How to avoid the pitfalls of social media
Anna Settle, For The Tennessean
Published 7:02 a.m. CT Nov. 7, 2016
Why does social media trigger feelings of loneliness and inadequacy? Here’s the bottom line: Social media is not real life. It is, for the most part, a way of marketing yourself, carefully choosing and filtering the pictures and the verbiage to put your best face forward. It is what we call impression management, and here’s how we know this to be true.
First, if you consider the normal psychological progression of an interpersonal relationship, it typically looks something like this: You meet someone new, you ask questions and learn about the person, you share some surface level information about yourself, you connect with them (or not) over shared experiences/values/interests and you determine if the new person will fall into the category of acquaintance or friend. For those with whom you have an initial interpersonal connection, perhaps you spend more time together. You meet for coffee, you go to dinner or you go to see your favorite band play. Through these experiences, you are subconsciously building trust and connection. With each shared experience, trust increases. And, as trust increases, you may progressively reveal more and more information about yourself. If trust remains unbroken, you will likely begin to share your weaknesses and other sensitive information. You will feel comfortable talking about your strengths and are able to be more vulnerable. You are being real, the authentic version of yourself. You have cultivated a relationship that adds true value and support to your emotional well-being.
Online “friends” made through social media do not follow this progression. You generally share neither physical time nor emotional conversations over the Internet. You simply communicate photographs and catchy hashtags to a diverse group of people whom you have “friended” or “followed” based on an interaction at some point in your life. This is not to say that your social media friends can’t be real friends. They absolutely can, but the two are not synonymous. Generally speaking, there are no unfiltered comments or candid photos on our social media pages. And, rightfully so, because it wouldn’t feel safe to be completely authentic and vulnerable with some of our “friends” whom we don’t actually know or with whom trust has yet to be built.
通过社交媒体结交的在线 “朋友” 并不遵循正常的人际关系心理发展进程。在互联网上，你们既不共享物理时间也不会进行情感对话。你只需要把照片和吸引眼球的帖子发给一群不同的人，这些人是你在一次偶然的互动中加为好友或关注的。这并不是说你在社交媒体上的朋友不能成为真正的朋友。他们绝对可以，但两者并不能画等号。一般来说，我们不会在社交媒体页面上上传未经筛选的评论或随意拍摄的照片。这也是理所当然的，因为在二些我们并不真正了解或尚未建立起信任的 “朋友” 面前完全展现自已的真实和脆弱，会让我们感到不安全。
Ultimately, social media can be a cathartic and fun way of sharing with others. Posting experiences and stories is a creative way to connect, albeit superficially, with friends and acquaintances alike. It can certainly be an escape from the daily grind, but we must be cautioned against the negative effects that social media often has on a person’s overall psychological well-being.
Social media can contribute to feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Spending a large portion of your time on social media means that you are passing your time looking at a screen. From a psychological perspective, as humans, we crave social connection. So, scrolling through pages of pictures and comments does not provide the same degree of fulfillment as face-to-face interactions do. Also, we tend to idealize others’ lives and compare our downfalls to their greatest accomplishments. We rarely consider what is happening outside of those photos, and we fail to give ourselves enough credit for our own successes.
Social media can be highly addictive. If you find that you are checking your page at every stoplight, during conversations with others and/or more often than you’d like, then you may be less in control of your use that you would like to be. If this is the case, it is helpful to remove the apps from your phone to reduce ease of access. If sites are not as easily accessible, then over time, you will train your brain to be less pulled towards checking it so frequently. And less screen time naturally leads one to be more mindful and present, ultimately creating opportunities for genuine connections with people in real time.
Why I’m getting off the internet for a month
Social media can lead people on the unhealthy quest for perfection. Some people begin to attend certain events or travel to different places so that they can snap that “perfect” photo. They begin to seek validation through the number of people who “like” their posts. In order for it play a psychologically healthy role in your social life, social media should supplement an already healthy social network. Pictures and posts should be byproducts of life’s treasured moments and fun times, not the planned and calculated image that one is putting out into cyberspace in an attempt to fill insecurities or unmet needs.
社交媒体会导致人们对完美的病态追求。有些人开始参加某些活动或去不同的地方旅行，以便他们可以拍摄出 “完美的” 照片。他们开始通过 “喜欢” 他们帖子的人数来寻求自我认证。为了让社交媒体在社交生活中扮演一个心理健康的角色，社交媒体应该作为一个已经完善的社交网络的补充。照片和帖子应该是生活中珍贵时刻和快乐时光的副产品，而不是人们为了填补不安全感或未满足的需求而投放到网络空间的有计划的和设计出来的形象。
Ultimately, social media has increased our ability to connect with various types of people all over the globe. It has opened doors for businesses and allowed us to stay connected to people whom we may not otherwise get to follow. However, social media should feel like a fun experience, not one that contributes to negative thoughts and feelings. If the latter is the case, increasing face-to-face time with trusted friends, and minimizing time scrolling online, will prove to be a reminder that your social network is much more rewarding than any “like,” “follow” or “share” can be.
最终，社交媒体增强了我们与全球各种类型的人联系的能力。它为企业打开了大门，让我们能与其他我们可能无法追随的人保持联系。但是，社交媒体应该像是一种有趣的体验，而不是会让人产生消极的想法和感受。如果是后者，增加与可信赖的朋友面对面交流的时间，并减少在线浏览的时间，这将会证明这些社交比任何 “喜欢”、“关注” 或 “分享” 更有价值。
Dr. Anna Settle is a psychologist and relationship expert who has a private practice on Music Row in Nashville. Visit drannasettle.com and follow her on Twitter@drannasettle and Facebook.com/DrAnnaSettle.