Dear Trish: Maybe it’s just me but I just feel really bad about myself when I’m on social media. Like literally everyone seems to be living their best life and it reminds me how much is wrong with mine. How can I feel better?
*Trigger Warning: This blog post contains potentially distressing discussion of the strain of social media on youth mental health.*
First and foremost, thank you so much for your bravery in submitting this question — even today, amongst movements and campaigns to de-stigmatize mental health, it can be hard to talk openly about our struggles. With that said, I want to emphasize, in response to your “Maybe it’s just me” — I guarantee that it’s not just you. Social media can be tricky: on the one hand, it’s a great way to connect with friends and family, share some laughs, and open yourself to worlds, interests, and perspectives that you might not otherwise find. On the other hand, it can also be a source of anxiety, depression, stress, and feelings of insecurity or worthlessness.
Why is that? Well, as this week’s TikTok makes clear, social media is often just a revolving door of your friends’ best moments in life. Their amazing vacation, their job promotion, their new shoes. Seeing all of that ~perfection~ can be really unsettling, especially when you don’t feel like your life could ever compare. The other thing that those moments — in the form of texts, images and videos — produce is expectations. What the perfect “bikini body” looks like. Where you should be dining with your family (if you can afford it). And just how clever and witty you should be when it comes to captions. When you start thinking about the volume of expectations we all consume via social media, it’s very clear how it could possibly harm or damage our mental health.
Your question is a great one: how can you feel better? There are a lot of different approaches, and one popular one I’d advocate is taking a #socialmediavacation. Being on TikTok all the time — and being reminded that you can’t dance to save your life — can be a lot, so give yourself a break from that. Did you know that many popular platforms, including Insta, offer you the option to deactivate your account for a short period of time, then reactivate — with no lost pictures, history, etc. — when you want? In other words, it’s super easy to take some time off of social media. So deactivate your accounts, delete the apps, and use your new spare time to invest in some self-care. Personally, I like going for runs, reading books, taking a hot bath, and using a nice face mask. Maybe your self-care is baking…in which case, get going on some banana bread!
I’d also strongly encourage you to remember: no one’s life is perfect. What you see on social media is not life as it actually happens; instead, it’s a curated window into folks’ best moments (and often, those best moments are edited or altered to seem especially perfect. There’s a good chance that that bikini body is not real!). The reality is, on the days they’re not posting, those same folks are enduring very real, tough struggles — whether with themselves or other challenges in their lives. Not a single person is always happy, always fulfilled, or always “at their peak.” Try and keep that framing in mind as you approach social media. When you see someone’s fancy vacation, remember — that’s one of their best moments, not their regular life.
Finally, where possible, try to pivot from group or large community-based interaction — such as Facebook or Instagram’s News Feed — to one-on-one communication. It’s often that community-based interaction — scrolling through pic after pic of “perfect” moments — that can be really damaging to your mental health; on the other hand, chatting with a friend on a messaging app often offers a much more realistic and human social experience — and is far less curated to be “perfect.” While it might be hard to quit social media, you can try and spend more of your social media minutes to connect with the folks you care about, rather than find yourself on the receiving end of what seems like a trillion “perfect” posts.
Thank you all so much for reading this post. For those of you struggling to feel okay on social media, know that the Ask Trish community is here for you, and that we believe your life — as it is, with all of its imperfections — is valuable and important. 💙 (And remember, nobody’s life is perfect!) To the folks following along, thank you for engaging in a seriously important conversation.
And on that note, let’s try and keep the conversation going! Whether it’s a similar or completely different question about the Internet that’s on your mind, please share your note, question, or thoughts here. Your topic might be the focus of an upcoming TikTok/blog post (and have the potential to positively impact Ask Trish’s many readers)! Remember, you’re certainly not the only person wondering about the issue, whatever it may be, so feel empowered to ask away — nothing is off limits!
Finally, here’s my weekly plug to like and share any Ask Trish videos you watch! 💙 Together, we can spread a little #InternetPositivity, one person at a time.
Until next Tuesday,