BY ANDREW MCDONALD
OVER the past weeks and months that I’ve been writing this column, I’ve provided bits and pieces of advice for dealing with anxiety, depression and mental wellness. Something which is rarely mentioned is the damage social media can have on how you feel mentally.
Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a fantastic tool. There is so much that is good about it that you could fill several tombs, nevermind a few column inches, discussing the benefits of being online. Everything in life has two sides though and the web definitely has some very negative aspects.
Let’s say you’re one of the lucky ones who has never experienced the toxicity of trolling and keyboard warriors. Even so, the chances are social media, as well as a positive, also has a negative influence on your life.
Why do I say this? Open up your Facebook or other social media account. Scroll down through your friends’ and family’s content. What do you see? Probably a whole lot of people enjoying their “perfect lives”. Now take a look at your own experience of the last days, weeks and months. Is your life A1? Do you have any worries? Anything causing you to feel down, stressed or gloomy? Certainly.
How do I know this? Simple. There isn’t a single person on this planet whose life is nothing but endless joy (the good news is there are also exceptionally few of us who have nothing to be happy and grateful for either).
Now look back at your friends’ and family’s Facebook feed. Do you see the negative that rational logic tells you they must have in their own lives? Probably not. What you are seeing by following what they’re up to via Facebook is a shrouded window. All the positivity is there. The parties, the meals out, the holidays. What is hidden behind the shroud are the things causing them distress. People are very slow to share these, particularly online.
The problem is you unconsciously compare yourself with those carefully-constructed representations of other people’s lives you’re viewing online. This leaves you questioning “why is my life not perfect when everybody else’s is?” In short, because you’re being very tough on yourself by putting your own life in comparison with a perfection which only exists in fantasyland. That’s like watching Superman and giving yourself a hard time because you can’t fly. It isn’t real.
I’m not saying you should never use Facebook or other social media. It can be a great way of keeping in touch with people, particularly friends and relatives who live in other countries. Be careful not to overuse it though and keep in mind that what you are seeing online is very much a false representation of lives which, despite their online window, are very far from perfect.
Next week, we’ll look at what to do with trolls and keyboard warriors and how to stop them destroying your wellness.