When her circumstances changed, Hannah was able to reform her relationship with social media. “When I went to college and made real life friends, I began to lean less into social media as a form of community (although I still do use it as such in certain ways). Instead of filling all of my community-based needs, I adapted my social media usage to suit the needs it was best for, like keeping up with my long distance friends and keeping an eye on current events,” she says.
“The most common pattern I’ve seen from people who use social media in a way that harms them is the projection of their own insecurities onto the lives of the people they follow,” says The Drag Therapist. Her clients will say things like “I wonder what it’s like to be them,” “I wish I looked like that,” or “They have it so easy.” She explains those feelings also come out as aggression and resentment, in statements and questions like, “Why do people feel the need to post so much? They can’t all possibly be actually happy. They must be so shallow.”
If you’re relying on social media to find satisfaction or comfort from “imagining people with seemingly perfect lives as portrayed on social media as annoying, secretly miserable, or terrible people,” it’s likely you’ll also become miserable.
Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, curate your feeds more carefully
On that note, if you recognize that certain kinds of posts are fueling negative or unhelpful feelings, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to fully delete social media. You can also change who you follow and how you interact with specific kinds of content. “Curate your social media experience in a way that brings you joy, connection, relief, peace, laughter, reflection, whatever is connected back to that root intention,” says The Drag Therapist.
Hannah had already stopped using Instagram, Snapchat, and image-based apps because they caused too much rumination and comparing herself to others. Recently, she deleted the Facebook app, too. To be intentional about her social media use, she avoids following people whose content frustrates her or makes her angry, and blocks or mutes those accounts. Hannah also checks in with herself when she’s mindlessly scrolling, and asks if she’s enjoying what she’s doing or if she needs to log off and do something else.
Find or create other sources of joy and comfort
If you find yourself using social media to “turn off” your brain after a long day or it’s become an automatic activity for when your energy is low, it might be time to reassess how you unwind, explains Kina Wolfenstein, LMSW and trauma therapist. “Can you have podcasts, TV shows, movies, audiobooks, or phone games accessible to fill that purpose? Are you using social media when you’re craving social engagement and connection? If so, can you take the time to directly text or call a friend instead?” Perhaps you’re using social media scrolling as a way to self-soothe. “In that case, can you have other soothing activities handy like a coloring book, fidget toys, or a good shower?”
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