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How to Avoid the Toxic Side of Social Media

I love social media; I think there are many great things about it. However, there are bad aspects too and learning how to not get sucked into the toxic side of social media is tricky, so I am here to share what I have learnt in my time online...

When did I join social media?

I've been on social media for a fairly long time now. My twitter and personal Instagram both date back to 2012 and I joined Facebook in 2009! And through that length of time my love for certain platforms has naturally ebbed and flowed; from the importance of Facebook during school to having the 'perfect' Instagram feed, simply because of my birth date, social media has played a big part in my life. Now being a blogger, arguably it plays an even bigger role. The emphasis of social media for bloggers is huge as you will probably drive most of your traffic from your social medias.

The good...

Like I say above, there are some really good things about social media. I have met some great people online and being able to connect with people who share your passion and interests is a wonderful thing. It can make you feel less isolated, particularly during a pandemic where we may not be seeing people as frequently, if at all.

Social media has also become a place where you can interact with people who inspire you, particularly those such as youtubers, streamers and celebrities. I have connected with some people that have really inspired me and I think, although I still look up to them, social media can help break down the boundaries between a ‘celebrity’ and just your average member of the public. Remember, those celebrities/streamers/youtubers etc are just people too!

The bad…

I think we have all been subject to the toxic side of social media at one point or another. This is because it can manifest itself in so many different faces. For example, I still have to work every day on not comparing myself to others and this can be exacerbated by social media. When you see a really successful, beautiful, popular person, who may also be younger than you on social media, you instinctively start to question your own life and where you are on your journey. This may lead to a negative comparison and ultimately decreased life satisfaction. If this person is super talented in a certain area, you may want to try that out yourself, which is no bad thing, but if you then feel like you are not getting anywhere, or have ‘failed’, it can be frustrating and ultimately you may give up completely.

Cyber bullying can also be a real problem on social media. People feel more distanced from the person and this causes certain people to feel it is okay to say horrible things. But insults don’t hurt any less coming through a screen. I have seen just how awful people can be, simply because they are online. Even if you are not on directly on the receiving end of cyber bullying, seeing that sort thing can really affect the way you conduct yourself online. As a natural overthinker anyway, sometimes I questioned myself so much on things I put out on social media because I am just so worried about backlash.

Social media also allows a constant drip of not only assumed perfection but world news. With everything going on in the world it is particularly easy to get sucked into the doom and gloom of the news. I am the first person to say I like to be informed; I like to know what is going on. However, at the moment, if you allow it, the news is just so constant, and I have noticed it affecting my mental health.

Spending more and more time on social media also decreases your chances of making connections with real people. Although I said that connecting with people online is a good thing in my opinion, it should never take over from connecting with people you know in real life.

The symptoms that social media is becoming detrimental to your mental health…

There are a number of symptoms I look out as red flags I need to take a step back from social media:

- You are spending more and more time on it and you don’t know when to stop.

- You are seeking more and more validation via social media and your mood is affected when you don’t get it.

- It is taking over your life in other ways – stopping you from doing stuff in real life because you are on social media.

How to avoid the toxic side of social media…

Not everything is as it seems on social media - Instagram in particular rarely shows the life behind the camera. That one image might have taken an hour to get right and just because it looks all sunshine and roses, doesn’t mean it really is. A lot can also be achieved through clever camera angles and lighting, meaning that super skinny, blemish free person isn’t actually as ‘perfect’ as you might first think.

Evaluate how the people you follow make you feel – there is nothing wrong with following people for inspiration, but if their content starts to make you feel negatively towards yourself, it might be time to have a clear out. You should never feel bad for muting or even unfollowing someone because you don’t enjoy their content anymore. You have to take care of yourself first and your own mental health.

Do not compare yourself to others – you should only ever compare yourself to yourself. This is much easy said than done, and as I have mentioned before, I’m still working on this. But it is so important to not measure yourself against someone else, particularly someone you may not really know that much about.

Do not give in to the urge to photoshop – Do not give in to urge to facetune or photoshop yourself. Instead focus on the unique, beautiful person you are! And any ‘imperfections’ you perceive, embrace them! Because those imperfections will be someone else’s perfect!

Limit your daily dose of social media – I notice that the more time I spend on social media, the worst my mental health gets. Also, it tends to spiral into obsession if I don’t stop and put my phone down. Try to slowly cut down your social media time to an amount that suits you.

Think about turning off those notifications – For the longest time I had notifications turned on for certain people on Instagram and twitter, but this does suck you back in to social media once again and if you are already trying to limit your time, this probably isn’t the best thing.

Go and do something not screen based, put your phone away – do something that makes you happy that is not only your phone/computer/tablet. Something where you feel like you’ve achieved something. I like to play violin, write or do some yoga!

To summarise, I’m not saying ditch social media all together, but I know, and have felt the impact it has on my mental health, my self-esteem and ultimately my life. Everything in life is a balance and the same thing applies to social media.

What do you feel about social media? How do you cope when it feels like it’s getting a bit much?

Lucy x

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