Story By Caitlin Paroczai
Welcome to the 21st century, where everybody has an alter ego. No, I am not suggesting that everybody leads a Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana double life, chanting the lyrics to “Best of Both Worlds”. Although, this is not entirely far off.
I am talking about the fact that there are people in real life and then there are people on social media. As of June this year, there were over 2 billion active Facebook users and 1 billion Instagram users. That is a whole lot of people leading a social media ‘double life’.
What exactly do I mean by this? Well, social media has enabled people to create an online persona that might not truly reflect their day-to-day lives. On social media, we can be whoever we want to be. We can be that girl who just went on her dream holiday and only wears Aussie designer labels. We can be that boy who has a wicked social life and just landed his dream job.
But, as we all know, social media is NOT real life. That girl who went on the dream holiday has her own insecurities and the boy with the wicked social life feels completely misunderstood. We all know that nobody’s life is perfect.
So, why do we have such a hard time distinguishing social media from real life?
Well, when you see familiar faces posting online, it is hard not to get caught up in it all. But social media is superficial, competitive and highly filtered. Tell me, when have you scrolled down your Insta feed looking at photos of beautiful women and not felt your self-esteem drop? Social media essentially provides the perfect platform for unrelenting comparison.
Perhaps the obvious answer to this issue is don’t compare yourself to others. If you are secure and confident enough for this to be achievable, then power to you. Teach us your ways! However, I think for most of us, this is not an easy solution.
So how do you protect your mental health on social media?
Be ruthless about who you follow
If you are scrolling down your Facebook or Insta feed and feeling like crap, it is time to scrutinise who you are following. Unfollow accounts that make you feel less-than. It’s not the other person’s fault. This is about reducing the input that does not benefit you. If you do not want to unfriend or unfollow someone due to social media politics, you can ‘unfollow’ them on Facebook and ‘mute’ them on Instagram so you do not receive any of their notifications.
Remember that social media is not an accurate reflection of someone’s life
Of course people are going to present the best versions of their lives on social media. Who wouldn’t? Next time you sit there contemplating how somebody’s life could be so perfect, remember that you wouldn’t necessarily air your dirty laundry to the world either.
Take regular breaks or deactivate your accounts
Social media is not a need. It is a want. I know people who have avoided social media like the plague (gasp) and do not plan on getting involved any time soon. If your social media experience is more bad than good, consider whether it is worth having.
Limit time spent scrolling
This can be challenging when even Politicians are realising the importance of having a social media presence. But it is not impossible to limit the time you spend on it. Perhaps allocate yourself ten minutes a day to check your social media accounts.
Question where your negative comparisons are stemming from
Work on developing a stronger sense of confidence and self-worth. There are a bunch of things you can do every day to help you along in this area, including:
- Spending more time with friends and family: Appreciate the people in your life that love and support you. Try and be more present in your interactions with them and do not take them for granted.
- Having more ‘me time’: YOU are the most important person in your life. We all need to think about other people, but it is also perfectly acceptable to put your own needs first and do something for yourself.
- Diet and exercise: Putting a higher value on your body and how you treat it will naturally give you a higher sense of self-worth. Even a ten-minute walk around the block will boost your confidence. We all love to indulge in pizza and chocolate cake from time to time, but make sure your body is getting the healthy stuff as well.
Social media is undoubtedly an amazing communicative tool that comes with its own set of challenges. We are the guinea pigs of this online ‘double life’ generation.
Let’s ensure we actually get the best of both worlds.