While social media brings a lot of good: new friendships, constant connection, a sense of belonging to niche groups and interests — it can also be quite toxic. It can easily make us feel like we are not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, successful enough… We are often fed only the best of other people's lives, curated and filtered to perfection, which algorithms then sort in order of popularity.
What you end up seeing is not reality, but yet we get tricked into thinking it is.
The key is to be aware of how it makes you feel when you're interacting with it. Do you get tense, hold your breath, get angry, feel envious or sad or inadequate? OR does it make you smile or laugh, feel inspired or warm fuzzy inside? Taking this mindful, self-aware approach to social media allows us to interact with it in a way where we are in control, rather than letting our emotional wellbeing get hijacked as we mindlessly swipe.
Healthy Guide to Social Media
Creating a safe space online is the most important thing you can do for your mental health. Think about your interests, what you like about social media – whether it be lifestyle accounts, health and fitness, art and craft… Or you may like to stay within the safety of just your friends and family. For example, I love social media because I always find funny memes and have a little laugh to myself or tag my mates in the post. I also love being connected to my friends and family. So all the accounts I follow are dog pages, meme pages, women who inspire me, mental health accounts, and, of course, my close friends and family.
The moment I feel myself comparing myself in a negative way to someone else, I unfollow the account — for example, I will think to myself ‘I wish my boobs were as big as hers’ or ‘I’ll never be able to get a body like that.' I have worked too hard with my psychologist on getting through my body image issues to be tricked into the trap of feeling worthless again.
It’s time to unfollow Instagram accounts that no longer serve you.
Moderate comments. If you receive negative comments, I have two words for you. BLOCK and DELETE. I do this all the time. Some people get angry about it, create a fake account and say ‘Why did you delete my comment? I have a right to say what I want!’ Ah sorry champ, not on my personal page you don’t.
Absolutely nobody has the right to spread hate and negativity. It’s toxic and can be extremely damaging to the person on the receiving end. On a public account, you can also use the comments moderator to write a whole bunch of words so you will never be able to see any comments that contain those words on your page. My list is SO LONG, my friends and I sometimes have a little laugh about how long it is. To give you an example, some of the words include: anorexic, annoying, bitch, bogan, bones, bony, burger, disgusting, eat, eating disorder, fangs, idiot, meal, moustache, ruined, sick, skinny, thin, ugly, unhealthy, vile, weight…
The saddest part about the list, is that people have made disgusting comments about all of those things to me. Some people advise: ‘Just don’t read your comments,’ but I shouldn’t have to avoid looking on my page because some jerks who don’t know me write horrible things. So now I block, delete and paste whatever word they used into my comment moderator to avoid them coming back on a different account to write the same thing.
What’s acceptable to post?
You can post whatever you want! If you feel empowered in a bikini, post that. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t. Before posting, I always think to myself ‘What would my brothers think?’ I have 4 brothers and the last thing they want to see is their sister posting seductive photos online for strangers to see. Plus, I also learnt an extremely valuable lesson a few years back about photos and leaving behind a digital footprint you may not be proud of.
My biggest regret to date was in 2014 after I finished on the Bachelor. I had just been publicly dumped and it was all over the media for months and months. That whole experience messed me up massively in the head. I felt rejected, embarrassed, worthless and just felt like an absolute idiot. I assumed no-one would ever want to date me because I was tarred with this brush ‘Jilted Bachelorette.’ I couldn’t escape it. It was everywhere, so I hid in a hole and waited for the storm to pass.
During that time I was approached by a men’s magazine to do a photoshoot. My gut was saying ‘Sam this isn’t you. This is a bad idea’ but my brain said, ‘Guys will see this and want to date you’ – to which now I think: WTFFFFF SAMMM?! My reality had been so twisted and my thoughts were now foggy. I did the photoshoot. IMMEDIATELY I regretted it. I felt sick and anxious in my stomach. I went against my core values of who I am and what I believe in. Sure enough, my big brother text me as soon as it came out and said:
“I thought you were better than this Sam, I can’t even tell you how disappointed I am.”
Which is fair. It wasn’t me. I should have followed my gut instinct and never done the photoshoot. Now if you Google my name, they’re some of the first images that come up. It doesn’t go away. When I have children they will be able to see these images that I am so ashamed and embarrassed about. A year later I had dark hair, so they photoshopped my hair brown, and ran another cycle of photos.
However, there is a lesson in that experience.
Now I never post photos on social media or online that go against my core values and beliefs. I never want to feel that embarrassment and shame again.
Are you addicted to social media?
Do you spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
Do you feel urges to use social media more and more?
Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?
Do you often try to reduce your use of social media without success?
Do you become restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?
Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job or studies?
If you answered YES to some or all of these questions, check out these Top tips for a digital detox — from Psychology Today, Australia:
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Image source: Jessica Cao photography https://unsplash.com/@jcao329