The negative effects of social media on mental health are spoken enough. In this blog post, I’m sharing my devastating experience with social media and what we can do to protect us against these threatening apps.
As a « 90’s », I feel very lucky for growing up in an environment barely without internet or smartphones.
However, this didn’t prevent me from being a victim of social media later on, as an adult.
In this article, I’m sharing with you the negative effects of social media on mental health and how to attenuate the effects.
My honest and devastating experience
To be honest, I’ve never been a social media fanatic. Actually, I feel like no one really was when Facebook and Twitter first saw the light.
Then arrived Instagram, the app standing out from the crowd with its squared images and filters. Oh man, no one thought of what it was going to become.
Back in 2014, Instagram made me discover fitness models from the US and I was amazed by the way they looked. In Europe, bodybuilding was only for men but I still wanted to look like these women I saw on my feed.
So yes, Instagram has first and foremost had a positive impact on my mental and physical health since I started weight lifting back then… and I’m still passionate about fitness 6 years later!
However, the years passed by and like my fitness addiction, Instagram grew tremendously, which had me discover more and more fitness models and bodybuilders accounts.
At some point, my Instagram feed was basically full of people sharing their awesome bodies.
What I thought was going to be a source of motivation to train harder became a pressure I was putting on myself on a daily basis. I wasn’t even realizing this at first.
Scroll, scroll, scroll, until…
Every day, I was unconsciously comparing myself to people who didn’t have the same journey, needs nor lifestyle as I did.
But because I was hoping to look like what I considered as #bodygoals back then, I literally started reproducing the same lifestyle from the people I was following on social media.
Well, let me tell you that this was a huge mistake!
I was going from an extreme to another in terms of training (long sessions without having enough rest) and in terms of nutrition (following low calorie diets and totally banning some group foods), which made me go through eating disorders (I talk more in details about it in this article).
The worst, is that I never reached the lean bodies I was aiming because my health kept deteriorating.
It has taken me a long time to realize that social media was the cause. And that I was being influenced so negatively every single day. Actually, every single hour since I was addicted to the platform.
But once I actually felt such a bad feeling when closing the app, I just came to the conclusion I had to do something about it.
Today, I’m still using social media, but I have set some rules for myself. And it has made the experience much better.
The root of the problem
No need to say that after several months killing myself at the gym and solely eating chicken breast, broccoli and eggs, I went crazy and had to pick myself up.
Fortunately, I realized it before any serious damaged was made and found where the problem actually came from: the people I considered as my role models didn’t have the same needs as I did. But most importantly, they only showed their life’s highlights.
So yea, I was comparing myself to perfectly posed bodies photographed by professionals, photoshopped pictures or people whose mental health was devastated.
So, I know that not everyone can relate to my fitness addiction. But unfortunately, social media can have a harmful impact in pretty much any of us, in a lot of different aspects of our lives.
Did you ever feel envious after seeing your friends’ holidays pictures? Alone seeing a group of friends having a good time together on a Saturday night? Useless looking at a friend’s post showing his/her success?
Yes, at the end, it is an endless loop. We consume content. We compare ourselves. We post to satisfy our ego. Our followers compare themselves and post back to satisfy their ego. And. so. on.
So how do we go out of this endless loop without completely leaving social media?
How the attenuate the negative effects of social media
1. Realize that social media isn’t a fair representation of reality
Keep in mind that most of the time, people only post the highlights of their lives.
Unfortunately, too few people talk about the eating disorder behind their six-pack.
Too few people talk about their acne lying under their makeup or snapchat filters.
Too few people talk about the toxic relationships hiding behind the perfect looking couple or friendship pictures.
2. Limit your content consumption
Do you know how much time you spend daily on social media? If not, I highly recommend you to take a look at your statistics, you might be surprised!
If you are a person scrolling several hours a day, ask yourself if the time devoted to your favorite platforms is truly benefitting you. Think at how this time could be invested in your loved ones, your mental health or in working towards your dreams.
Personally, I try to avoid using my smartphone as soon as I wake up, while eating and when accompanied by my loved ones.
Since then, I enjoy a lot more the present moment by concentrating all my attention to myself as soon as I wake up, practicing mindful eating and spending quality time with my friends and family.
3. Clear your Instagram account out
Another way to limit the negative effects of social media by limiting my consumption has been to unfollow a good amount of people. Less content means less time spent on the app.
Make sure you follow accounts that inspire you or people who you are very close to.
Unfollow accounts that you don’t identify with, people who make you question your worth or that you follow back out of “courtesy”.
Not following back or unfollowing people doesn’t (necessarily) mean you don’t appreciate them in real life!
4. Post mindful content
Finally, if I want to inspire you to consume content fitting your values, I also would like to inspire you to post content for the right reasons.
If a post is intended to prove something to yourself or to others, to be noticed by a particular person or to expect a certain amount of likes in return, then you might be using social media for the wrong reasons and could suffer from it.
I encourage you to post with the aim of sharing, inspiring and/or informing.
How do you deal with the negative effects of social media? Let me know your tips in the comments below!