Social Media and Mental Health

Here’s something I haven’t really addressed directly. In the past few weeks or so, I’ve been hearing a lot about burnout from those who are work in social media and burnout in general among millennials in the work place. Now, I probably will write later on burnout in general but I started thinking about social media. As if it wasn’t obvious, social media has basically consumed our entire lives. I remember making a Facebook when I was like 13 so most of my later years of life have had an online presence. When I went to college, it went full force and social media consumed probably 70% of my time awake. It still does. I don’t even know why I have so many accounts but I do. Social media is now a career option for people. I’ve seen people who have been on YouTube for 10 years. People can make money off of posting on Snapchat and Instagram. That wasn’t a thing a few years ago. There has been a culture shift and social media has now become something people strive for. We used to look at people in the magazines that we wanted to be like but now it’s almost every hour we are bombarded with images of people who are prettier, fitter or doing more with their lives. We think they are better.

I have been really grateful in that my mental health has not been impacted by social media as much. But there are definitely times where it has. There is such an emphasis on how many likes you get and follows and the quality of the things you post online. The stress of trying to get a good picture can make someone with anxiety go into a full blown panic. Not getting the likes you want can push people into a depression. For me, I know that I’m not going to be like the so called “instagram models” and I don’t have anything against that. They chose to live their life that why and I don’t. That’s just a personal preference. Sometimes I see people who are doing really awesome things in life and I can feel jealous or depressed. I wish I could be doing cool things but I have other priorities. And that’s okay. I learned pretty early on that I can’t compare myself to people who do this full time. My life is never going to compare to that because I’m in a totally different life path. I can’t define my life by likes and follows and comments because I will never be happy. It will never be enough and I would push myself back towards my tendencies of believing I will never be enough. This is something that so many people deal with in our society and it makes me sad. No one needs to find self worth based on numbers on a certain picture. In my opinion, if you continue to find your value from being validated online, you may never be truly happy.

Here is where social media impacts my personal mental health. I have troubles when it comes to seeing people I know on social media. My friends share their lives on Instagram and Snapchat as a way to keep everyone updated. So most of the time, it is major events in their life or happy memories and such. When I see my friends doing really great things or being very happy where they are in their lives, I can get anxious and depressed. At my age, most people have an understanding of what they want to do and their life. I have no clue and I’m coming to terms with being okay with that. However, I’m reminded every day that so many others aren’t dealing with this. I’m jealous that others don’t feel like I do or show it. I’ve been very open with my mental health journey so I know that I am more vocal than many others. But it is very easy to feel alone when it seems like everyone is moving forward in their life while I am standing still.

I’m know that I am not the only one who has parts of their lives that are messy. Most people I know probably do. That’s the thing with social media. We get to choose what we post and what we want people to think our lives look like. Naturally, we choose to put the best out there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you make a living off of social media, that’s incredible. I don’t ever want to tell someone how to live their lives. It’s just not what I choose to do. I don’t think I could ever make a career on social media because my life is messy and chaotic and I don’t photograph well. For my own healing, I have to know that the images and things I see online are not for me to compare. I don’t have to look like my life is together or be as fit as others. People choose what they post. People choose what they want us to see. I don’t know if it’s a small portion of their lives or their real self. I don’t know who they are beyond just pictures I see on Instagram. I shouldn’t try to reach the status of others based on likes and follows. That isn’t how I want to measure the success and happiness of my life. My life is my life and I try to share it as authentically as possible. If you have struggles with mental health and social media, you are you and that’s unique and beautiful.

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