Dear Trish, I’m always so stressed about social media, like who’s viewing my stories, how my pictures look, and if I “measure up” to everyone else. How do I let go?
Hi there, and thank you so much for this fantastic question – it’s such an important one, and certainly, one that’s very relevant. Indeed, I want to begin by validating how you’re feeling: I can assure you that you’re not the only person stressed about social media – for a while now, I’ve been receiving all sorts of questions about social media-related stress, and it’s actually one of the most common complaints I hear from fellow youth when I chat with them about the Internet/their experiences online. Social media can be fun, but it can also be a lot of pressure – after all, you’re putting yourself out there, which is (no matter how normalized it’s become today!) a quite vulnerable thing to do.
Seeing as April is #StressAwarenessMonth, then, I thought now would be the perfect time to tackle this topic – and to offer some brief words of wisdom on how to “let go” online. (For those of you who don’t know, Stress Awareness Month is recognized every April in the US; it focuses on raising awareness about the sources and effects of stress and providing folks with the tools to manage their stress.) Of course, for young people, a key source of stress is social media – and that’s what we’re focusing on in this post.
So…social media-related stress. Is it really a thing? It’s the subject of a lot of ongoing research – on which I’ll refrain from commenting, as I’m not a psychologist or medical expert – but most youth I’ve chatted with definitely describe feeling stressed about social media at one point or another. There are a lot of reasons why; one, for example, is FOMO, or the fear of missing out – on social media, as you watch your friends and family go on vacation, participate in fun activities, and have a great time, you can feel stressed that you’re “missing out.” Another reason could be false information, like extreme headlines or news, which can fuel anxiety or frustration. And yet another could be negative feedback or the potential for negative feedback – mean comments or folks not liking an Insta post, for example. (Let’s be honest: we’ve all – me included – had the experience of sharing something on social media, only to go back and repeatedly check our like count.) I’ve also had youth report being stressed about not having a particular person – like a crush – like a photo. And then there’s also the stress of just being away from social media – I know youth who describe feeling anxious if they haven’t checked Insta in a while.
So, what should you do about all of that? First of all, don’t stress (haha). There are a few, simple practices and mindset shifts you can incorporate into your social media “routine” to establish a more healthy, less stressful relationship with social media. First, put some distance between you and your phone. For some folks, this may even mean setting time limits on your social media apps, so that you’re locked out after you’ve spent 15 or 30 minutes on them each day. For others, this tip may be best practiced by just being a bit more thoughtful about screen time – not using a phone before you head to bed or first thing in the morning, for instance. By creating that space, you’ll slowly feel less pressure to constantly check your social media, which, as discussed, is a source of social media-related stress for many.
Next, think more intentionally about why you’re using social media. Yes – you read that correctly! The next time you pick up your phone/head on over to Instagram, I want you to think about why you’re checking Instagram. Are you anxious that it’s a Saturday night, and you’re worried folks are having more fun than you are? Do you want to take a glance at the number of views your Insta story got? Are you feeling lonely or sad? By identifying your “why” you can start to think more critically about how social media affects your stress levels. Depending on your answers to the questions I posed, maybe social media is a space for you to compare yourself with others, which stresses you out, or maybe it’s a way – through likes and comments – to validate yourself, without which you feel incomplete. Understanding and defining these relationships is the first step to relinquishing them – and taking back some control and peace of mind.
Finally, I want you to try – via some reflection and introspection – to take social media, and perhaps more importantly, how others see you, a little less seriously. At the end of the day, when it comes down to it, a lot of social media-related stress is really stress about how others perceive and think about you. But other people’s opinions should never dictate how you feel about yourself. My mantra? The only folks whose opinions could stress me out are those folks that I love and respect; a Facebook friend that I haven’t seen in 6 years isn’t worth the stress – whether it’s stress about how they see me or stress about how I see them. After all, I barely know them! I only get a small glimpse of their lives via social media – and that’s really all it is: a small glimpse.
I hope you found this post – and my advice – helpful! Once again, this was such a great question, so a huge thanks to the person who shared it with us; our community is so grateful. Whether you have a similar or completely different Internet-related thought on your mind, don’t hesitate to share a note here. Your topic just might be the focus of an upcoming AskTrish TikTok/blog post! And if you’re feeling #stressed about your question, don’t be. There’s a really good chance you’re not the only person thinking about that same situation, and your perspective (and bravery in submitting a question!) can benefit Ask Trish’s many readers!
Last but not least, as always, I want to encourage everyone to give Ask Trish some love on social media! When you watch an Ask Trish video, like it, comment, and share! Together, we can make the Internet just a little brighter.
See you all next Tuesday,