Social Media & You: What's the Impact? (Part 1)
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat....
We all know exactly which apps our fingers automatically gravitate to click on whenever we have a spare second -- when we have 3 seconds in the elevator, are bored in a meeting, and even perhaps... ahem... on the toilet....
Here’s the list of the top 15 social media sites in order of number of users per month. Take a minute to look at this and consider which ones you’re using, not using, which ones you’ve heard or not heard of, and what you think about this list. (Data as of February 2017).
1. Facebook – 1.8 Billion Users
2. YouTube – 1 B
3. Instagram – 500 M
4. Twitter – 313 M
5. Reddit – 234 M
6. Vine (Camera) – 200 M
7. Pinterest – 150 M
8. Ask.fm – 160 M
9. Tumblr – 115 M
10. Flickr – 112 M
11. Google+ – 111 M
12. LinkedIn – 106 M
13. VK – 90 M
14. Classmates – 57 M
15. Meetup – 27.5 M
If Facebook were a country it would be the largest country in the world. It has surpassed the size of India and China in its active user base. And we’re increasingly spending our time in that world, with nearly 50% of our waking hours spent behind a screen of some kind, and with half of us checking Facebook within minutes after waking up.
There are so many ways in which we use and engage with our social media: sharing pictures, following politics, social movements, catalyzing or encouraging change, keeping up with people, messaging, and checking out funny videos and memes just to name a few.
But how does interacting with these social media platforms impact or affect the way we feel?
Research shows it may have more of an impact than we're aware. This post series will highlight and help you reflect on the pros and cons of your own social media use so that you might stay informed (read: empowered!) to feel in control of your own time and engagement in the social media space.
Have you ever been focused on a task and suddenly an alert goes off on your phone, drawing you in to something posted on social media? ...What's that? It happened to you 5 times today? Me too.
We're extremely distracted by our social media. Our minds and our hands wander constantly to wanting to use them, or they buzz and pull us in if we're not actively doing so by our own choice. So we lose our engaged connection with our real and immediate world when we get sucked in to the digital world. A trend I've also noticed in clients (and in myself) is that we turn to our phones and social media when we want to disconnect from our present reality. I hear my clients admitting that they immediately reach for their phones when they need a break from their own thoughts, feel anxious, or want to avoid something challenging. I totally get it. And I also wonder if it's getting in the way of the solitude that leads to the self-awareness and the building of lasting coping skills (which makes it wonderfully relevant to explore in a therapy session).
Interestingly, research shows that we are substantially less happy when our mind is wandering or we lose focus, and we are substantially happier when we stay focused and present. So, there is a causal relationship between mind wandering and unhappiness. It kinda sounds like a potentially vicious cycle! We turn to distraction to help us feel happier, but in turn it may make us feel unhappier. Hmph!
There's also been a decent amount of support for the idea that the greater the social media use, the greater the emotional risks are for anxiety, depression, stress. Some of this is related to the projection of the “perfect self” through social media. What is the perfect self? It's the facade that often gets put up through social media sharing that highlights all the fun, success, and excitement, but tells far littler about where we are struggling, or even simply the messy realities, in our day to day life on a deeper level.
How much do our social media profiles reflect how we want to be perceived? We have a lot of control over the image we're creating on our social media, and this is a wonderful thing, but is also an aspect that carries a decent amount of additional weight and potential implications.
"Best time with my best friends last night!"
The flip side of the “perfect self” that we share is that we are also viewing other’s perfect selves. Spending a lot of time scrolling through other people's fun, success, and excitement can cause us to be envious, judgmental, and possibly unhappy due to vast and constant opportunities for comparing.
Some studies have suggested that the more interactive you are with your social media, the more positive effects you're likely to feel -- meaning, if you comment a lot, engage, and connect with people all of the time through social media, it can boost your sense of connectivity and happiness.
So what does your social media do for you? Are you a compulsive passive scroller with some random "likes" thrown in there? Are you someone who uses it to carry on threads of meaningful commentary on other people's posts? Do you find yourself drawn to it only when you have something perfect to share with the social media world? Does it ever make you compare your life to someone else's?
Next week we'll talk more about the impact of social media use on our significant relationships. I hope this content has been useful in kindling some thoughts for yourself about how you engage with social media and whether the time and energy spent doing this is a detractor or a real positive for you. After all, it's in your hands..... literally!!
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is the founder of Lauren Drago Therapy in Old Saybrook, CT and in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve by changing how they experience and understand their world. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Call (860) 339-6515 for your free initial 15-minute consultation.