There can be no question that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any number of other social networking sites come with benefits. Having countless users worldwide, and with more joining daily, social media is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
But are you getting more than you bargained for?
Psychologists now recognize that for some users, the world of social media comes with dangers. Symptoms ranging from the relatively minor (mild disappointment) to the most serious (thoughts of suicide) are widespread enough to net a new diagnosis: Facebook Depression.
How do you feel when you log in to your favorite social networking site? What do you get from it? Could you be at risk for depression—or feeling its effects already?
My 3Rs technique is a great way to identify some of the side-effects that come with social media usage—and, more importantly, begin to make changes if your mental and physical wellness are suffering. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and we’ll walk through the steps—Recognize, Reframe, Reclaim—together.
RECOGNIZE what’s going on. First, assess what happens to you when you log in to your favorite social networking site.
- Do you have feelings of disquiet, a vague sense that something is wrong, the moment you view your account?
- Do you turn on the computer with a feeling of anticipation, but quickly feel defeat take its place when you check your connection stats?
- Do you feel happy for your connections when you see a lot is going on in their lives, or do you feel disappointment because those good things didn’t happen to you?
- Do you worry you might be missing something when you’re not online?
- Do you compare your stats with those of other users? If so, do the numbers induce feelings of jealousy, discontent, or superiority? Do these feelings subside after you’ve left the site, or do they color your offline world?
REFRAME your thoughts and actions. You may need a change in mindset to get past the negative effects of too much social networking. Depression of any kind doesn’t go away just because you’re aware of it. You must take action by first reframing your negative responses. For example,
“My numbers are small, and my network isn’t growing.”
“I can thoroughly trust every one of my genuine connections.”
“No one has answered my last five posts.”
“I can reach out by answering five other people’s posts today.”
“I can call my tennis partner and make a date.”
“My status as a professional can be measured by others’ responses, or lack thereof.”
“I can be proud of the image I created for myself/my business without the help of social media.”
“This tension headache won’t go away.”
“I can work away from the computer for the next hour.”
“Everyone ELSE’s life seems to be filled with constant excitement.”
“I can plan a live event or outing with my friends or colleagues.”
Seize those negatives, and identify a way to move them to your advantage by taking control and responsibility. In doing so, you build a new habit of more positive and healthful thinking and acting.
RECLAIM your health and wellness. Changing your mindset is an important step, but it isn’t the last one. Make good on those new, positively reframed messages: Follow up with action.
When it comes to social media, that action may need to take place offline. You won’t cure yourself of depression, stress, or anxiety by spending more time at social networking. Instead, treat online networking like any other business or personal task: Make an appointment for it. Reserve a place in your schedule for social media, and when it’s not that time, give your full attention to all the other priorities in your world. Take all those hours and mental energy you’ve been spending on your online profile, and use them instead to care for and embrace your real, offline self.
One more status update, one more profile update, one more follower—none of that is worth jeopardizing your mental health and physical wellness. Because, remember, no one lives or dies by Facebook stats. YOU, the person, are worth far more than the sum of your stats.