By Elizabeth Piper
As a millennial who has spent her 20s navigating through the many platforms of social media, I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions while scrolling through countless posts and stories. There’s the feeling of jealousy that arises when I see a beautiful woman walking down some remote beach in Costa Rica, her skin tan and long blonde waves blowing in the wind as she stares out at the perfectly filtered sunset; there’s the feeling of isolation when I see a photo of a girls’ brunch that I wasn’t invited to; there’s the feeling of loneliness when engagement photos flood my newsfeed; and there is the continuous anxiety-driven feeling that I’m lagging behind in a race I wasn’t aware I signed up for the day I created my first social media account.
While I’m feeling a slight vulnerability hangover coming on just writing about these so-called negative emotions I’ve experienced, I know I’m not the only one who has felt this way after scrolling through social media. But as someone who overthinks most things (a trait I characterize as both a blessing and a curse), I started wondering, “Does it have to be this way? Are we powerless to feelings of jealousy, isolation, and loneliness in the face of social media? Will we always feel like we’re not doing enough or living cool enough lives if we’re constantly bombarded by images purposefully created to portray the best version of someone’s life?” While I wish I had a simple yes or no to this question, the more authentic answer is: not necessarily. When I’m experiencing negative emotions, I ask myself, ”Do I have any power in this particular situation to change how I’m feeling?” In the world of social media, the answer happens to be yes.
The following three strategies have helped me experience more positive emotions on social media. Like any changes we want to make in our lives, these strategies require personal awareness and practice.
- Unfollow people who make you feel bad. On social media we often forget that we choose who we follow and who follows us. Have you ever been scrolling through your social media accounts and find yourself feeling like you’re aren’t measuring up to someone you follow? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you continue to follow that person? Guess what? You can choose to unfollow ANYONE who causes you to experience negative emotions. Chances are they will have no idea that you stopped following them, and you can eliminate the feeling of annoyance or jealousy.
- Follow accounts that make you smile. Just like you have the power to unfollow people who bring out negative emotions, you can also begin to follow accounts that make you feel happy, inspired, and validated. Enjoy people who post funny captions? Check out Amy Schumer or Ellen DeGeneres. Love people who inspire you to live a happy and fulfilled life? Give Oprah and Mantra Magazine a follow. Looking for people who post authentic, non-filtered images that make you feel like you’re living a normal life? Look up Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle Melton. There are TONS of accounts out there that can provide you with the positive feelings you’re craving. Carve out more time for finding your tribe than aimlessly scrolling through edited highlight reels.
- Believe there’s enough to go around. So often when we scroll through social media, we begin feeling jealous of what we perceive as other peoples’ successes. If we see someone having fun, we think they are happier than we are. When we see someone traveling to countries on our bucket list, we wonder why we haven’t made it there yet. When we see people getting married, we can convince ourselves that we’ll be alone forever. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can instead begin believing in abundance – the belief that there is in fact enough success, beauty, and love for all of us. When we adopt an abundance mindset we can begin celebrating others for their successes and see them as proof that we, too, can live extraordinary lives.
Remember, you hold the power when it comes to social media. Choose to create a world of connection rather than one of comparison and competition.
Elizabeth Piper is the Social Media Strategist for JCS Prevention Education and ifIknew.org.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.