Social media undoubtedly has it’s perks. Free advertisement, an endless opportunity for networking, and keeping in touch with long lost friends. But there is an incredibly sinister aspect to constantly staying, “connected.” Social media has negatively altered the way we view ourselves as well as others, and it just keeps getting worse
The illusion of “perfect lifestyles” make us resent our own lives.
Social media is no longer just about sharing your thoughts and actions among your peers. It’s become a form of self promotion. Establishing a brand, and sharing the lifestyle that you lead.
However fabricated and fraudulent that supposed lifestyle may be, many of these individuals who follow these social media gurus honestly believe that these people lead flawless, exciting lives. To a degree, those who have honed the lifestyle career sentiment seem to have it all figured out. They have achieved ultimate freedom; except that they’ve made their lifestyles into their career and therefore everything they do and say is for show, and none of it is truly authentic.
But despite this disillusioning truth, the abundance of social media superstars make the average person feel as if their lives are not fulfilling,1 and they’re not good enough to acquire such a following.
People are beginning to rate their self worth in terms of likes and follows, as if that actually validates how valuable and interesting they truly are.
We judge the value of other people based on their following.
Millenials especially put a very strong emphasis on the importance of a social media following,2 and how they perceive their peers. I have actually heard individuals between the age of 18-24 say, “They have to have at least ten-thousand followers before I’d even consider dating them.” And mean it.
I have to wonder, are they even slightly aware that they are lusting after a false ideal? With the abundance of picture altering apps, allowing the most average of individuals to airbrush their mediocre pictures to a stunning, flawless perception of themselves?
On social media, people have the freedom to only show people only what they want them to see. Many of these “perfect” posts require lots of careful planning, timing, and coordination. People spend hours trying to take that perfect picture, to give it that effortless image that so many strive for. Studies have shown that many of these individuals leading “perfect” lifestyles are actually incredibly stressed and suffer from anxiety and depression.
Many online business entrepreneurs will tell you that in order to have a successful online following, you need to have a business plan. Having a strong social media following is anything but effortless. It takes a lot of work, planning, and countless hours of networking with people you will never meet nor will greet them by any other name than their social media identity.
FOMO: The Fear Of Missing Out
When many of us scroll through social media, we can’t help but feel a bit deflated while we view others hitting mile stones that we are still yet to hit. Even worse, for me anyway, we view people doing exciting and adventurous things while we struggle with envy, lurking from our average couch in our average home in an average place.
FOMO, the fear of missing out, is the negative sensation that we experience when we feel that someone is doing more or experiencing more than us, and we feel left out. By habitually plugging into social media, we are constantly reminding ourselves that there is more we could be doing with our lives, and makes us feel badly for not yet doing or achieving them.
Take the Power Away from Social Media
Although it seems like social media has a strong hold on just about everything these days, there are still those among us who manage to function without it, or with minimal contact.3 Try these few tricks to weaken the hold that social media has on your life.
Understand that it is all an illusion.
Realize just how much time and effort that goes into having a solid social media following. It’s like having a second job. It requires hours of time for planning and execution. Then, once the pictures are actually taken, consider the time taken to edit the pictures, finding the perfect filter and caption to match. And then the hashtags, oh the hashtags. Imagine how much could be achieved and how much happier the individual might be if they used that time to actually enjoy their surroundings and connect with the people who are actually around them.
Take a hiatus.
Smash that disable button, babe. Even if it’s just for a day. Take some time to disconnect and step away from the pressures and expectations of social media. There once was a time when you existed without it, and you can have that again. What is “that” exactly? It’s called freedom.
Challenge yourself, and plan for a reward in the end. Try to get a solid 3 days without social media. Delete the apps, do whatever you need to do so you don’t mindlessly start scrolling through without even realizing what you’re doing (it happens to us all). Treat yourself to a nice meal or something you normally don’t spoil yourself with. The more you start to disconnect, the more you realize how silly the social media culture truly is.
Find what empowers you.
You weren’t meant to live your life mindlessly staring at a screen. I’m sure you had interests once, ones that didn’t involve your phone or tablet. Reconnect with those things. Climb a tree. Read a book. Go for a walk. Take up knitting. Learn a dance routine. Do literally anything that doesn’t involve your phone.
Developing a new skill will help to improve your self esteem, and will also help you to realize that you are meant to exist in the real world; and the best way to get the most out of life is to truly live it yourself.
Search for your peers.
Believe it or not, there are still people in existence (millenials no less!!) who do not have any social media accounts. They identified the toxicity attributed to constant connection and chose to reject it.
You don’t have to go completely cold turkey like these legends have, but learn from their values. I know it can be scary when most of your social development took place on a virtual platform, but you can learn to benefit from the art of conversation. There is no comparison to actually connecting with another individual, in contrast with sending an impersonal “like” or “poke” their way.
 Success: Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Self-Esteem—and How to Stop It
 Child Mind Institute: Social Media and Self-Doubt
 TIME: How Social Media Is a Toxic Mirror