Oh, how I miss blogging! Two weeks ago, I created a poll on Instagram to ask you guys what you’d like me to write about in my next post, and the result was heavily skewed to ‘Mental Health in the Social Media Era’. However, I’m also not blind to the fact that addressing this topic to the extent of one blog post would be way too oversimplified. Mental health alone is already complex, so when it’s wrapped around a so-called sophisticated ‘virtual reality’ world where we are all living in and sharing part of our world with others, I had to take a step back and start by asking myself: What kind of relationship do I have with social media?
To find the answer before sharing my learning with others, I did my personal experiment by deleting Facebook and Instagram for five days. The goal that I was seeking was to understand the role that social media plays in my everyday life because, like any other relationship, we can't manage our relationship with social media without having a clear understanding of where we stand in the relationship. My tactics were to pay close attention to how I felt while being off social media and jot down all my thoughts through a series of honest Q&As I had with myself: What do I miss the most on social media? Why do I miss it or not miss it? What are the alternatives where I can find these contents outside of Facebook and Instagram? How do I feel? Do I feel FOMO (fear of missing out)? Do I feel calm? How do I keep in touch with people? Do I enjoy engaging in mass social interactions online or offline one-on-ones better?
Surprisingly enough, the last two weeks happened to be one of the most eventful periods of my life recently and I gave myself the permission to extend my social media break over last weekend as well. And it was great! I definitely felt much more centered when I stayed disconnected online because I then had more time to reconnect with myself, which also allowed me to fully immerse myself in all the richness of what life had to offer. I may seem like someone who enjoys posting and sharing on social media (which I do), but I do love real-life connections much more! Perhaps the only things that I missed were the ability to share what I learned and being inspired by others on social media, but inspiration can also be found in every little thing in our lives if we pay attention to it.
Maintaining good mental health always tops my priority list — we can't keep pouring if our cup is empty. I want my cup to be full and overflowing so that I can keep pouring, but I also know that we won't be able to keep our cup full unless we actively check on the level of water in our cup and give ourselves time.
Anxiety on social media comes from many aspects for every one of us — whether it is the pressure to 'perform,' the feeling that 'the grass is always greener on the other side,' news overload, misinformation, or cyberbullying — they are all legitimate concerns, especially during the pandemic like now since we spend so much more time online than before.
Here are a few things that I've learned and noted in my journal as I was tuning in my self-experiment of 'distancing' from social media:
Social media is not real life but an extension of our life — Treat people on social media like how we want to be treated in real life.
Social media is not a competitive battlefield, think of it as an inspiring album instead.
The grass is always greener on the other side, but we never know if it's fake or not unless we stand on it.
Social media isn’t toxic, it’s what we spend time doing and whom we are surrounded by online determines whether we have a toxic social media experience.
Social media friends are not real friends until both can connect on a deeper level than just liking pictures and dropping hearts.
Our problems on social media aren't exclusive to social media — they can be solved in real life and by real people.
Reading news outside of social media can be a lot more soothing.
The energy that we choose to project on social media should align with our authenticity; only by staying true to ourselves will we attract the people who respect who we are both online and offline.
Always know the true intention of our actions on social media, and make it a good one.
Instead of focusing on what we can't control, focus on what we can — We are in control of our engagement on social media, not vice versa.
So what kind of relationship do you have with social media? Would you be willing to try this experiment? If you did, what have you learned? Like any other relationship, I believe that creating space once in a while with social media helps us disconnect to better re-connect. A mental health break is the most healthy and precious gift that you can give to yourself when you feel overwhelmed. May our cups always be full and overflowing so we can keep pouring for each other.