The presence of social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter seeps into all aspects of our lives. Often it’s the first thing we open up when we wake up and the last thing we check before closing our eyes for bed. Social media influences how we think, interact, communicate, and socialize with others (Chukwuere & Chukwuere, 2017). It is an incredible tool that helps us foster connectedness and find a sense of community. It can have a huge positive impact on our perception of ourselves and our sense of belonging (Baruth, 2014). While social media comes with positives like higher self-esteem, emotional development, and community engagement, our adherence to social media also comes with some negatives as well (Baruth, 2014).
Some studies have linked excessive use of social media to depression, social rejection, and low self-esteem (Baruth, 2014). Many of these harmful feelings and evaluations of ourselves come from a comparison to an unrealistic standard. In a world that continually pushes an almost impossible to attain image of perfection, beauty, success, and health, it can become damaging to ideas of our own worth. Also, students that reported to have a higher use of social media than their peers had lower academic performance and social media was found to add stress that negatively related to job performance (Aljabry, 2017, Brooks & Califf, 2017). Almost 60% of U.S. employees admit to using social media more than once a day while at work (Brooks & Califf, 2017). Perhaps unsurprisingly, with employees now processing and dealing with multiple streams of information, they then struggle to produce at their same, undistracted level as they would without social media (Brooks & Califf, 2017). In addition, multitasking while engaging with social media has been shown to decrease our ability to focus and pay attention (Demirbilek & Talan, 2018)
So, there’s both good and bad to social media consumption and use. How can we focus ourselves and remain motivated, healthy, and engaged in bettering ourselves while staying connected with social media and remove the negative impacts? If you feel yourself lacking attention or focus, check out our previous blog post on the use of meditation and exercise. Meditation and exercise aren’t the only ways to filter out the bad though. When comparing our everyday life to the highlights of our friends, family, and celebrities that we see on social media, it can cause a lot of dissatisfaction with our lives. A 2018 study found that just three minutes of self-compassionate journaling can lead to immediate improvements in our feelings about our bodies and our desire to self-improve (Moffitt, Neumann, & Williamson, 2018). Self-compassionate journaling means addressing yourself in writing and expressing understanding, gentleness, and compassion towards yourself regarding whatever insecurities or stumbles you are experiencing (Moffitt, Neumann, & Williamson, 2018). What we don’t want is to stumble into an arena in which our self-esteem is heavily based on an evaluation that your own body and experiences are better or worse than others or meets the perceived standard that we’ve put on ourselves. Our goal should be to respond to ourselves with warmth and kindness instead of judgement and criticism (Moffitt, Neumann, & Williamson, 2018). When journaling, it is important to make sure to focus on both our thoughts and our emotions about any traumatic or upsetting events so that we are processing the event completely and not only in one dimension (Ullrich & Lutgendorf, 2002). After all, our experiences and insecurities are shared by many others. It is easy to pass judgement but much more impactful and positive to share kindness and compassion with yourself and others.
We don’t have to completely abandon our ties to social media to remain healthy and driven in our professional and personal lives. Instead, we can recognize what is a healthy amount for us, shift our perspective, and give ourselves some self-care through journaling. Gratitude journaling can help us with this shift in perspective and allow us greater life satisfaction and happiness in our daily lives even when exposed to social media and the culture of showing off that it can bring with it (Isik & Erguner-Tekinalp, 2017). Through our compassion to ourselves and others, we can begin to more deeply develop our belief in ourselves to achieve our goals – directly tying to our ability to drive ourselves to self-improvement (Valentin, 2013). On our path to personal betterment and goal-setting, it is important that our small goals are leading to our big ones. It has been shown that when smaller tasks are perceived as being instrumental to reaching our future goals, our engagement with the smaller tasks is much higher and more effective (Miller & Brickman, 2004)