Social media anxiety is a real thing. I even coined a term or two for it back in the early days of Instagram: insta-freeze or status anxiety. Basically, both of these words describe a state where you’ve overthought a post (or just posting in general) to the point where you can’t post it anymore. In my early days on Facebook and Instagram in particular, I used to do this all the time.
For example: I’d have a photograph that I felt really good about, but then I’d actually log into the app and scroll through what everyone else was posting and get more and more down because what I was doing wasn’t as good as what they were doing. It actually got to the point where I stopped logging in for a huge chunk of time because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to even be on instagram. Horrible thing to admit, isn’t it? But that’s what an app that’s driven by highlights does.
Social media anxiety is real
91% of us use social media for work and play. And since its introduction, rates of anxiety and depression have sharply increased. Researcher Dr Richelle Mayshak from Deakin’s School of Psychology believes this is because many people only post the ‘highlights’ of their lives online and keep unflattering or real issues they may be facing to themselves.
Another study found that the increased levels of anxiety and depression seemed to be linked to social comparison. Which basically means, the minute you start comparing yourself to other people, you feel like crap. Which is essentially what happened to me and why I decided to remove myself from social for a time.
How to not feel like crap on social media
Social media anxiety sucks. And look, there are some people who will tell you to just stay away… but I feel like there are better solutions. There is some research says that removing yourself completely from social media works. But that may not be completely feasible if it’s your job, or necessary for social reasons. And based on my experience, removing yourself completely from a lot of these platforms can make you feel just as left out.
Even if you don’t want to deal with the feelings of anxiety, just being around other people who are taking boomerangs or silly photos that they’re sharing, kinda leads to feelings of FOMO. So, while I understand that sometimes this is the only solution, I reckon that developing a few rules of engagement is far more productive.
And Dr Mayshak seems to agree: “it’s important to be aware of your own mental health when using social media, and more generally too.” Awareness seems to be the best first step for mediating feelings of anxiety and depression.
And I think because I’ve been there, in terms of social media anxiety, I’ve become quite good at being aware of what causes that type of anxiety. And the way I do it is pretty simple – I have rules. And I developed them by making a list of those social media habits or tendencies that I know for sure make me feel crappy. I thought it might be useful for others experiencing something similar, so I thought I’d share my list here.
5 rules for staying sane on social media
➤ Stay in your lane: It’s really easy to get caught up in what other people are doing. Try not to worry about that and just do YOUR thing. What other people are doing, which hashtags they’re using and what’s working for them, is good to know, but they’re not you, ok? You do you.
➤ Don’t use social media when you feel crappy: Instagram and Facebook (and even LinkedIn) are highlight reels, we know this, and yet for some reason we get on here when we’re bored or feeling flat. That way lies madness, friends. Stay off the socials if you’re not feeling amazing about your life. It’s just better for you.
➤ no rabbit holes: Big one for me. If I find myself falling into someone else’s feed or profile and thinking how wonderful their life looks and how easy things must be for them. I shut the app. Full stop. Rabbit holes don’t help anyone. If you find yourself staring at someone’s feed for longer than it takes to appreciate what they’re doing or find out the info you needed, tap out.
➤ It’s ok to unfollow and mute: If someone makes you feel anxious or down, whether by having a “too-good-to-be-true-life” or just because all they seem to share is stuff that makes you feel small, it is ok to mute them or unfollow them. That is your prerogative. Great creators and leaders know how to share things from a place of positivity. Even if it’s good news, great leaders know how to share it in a way that inspires the community and lifts others up.
➤ Take a day off: I knew I had to do this when I started mentally planning angles, captioning photos and thinking about which hashtags to target when I really should’ve been enjoying something. Don’t let this social media shit take over your life. It’s not your life, it’s just a reflection of it. Remember that.
Do you have any rules that you live by to protect your mental health?