Social media is one of the greatest inventions of our time; it is also a soul-sucking time devourer. We go to platforms like Facebook and Instagram for entertainment, to keep in touch with our loved ones and of course to stalk our exes. But as we are connecting with our friends, arguing with our political rivals and checking out that new girlfriend, what are we doing to our mental health? I know “mental health” is a catch-all phrase these days that encompasses everything from giving yourself a DIY facial to drinking to excess.
But what does it really mean to be mentally healthy? I don’t really know, but I know what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean obsessively looking at people’s “pages” and comparing your life to theirs. It doesn’t mean watching how a celebrity lives and trying to live the same way, and it doesn’t mean comparing your untouched thighs to her filtered ones. I am guilty of all these behaviors, especially comparing my real-life body to retouched ones on my tiny screen.
Several studies have shown that spending more than 30 minutes a day on social media causes depression, isolation and feelings of rejection. How could something made specifically for us to build social relationships be so detrimental to our health? Perhaps we feel rejected because we weren’t invited to that party, the one that every single other person on earth was invited to. Or consider that we are depressed because “Susan’s” kid is speaking 4 languages at 16 months and our 16-month-old hasn’t yet uttered a word. Maybe the isolation comes from seeing or reading people’s tales of endless happiness, when we feel sad or stuck.
Copious amounts of articles by professional people tell us the easy fix for these negative reactions to social media is to stay off of it, but, really? Is that possible? One day I decided that I would heed the advice of the professionals and take a break from social media. My well-intentioned goal was to stay off any social media for a week, regain some focus and clarity. I lasted 29 minutes. But in those 29 minutes I learned a very important lesson: Even though I enjoy my time connecting with people on social media, I can also live without it.
Maybe instead of trying to live in a world without social media, we should be more kind to ourselves. We need to understand that social media is a lie, a fairytale that people want us to believe. Do you get mad at Cinderella for losing her glass slipper? Do you measure your sleeping habits to those of Snow White? Of course not, so let’s stop comparing our lives and our worth to what we see on social media.