Why Social Media Makes You Feel Crappy About Yourself

June 18, 2018  |  psychology  |  No Comments

A few months ago a bunch of Insta-models shared polls in their Instagram stories asking if followers thought Social Media seriously harms mental health. The general consensus was a resounding YES and the research seems to back it up. A number of recent studies have been done investigating the effects of social media usage on our psychological well-being and they’ve shown that many of us tend to feel pretty crappy after an extensive stint spent on the socials.
So why does it make us feel like crap? Well, aside from the fact that time spent on social media is time spent not doing other stuff we’re probs supposed to be doing (pls dont make me vacuum) one of the leading theories is Social Comparison theory. Basically, we see depictions of others that are a closer representation of our concept of the “Ideal” and we compare ourselves against those. It’s effect is particularly strong when it comes to making comparisons against “ideal body types” (for anglo, white women, it’s called the “thin ideal”), but can pretty much apply to any aspect of life. It’s likely that there will be people on your feeds that represent aspects of life that you would consider closer to your ideal (remember, representations can often be deceiving). The space between where you’re at and where they’re at can cause some stress and anxiety. “I wish I had that job/degree/house/family life/relationship/friendship group”, etc. Their relative social proximity to you can also increase these crappy feelings.
How can we combat these feelings? There are two ways, either change your Social Media usage or change your concept of the “Ideal”. Sounds simple, right?
It’s easy to get sucked into Social Media. Almost 75% of Australians actively use it (ABS, 2014), it’s on our smart phones which makes it constantly accessible, and it’s pretty much optimised by web gurus to make it as addictive as possible (it’s like internet crack). If it’s making you feel shitty, try limiting your time spent on it or deleting apps off your smartphone so you can only access it from your computer. If that’s too huge a leap, try curating your feeds a little better to stop following pages or users that make you feel angry, frustrated, jealous, resentful of or bad about yourself.
Changing your concept of the “ideal” requires a little more of a philosophical expedition. What we consider “ideal” is wrapped up in a lifetime of experiences, exposure, and social conditioning. Often ideas of what we want don’t always come from an honest and authentic place, and might instead be ego-fuelled by the need to prove something to ourselves and others. These things might not get us any closer to living happy and fulfilling lives – but it’s super easy to think they will (more 👏🏼 money 👏🏼 pls). 

Finally, remember people’s depictions of life on Social Media can be a false representation of actual reality.

The good news is that studies have also shown the negative psychological effects of social media usage can be thwarted by being an informed and educated social media consumer. So remember, don’t always believe everything you see, and don’t believe everything you think.

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