Repeat after me: social media isn’t real. As a social media user, be it YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok, I’m well-aware that pictures and videos I see there are filtered, altered, and edited. Content from my favourite celebrities and content creators are often carefully selected to only portray their best side.
Yet, even though I know this, sometimes I still cannot help but feel envious or depressed that I do not have a certain body shape, a certain material possession, or a certain lifestyle when we see it on social media.
The negative feelings can pile up, hitting my self-esteem and mental health until I feel terrible about myself.
“I wish I looked like that.”
“Wow, I wish I could have that Chanel bag too.”
“How nice to be able to go to Japan whenever you want to.”
Nowadays, I catch myself before I let these thoughts run any further. After all, there will always be someone younger, richer, better-looking, born into better circumstances, luckier, and so on.
Such thoughts are useless, but of course, they are also pervasive. Here are 5 methods I have tried and tested to stop social media-related negative emotions that are hopefully useful for you:
Set time limits on my social media usage
iPhones and Android phones are now capable of helping you manage your screen time management. For myself, I set a half hour limit each day for my social media apps. I also make sure that these apps are shut off from 10 at night to 7 the next morning, so that I do not spend the time before bed endlessly scrolling through Instagram or Tiktok.
Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, I do not find myself missing these apps once I stop being on them. I also sleep better afterwards.
Follow “positive” social media accounts
If you notice that a certain account makes you feel bad – for example, a content creator you like, but their posts end up making you feel bad because you cannot have their lifestyle – you should unfollow them. Marie Kondo your social media feed. Life is already stressful enough. There is no need to stress yourself out further unnecessarily.
Alternatively, there are many accounts online that encourage a positive mindset, be it positive quotes or feel-good stories. One of my favourites is @goodnews_movement, which shares feel-good stories of ordinary people. It gives me much better feelings than watching a content creator splash a year’s worth of my salary on a party for sure.
Reality check exercises/ grateful journals
I keep a grateful journal which I fill in daily. Sure, I may not have a Prada wallet, a Chanel bag, or eat out at expensive fine-dining places all the time. However, I find that keeping a grateful journal helps to give me a reality check. It is important to keep in mind that my lifestyle is one that many others dream of, just as I dream of achieving more.
There is nothing wrong with looking up to a role model or wanting a better life for oneself. However, if the role model is giving me negative feelings rather than feelings of inspiration, then they are not really the best role models.
Pick up a hobby that doesn’t include looking at a screen
In the past two decades, a lot of my hobbies have transitioned to those that involve a screen. From reading to gaming, I spend my waking hours looking at a screen, simply because my hobbies are there.
I have been consciously trying to pull away from that, and similarly, from social media apps as well. You cannot find Instagram in a physical book, or Tiktok in calligraphy, or in knitting. I also find comfort in holding or creating something tangible, and a better sense of pride afterwards than scrolling through a screen mindlessly. Here are some suggestions for hobbies: Lockdown hobbies.
Go on a digital detox
Finally, if all else fails, I simply go on a digital detox and delete all social media apps from my phone for a set amount of time.
Sometimes, I find myself on a social media platform even without meaning to, simply because I was bored, or my fingers moved faster than my brain while tapping around on my phone. Next thing I know, I have spent an hour scrolling on TikTok.
To avoid that, I simply just remove the apps and try to leave my phone in a less accessible place like a drawer so that I do not suddenly find myself on my phone again.
While it can be hard to stay off social media, it shouldn’t be allowed to affect you negatively. Once it does, make sure to remove it until you are ready to deal with it again.