Many of us have taken the phrase ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’ too seriously, don’t you think?
Be it wealth, intellect, or success, people somehow need the world to know we are in possession of all these things. We are so used to snapping and posting up photos and videos of our daily lives, that this has become second nature to us. What might have started out as genuine, innocent sharing have quickly evolved into something to help boost our self-esteem.
Who are these photos and videos for? Do people really want to know what you ate for brunch? Or if you managed to get your hands on the latest gadget?
Seeking validation is human nature; but social media accentuates this toxic behavior by granting us the instant gratification of receiving likes and views within a matter of seconds. Guilty as charged – I can spend hours on social media everyday collectively, to the point where it has ruined my productivity in real life.
Many people who make money through social media are obliged to keep up with their seemingly flawless content to keep the views and moolah running. Young people usually try to emulate the life of these people and unknowingly fall through the cracks of social media addiction. Hearing that social media is not good for you is not any kind of surprising revelation. As unwilling as you might be to cut back on the hours scrolling through your feed, we need to confront the negative effects of excessive social media use:
How does it affect our mental health?
As we scroll through our feed, many of us would have the subconscious tendency to compare our own lives to others. For those who already have Low self esteem, looking at perfect photos of others might cause their confidence levels to take a hit. It does not help that social media is so easily accessible at any time of the day. This often leads to feelings of jealousy – where you also crave that winter holiday, more beautiful clothes and wish your partner planned a more extravagant proposal.
The more we engage in social media, it is hard to ignore the amount of ‘likes’ and comments each of your postings get. If we do not hit our desired number of ‘likes’, chances are we might think less of that experience, and feel a tinge of shame for the measly attention your post is getting from your followers.
Oftentimes, we think that being on social media allows us to gain greater insight into the world beyond us and it is supposedly a great way to connect with your friends and family. There is no wrong in that; but according to Forbes, it is also known to intensify social isolation where the higher the number of social applications one uses, the more socially isolated it makes us feel.
How do we stop trying to validate ourselves through social media?
It is important that you are comfortable with who you are and know your worth. Take responsibility for your own self-worth! Stick to the principles that social media is meant to connect with your friends and family; anything beyond that is meant for you to gain knowledge, inspiration to better yourself.
The first step to stop the habit of seeking validation online is to reduce social media use. Read on for some tips I would like to share, which have helped me greatly in this aspect:
1. Manage notifications
Notifications from social media apps give a beckoning effect such that you will be inclined to click on the notification every time you see one pop up. This can easily lead to spending more time on social media than you intended, as you may as well scroll through your feed for updates after checking the number of likes you received.
An easy, fuss-free tip is to Turn it off! This way, you can check on your social media as and when you feel like it, and when it is convenient, rather than be sucked into the vicious loop of checking and scrolling right after your phone pings.
2. Limiting social media screen time
A few months ago during Circuit Breaker where many of us were staying safe at home, I was also having my study break at that time. Although I had planned to do way more productive things such as catch up on my school work, read more books and update myself with current affairs, I succumbed to temptation and ended up spending an absurd amount of time scrolling through my social media, watching videos and liking pictures.
Till one day, I discovered the function on my phone to set a limitation to my usage. Once you have maximised your limit, the app will automatically exit and you will not be able to enter it until past midnight. It helps if you do this together with a friend and occasionally check in with each on whether we are complying with this limitation.
Another way to limit yourself screen time from social media is to set a schedule for time away from your phone. This is called ‘Downtime’ on the iPhone and only apps you choose to allow will be available for usage during your allotted time, eg. 10am-5pm.
This is rather strict as only the apps that you have deemed ‘essential’ such as phone calls, messaging, and email can be accessed during this time window. Once your time window is up, you can start using all of the others. This really helps to keep you focused especially during a crucial time where 100% concentration is needed to study or work.
There are other apps available for download to track and limit your social media usage, such as:
Offtime (iOS, Android)
App Block (Android)
Breakfree (iOS, Android)
Of course, these tips to limit your usage will not work if you choose to tap on ‘Ignore limit’. Do not make this a habit!
3. Reward yourself
The more time spent mindless scrolling on social media, the less productive your day gets. Snap out of it – we only have 24hrs a day and this time will pass you by quicker than you realise. In a pact with myself to be more productive, I reward myself with a guilty pleasure (a good fancy coffee from my favourite cafe) if I manage to stay productive for a whole week and keep my social media usage at my set limit.
Your rewards can be in the form of food that you otherwise would not have eaten, a visit to the museum, or simply a lazy day of doing nothing. I am not sure about you, but I like to treat my palate to something nice, but keeping it under $10 or $15.
A similar concept where people on strict diets only allow ‘cheat meals’ on the weekends, try your best to stay focused on your goal and reduce social media use, and maybe at the end of the day/ week, you earn yourself a lazy afternoon doing nothing, or a netflix movie.
4. Find a hobby
In recent months, I started a new sport: Bouldering! With this new found love, I dedicate about 3 hours in the boulder gym where I try to improve my strength and technique at the sport, but at the same time have great fun with my friends. Time spent doing what you like and improving aspects of yourself is never wasted time, and this also means I take away 3hours I would possibly spend scrolling on my phone.
5. Face-to-face communication
While it is true that social media helps us to connect with people easily without having to schedule physical meetings, human interaction and social contact is more important in helping us cope with stress and keeping us sane.
I find that it helped me a great deal in self awareness and confidence if I open up and engage in conversation with people who can provide feedback – be it on my character, life choices, opinions and see where I stand. And only through face to face communication are you able to fully grasp the issue at hand.
There was a point where after a few encounters, I realised I was not knowledgeable enough in certains topics such as politics and current affairs to fully engage in conversation with others. After realising where I was lacking, I started to read and understand more, and in turn gain confidence in that particular topic. Furthermore, it is not the number of views your rant on Instagram Stories is getting that comforts you when you are having a bad time. Human interaction has the ability to offer you the strength and support that you otherwise would not get from social media.
So go out, meet your friends, have a chat over pressing issues and discuss your views. Let people give you advice (hopefully with tact, of course) and try to ask for feedback from your teachers or bosses.
In our interconnected world, we can hardly do without social media anymore. Especially with COVID-19 happening this year, it has indeed proved its mettle as an exceptional tool in bringing us closer together in a time where social distancing is encouraged more than ever. But it is important to ensure it does not consume you and spiral you into seeking approval through ‘likes’ and views.
This article is brought to you by Hazel, an undergraduate from University of Newcastle Australia who is currently interning at SNCF (August to November 2020). She is an earl grey enthusiast, caffeine addict, avid reader and passionate about all things health and lifestyle related.