We all know the feeling: you see a friend’s gorgeous vacation photo, and even while you’re appreciating that amazing beach sunset, you’re asking yourself “how do they manage to take so many trips?” Same goes for the endless social media scroll of super-happy happy hour scenes and “I woke up like this” Sunday morning coffee dates. It all seems a little too good to be true, and of course, it is.
What you don’t see on social media: School and work stresses, money headaches, tense relationship moments, and bad hair days. In other words, real life. This makes perfect sense when you consider that posting and checking in on social media is supposed to be fun. Why waste time on downer topics? But that constant exposure to an idealized view of the world comes at a cost.
According to a recent study published in the online journal JAMA Psychiatry, adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media may be at heightened risk for mental health problems. Even more modest use — as little as 30 minutes per day — was associated with increased mental health risk when compared to no use at all. A second study from the same journal suggests that screen time may increase symptoms of depression among young people proportionally, with more screen time equating to greater symptoms.
Comparison lies at the heart of this problem. Naiya Hastings, 18, of Boulder, Colorado sums it up: “When people begin to compare themselves to others on the internet it can become very toxic and disheartening. Either you feel you are better than someone, or someone else is better than you — and in both cases it’s not a very healthy thing.”
Daisy Ellis, 20, of New Orleans, Louisiana feels the same. “Online, there are so many different people all posting about only the best and most glamorous aspects of their lives. It makes it very easy to feel like looking like them or spending all your time traveling is the norm, when in reality most of us don’t have an ‘influencer’ lifestyle.”
Simply avoiding social media is one way to escape these toxic comparisons, but for many of us that’s not practical. (And it may not even be desirable. After all, there are some real benefits to connecting online.) But you can scale back exposure and dial down the potential negative impact of social media by keeping a few tips in mind.
Remember that you don’t have to live up to what you see posted by others online. You are remarkable and awesome just the way you are! Never forget that. But if you ever need a reminder, we’re always here for you!