Most of us are familiar with social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s easy for us to get caught up in a world where we feel instantly connected to hundreds of “Friends”. We also can feel instantly jealous, looking at other people’s lives and less happy with our own.
How about our ideas or activities? Looking at our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feed, we could think that “everyone” does this or thinks that. Is that true? And what do you think? What do you want to do? Is that because you just want to fit in with everyone else?
If you don’t pay attention, Social Media can make you into the person it wants you to be.
Although social media relationships can have a positive effect on us emotionally, numerous studies have been conducted linking social networking to depression, social isolation, eliciting feelings of envy, insecurity and poor self-esteem. A study conducted by Dr Kross and Dr Verduyn tracked how their emotions changed after using Facebook. They gave volunteers a questionnaire before and after using Facebook. The results showed the more a volunteer used Facebook in the period between two questionnaires, the worse he or she reported feeling the next time he filled in a questionnaire. Volunteers were also asked to rate their satisfaction with life at the start and the end of the study. Those who used Facebook a lot were more likely to report a decline in satisfaction than those who visited the site infrequently.
“A volunteer’s sex had no influence on these findings; nor did the size of his (or her) social network, his stated motivation for using Facebook, his level of loneliness or depression or his self-esteem. Dr Kross and Dr Verduyn therefore conclude that, rather than enhancing well-being, Facebook undermines it.” - The Economist
Once we understand what the psychological needs are underlying our use of these sites, we can then adjust our expectations to meet these needs.
Below are a few tips to help you balance virtual relationships and real-time relationships:
- Ask yourself why you are online. Are you keeping contact with far away friends? Networking? Doing business or playing games? Once you determine what you are looking for you can then set realistic goals.
- Limit your time on social media. This will help with controlling the amount of time you are spending in the virtual world.
- Check yourself- Ask yourself how you feel? Are you happier? Angrier? Lonelier? If you feel any of these, take the time to set up an in-person social interaction with someone.
- Real Face Time- No matter how you feel, take the time to make time with friends and family. When you are there, be there. Don’t sit on your phone, spend hours showing each other YouTube videos, discuss other people’s status updates, or just take a bunch of selfies to post. Be there. Be present. Having positive, secure relationships is strongly associated with high levels of self-esteem, resiliency, fosters feelings of connectedness and decreases depression and anxiety.