Monday, August 12, 2013

Social Media - Self Love or Self Loathe

By Elisa Torell, M.A., LAPC 
Elisa Torell

     I recently read an article by writer Jessica Winter, Selfie-Loathing, on which claimed that social media applications, such as Facebook and Instagram, have been found to correlate with feelings of loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem.

     “Loitering through photos and posts of others can often provoke feelings of jealousy and overall dissatisfaction with our own lives; we infer that others are happier, wealthier, and more successful than we are,” said Winter.

     There is no question that the social media has completely changed our society. The way we relate and connect with each other has changed dramatically in less than 20 years.

      People have shorter attention spans. The way information travels through social media seems to be quicker than wildfire. Unfortunately not all of these changes have been positive when it comes to human relationships.

     I frequently have conversations with clients who have experienced some form of rejection, hurt, or jealousy as a result of social media. So is social media the evil?

     I am sure one could argue that some aspects of social media have damaged our way of connecting in relationships. However, the point of social media is to connect us more. So why do so many people seem to feel the opposite?

     I believe one of the major reasons for this dissatisfaction is that with the accelerated change of our world through the internet and social media we humans have not kept up with learning to set appropriate, healthy boundaries for these powerful tools.

     Something that feels innocent and fun can easily become an obsession or addiction without proper time and content boundaries.

     In addition unhealthy use of social media can easily feed into jealousy and feelings of discontentment when we compare our lives to the “happy lives” that most other people project.

     If I am honest I myself usually post my more positive aspects of life to Facebook. I do not often post about my insecurities or feelings of unhappiness. So if we all do this we are comparing what we know to be our true lives to what others have projected as their ideal life. It is not a fair comparison.

     If we do not monitor how much of our time is spent looking at the ideal lives of others we can quickly fall into the pit of feeling depressed. Ironically we can begin to feel isolated, like we are the only ones who are struggling, despite the connections and friendships we have built through this new tool. Changing these perceptions has to start with ourselves.

     Here are some questions to ask when determining whether you have fallen into an unhealthy practice with social media.
·       How much TIME do you spend on social media? Especially in comparison to other activities. Is this acceptable? Do you feel like you do not have enough time in the day to accomplish everything else? It might be appropriate to schedule or plan the amount of time you will spend online.

·       How do you FEEL when you are on social media and especially when you get off? What aspects make you feel negatively or positively? What are you believing about the lives and activities of others? How do those beliefs impact your heart, mind and soul?

·       How often do you call or write your true friends? When was the last time you connected with them other than through social media?

·       Why are you friends with the people you are connected to on social media? Are there people that you need to let go of? It is healthy to recognize that we have different kinds of friends—temporary, circumstantial, seasonal, and life-long. It is not realistic to believe that we will stay close to all of our friends for our whole lives.
·       What are your expectations and boundaries with social media and your love life? This is HUGE. It is important that you and your partner be on the same page about things including: do you want an account together or separately? What kind of information will you post? No one likes his or her dirty laundry aired out for everyone to see even passive-aggressively. What types of people will you accept friend requests from (e.g. ex-lovers, former in-laws)?

Having clear expectations and open lines of honest communication will not just avoid betrayal or hurt, but also guard you and your partner against unwanted temptations of wandering eyes or turning to others for validation in conflict when it may need to be dealt with directly and privately together.

·       Speaking of CONFLICT, how often do you notice social media to be part of your own conflict or that of your friends and family? What might you need to change to ensure this does not occur again?

·       How often do you take a BREAK from social media? It can be quite healthy to close your computer, take that app off your phone, and unplug once in a while. Find other hobbies or activities that are life-giving to fill that time. These breaks can even help you connect with other people and who knows you might make a few new friends along the way!
·       Finally, are you staying SAFE about the kinds of information you post to social media? While we may not want to think about it sometimes cyber bullying and stalking can certainly occur online. If you are not sure what this might look like in your life we invite you to come on out to the Think Smart Equipping Women for Personal Safety Seminar on August 20th at the Ben Robertson Community Center for some helpful information. This event is presented by Fountain Gate Counseling Center and the Kennesaw Police Department to empower women to live safely in all aspects of life including online.

      It is always a challenge to find a balance in our world, often because the world is always changing. Asking questions such as these can help each of us to reflect on the way we are living and sharing our lives with others. Each of our own boundaries will look different.

      I hope that you will use this article simply as a spring-board to have conversations with others about what is positive and good for your relationships; allowing social media to connect you with others in an intimate yet healthy way.
Jessica Winter. “Selfie-Loathing.” HOME / Technology :  Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more. The Slate Group. July 23, 2013. Date accessed.