By: Panicha McGuire, M.A.
Instagram (IG) is one of the top social media platforms that most young adults and teens are using; however, it could potentially do more harm than good. Although IG is great for self-expression and creativity, it has also been associated with anxiety, cyber-bullying, and FOMO (“fear of missing out”) according to a recent study.
You may have heard words and sayings such as insta-worthy, #squadgoals, #nofilter, and do it for the ‘gram. Young people are spending more time on their social media accounts than ever before. Seeing your friends constantly enjoying picturesque vacations or showing off their new Yeezys can actually make people feel like they are missing out and promote comparison amongst their peers. These posts can create unrealistic expectations and low self-esteem. It creates an illusion that everybody’s life is far better than your own because only the good parts are shown. No one talks about the behind-the-scenes before the filter was added because it probably took the user 30+ tries to curate the photo of that mouth-watering blueberry scone. But it’s all worth it if you get more followers and likes because it gives you a sense of belonging, a sense of community.
I know you might be thinking, "But Panicha, back in my day… this wasn’t a problem." Now before you tell yourself or your teens to uninstall IG, is technology really all to blame? Because if it’s not IG, it’ll be something else. Let’s dig a little deeper. Social comparison has always been a part of our culture, particularly a part of teen culture. Have you ever thought about whether someone’s life was better than yours or perhaps worse than yours? Does it make you evaluate your life choices such as your career or relationships? If Mary Sue is having a baby, then, should you? We have always been comparing ourselves to a standard or an ideal image of what others find preferred or attractive.
So, if IG is here to stay, what can we do about mental health? Because simply protecting our youth from using social media isn’t going to solve the problem. There have been many suggestions for social platforms to work towards solutions such as algorithms that identify when someone is showing signs of depression through their internet searches or some magazine companies taking a lead on showing unedited photos on their covers.
Here are some ideas of what you can do or recommend your teens to do:
1. Focus on gratitude and appreciation.
Sometimes when you get sucked into a rabbit hole of scrolling through different posts, you can easily forget the here-and-now. Focus on the things YOU are currently doing and can enjoy.
2. Look at an image non-judgmentally.
Try thinking about facts instead of using positive or negative words. Instead of “I wish I had money to go to Bali too”, say “Looks like the person is enjoying their vacation”. Or instead of “I wish I was that fit”, say “The person is athletic”. This can become a good tool when you begin to stir up some feelings towards an image.
3. Think about the root of the issue.
Is Mary Sue having a baby really the problem? Or what about that one friend who seems to be going to a different country every month? Try asking yourself If those feelings are stemming from something else. Think about what could cause you to not feel as worthy or feel less-than. Are there areas of your life that is not making you happy? Or are you feeling like you have to meet certain expectations?
4. Follow different people.
Sometimes the best method is to unfollow the person that we choose to compare ourselves to. Are certain posts making you feel less about yourself every time you scroll through? Take control of those comparisons and follow people who actually make you feel good. But also remind yourself, that those curated photos of their amazing vacations aren’t what their life really looks like.
At Thrive, we take a positive, client centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
As always, thanks for reading and comments are always welcome regarding any issues around child or teen psychotherapy services in San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
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