How to Combat the Negative Impacts of Social Media, According to an Expert - Verily
Want a more authentic social media experience? Take this professional’s unconventional advice.

In early February the APA released part two of its annual “Stress in America” survey. The overarching result was that we’re stressed, and technology and social media are playing major roles. A whopping 86 percent of Americans say they “constantly or often check their emails, texts, and social media accounts.” Chances are, you’re one them, and you’re probably feeling the effects.

The "Stress in America" survey reports that 42 percent of respondents say they worry about how social media impacts their physical and mental health. This video from New York Magazine's The Cut offers an accurate summation of our social media anxieties.

We recently hosted a Verily Facebook Live event with psychotherapist and life coach Megan Bruneau. She talked with us about how to combat the harsh feelings that so often come from scrolling through our Facebook and Instagram feeds. If scrolling your feeds sometimes (or a lot of the time) leaves you feeling inadequate, unworthy, anxious, jealous, or any other negative emotion, here’s Bruneau's advice for working through that social media melancholy.

01. Ask yourself: Is this helpful or serving me?

Bruneau stressed that a big part of a healthy social media routine is mindfulness. Unfortunately, awareness is not something we often associate with time-sucking scrolling and thoughtless clicking. If a specific photo or post triggers negative feelings, ask yourself how that connection is serving you. If it’s clear the account isn’t bringing enough positivity to your life, consider unfollowing or silencing the posts in your feed. Exes, frenemies, and humble braggers are among those with whom you should seriously consider cutting digital ties.

02. Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling.

Your social media consumption should be as authentic as possible, and that means allowing yourself to feel whatever comes to pass. If you see a photo of a group of old friends together and you suddenly feel loneliness, don’t squash it or pretend you feel something else. Ask yourself why you feel lonely, whether there’s something that has happened that led to you feeling this way, and what you could do to take steps toward alleviating the loneliness. Ignoring our visceral reactions to social media posts is only going to lead to more unconscious consumption, comparison and isolation.

03. Acknowledge that it’s not real.

As Bruneau pointed out, apps such as Facetune enable people to do their own airbrushing. While we expect to see Photoshopped images in magazines, we don’t necessarily come to social media with that same bias. Therefore, altered and edited images on, say, Instagram, read as more real even though they aren’t necessarily. One big aspect of reconciling feelings of unworthiness from social media is simply reminding yourself that what you’re seeing is an extremely curated version of someone’s life. Don’t let the smoke and mirrors fool you.

04. Practice responsible and ethical posting yourself.

At the end of the day, you can’t control what filters people use to perfect their lives on social media, but you can control what and how you share yours. Bruneau suggests taking a moment before publishing something to ask yourself how it would make you feel to come across that post. True connection comes from vulnerability whereas much of social media is inauthentic, she says. If you want your social media activity to be more genuine, it’s up to you to put out there what you’d like to receive. Do yourself the favor of leaving behind those social accounts that don’t serve you in the same way.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock