New Years Intentions – More kindness, less comparison
Some weeks can be really tough reading the news. This was one of them.
The heart-breaking story of 14-year old Dolly Everett who committed suicide because of online trolling and bullying; the US President wanting to reverse protections for immigrants from “shithole” countries; and further allegations of sexual harassment in the international entertainment industry can all create a fairly bleak picture.
We live in a complicated global landscape but we don’t need to look abroad to discover the complexity of modern living in our own lives. Dolly Everett was a girl from rural Northern Territory and the prevalence of social media and how it affects us is commonplace for adults, teenagers and children alike.
1 in 2 Australians use Facebook on a daily basis and 1 in 3 Australians use Instagram*. These statistics imply a high level of social connection however research shows users feel more socially isolated through the use of platforms like Facebook, because it creates a “me versus them” feeling.
Whether you are an avid fan or sceptic, one thing is for certain - what you see on social media is simply one aspect of reality, it is not the only truth. Filters can be applied not just to photographs but to our entire life.
While it is human nature to compare ourselves to others, doing so at the expense of our self-esteem can lead to mental health issues including anxiety and depression. In the face of what can be a powerful pull towards comparison, here are a few things you can do to reduce the impact.
1. Reduce consumption of social media
You can do this in various ways – delete the apps from your phone, leave your phone in a different room, use a timer to limit how many minutes/hours you are logged in. Do whatever works for you, but reduce your time using social media by at least half. Next week, halve that time again.
2. Remember that photoshop/filters exist for a reason
These tools are used because people want to present the best version of themselves. Not the authentic, imperfect version but the very best. So let them do that, but don’t use their yardstick to measure yourself – it’s like using someone else’s glasses to correct your vision, it rarely works.
3. Consider the alternative
I believe we all know at least one person in our social media feed that presents a particularly positive portrayal of their life which may differ from what we know to be reality. Whether that is the omission of a missed job promotion or a family mental health issue – what they portray on social media is not the whole complex picture of their life.
And if we know that about at least one person, we can certainly extrapolate that the same goes for most, if not all of us.
To be clear, we are each entitled to reveal as much or as little or as filtered information about ourselves as we wish. However to interpret (and subsequently compare) what you see in your social media feed to your own life is not a fair or accurate comparison.
4. Seek a different experience
This week I saw on Facebook the post of an expat living in Thailand. She had visited refugees in a Thai prison and taken some vital supplies with her. In response to her post, several people were asking what they could do to help or contribute, many expressing genuine empathy and emotion at the experiences described of the refugees’ plight.
I also saw on Facebook this week some hateful, homophobic comments regarding same-sex marriage.
Whichever direction you look, there will be kind people or nasty people filling our social media feed, but we can all lean towards those positive interactions.
As my favourite meme says “Unfriend or Unfollow every account that makes you feel like you need to be someone else”.
5. Seek opportunities to be kind
Last but not least, this is the most important. Research studies show that one of the most significant ways to increase our own happiness is to be kind to others. So take those moments to be positive, to be kind. The world needs it!
And as for the news, we can take heart that this week wasn’t all terrible. Watching Oprah Winfrey’s powerful speech at the Golden Globes was inspiring.
The anti-bullying campaign as a result of Dolly’s suicide came back in the spotlight, a place it needs to stay.
And same-sex marriage in Australia finally became official!
Cressida Bell Counselling – Anxiety Specialist with a particular interest in perinatal mental health, body image and relationship issues.
Tel: 0466 686 161 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Statistics compiled by SocialMediaNews.com.au for December 2017. Source: Vivid Social - Social Media Agency. Figures correct as of 31/12/17.