Today’s Hits playlist.
Social media is meant for us to connect, communicate, and collaborate, not disconnect and isolate.