In my recent novel, “Don’t Try to Find Me”, social media plays a significant role. And for many of us, it’s hard to go a day without being on some form of social media.
The act of posting and hearing back from others can be a form of connection and validation. But recent studies suggest that from a mental health perspective, the act of liking others will give us more of a boost than waiting for others to like us.
How does this apply to our daily lives?
If you use Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites as a way to measure how you’re doing relative to others, the odds are good that you’re going to wind up feeling dejected. That’s because people tend to present an idealized version of themselves.
Think when’s the last time someone posted a selfie of themselves lonely and depressed. Though we all know that sadness is part of the human condition, it’s a part that is radically underrepresented on social media.
A quick perusal of Facebook would suggest that everyone you know is living their best life, as their best self. Taking in those images without a dose of realism can be dangerous, especially if you have a tendency toward depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
But if you log in with the idea that you want to connect with others, rather than compare, you can get a healthy boost in your day. The act of “liking” can be positive for you as well as others. It’s a small bonding moment, across the internet chasm.
Practice being your most non-judgmental self. Look for posts that you can relate to. Read for interesting tidbits that take you out of your immediate reality. “Like” authentically. Comment when moved.
Do this while taking a break from posting yourself. Think of it as a respite from having to cultivate a persona, a break from having to be validated by others. Instead, the act of being yourself authentically is the validation.
Social media can encourage self-involvement and a damaging form of navel-gazing. Not only are we looking into it, but we’re wondering if our navel is worthy of being seen by others. Should we post a selfie of it? Would anyone “like” us if we did?
Knowing what you can and can’t get from social media is key to using it effectively, and happily.