Social media is so ingrained in the modern world that it can be difficult to distinguish our digital lives from our face-to-face ones. Whenever we are bored, uncomfortable, relaxing or procrastinating, there’s an unconscious and insidious itch to reach into our pockets for our phone. The never-ending well of content on social media can make it easy to feel like we’re constantly missing something, even though we know the exact same post will still be there in an hour. A tool once intended for connection has been perverted in pursuit of distraction.
Though we may find ourselves scrolling frequently, there is a special concern about how social media is used when we are upset. For me personally, social media can feel like a convenient escape from the issues I am facing in my real life.
It can be a comfortable kind of numbness that distracts me from the problems I do not want to deal with offline. As I watch beautiful photos of people I somewhat know fly by, I remove myself from reality. But if I am removed from reality, where do I end up?
Usually, it’s not somewhere I want to be. I often find myself feeling stuck, weighed down by a feeling of isolation. I am isolated from my own thoughts and feelings, as well as distanced from the people on my feed who look to be significantly happier than I feel.
Aside from feelings of isolation, the “numbing” feeling that social media provides is not productive in difficult times – in fact, it has profound negative effects. Removing oneself from the feelings they are experiencing can cause emotional build up. By continuously repressing your emotions instead of dealing with them, you may feel the effects of your feelings long after the situation has passed. The better response would be to sit with and handle your emotions before they become more overwhelming than they were to begin with.
Social media can also create an empty sense of connection. Though looking at your loved ones’ posts may feel nice, it can give a false sense of communication and connection. If your mind is really sneaky, this thinking can convince you that you no longer need to reach out and have real conversations, which is not true.
Scrolling cannot replace speaking. Consuming content published by others is nothing like having a real conversation, where you can share your thoughts and feelings and receive care from another person. This builds closeness and allows you to work through things in a way that social media simply cannot compare to.
All that to say, it is certainly more convenient to shut down and use social media to escape. It is far easier to pretend that nothing is happening than it is to deal with the thing, but in a culture that pressures us to do the convenient thing at all times, it is a powerful choice to take the hard route out.
Understanding when social media is appropriate can be incredibly beneficial and can lead to a deeper understanding of yourself as well as a more positive experience on social media.