I don’t know about you, but during this pandemic, I’ve avoided looking at my phone’s weekly screentime report like the plague… or, er, like coronavirus. But maybe it’s too soon to be making that joke.
I know my screentime has gone way up. While we’ve all been staying home and have had far fewer options for activities to participate in, it’s been really easy for me to default to scrolling through social media. And before I know it, an hour has gone by and my scrolling thumb hurts.
Whether we like it or not, social media is a massive part of our culture. As such, I think it’s worthwhile to think about how it might be affecting our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships – especially when it comes to our attitude toward our own self-worth.
It used to be the case that the only people we had to compare ourselves to were celebrities on TV and models on magazine covers. Now, we have millions of carefully curated pictures of people at our fingertips.
When we go on social media, we’re not just comparing ourselves to celebrities anymore. We’re comparing ourselves to other “regular” people who are just like us, to our best friends, our peers, and our coworkers.
This can be a positive thing in that we’re now presented with a lot more diversity instead of just one singular standard of beauty. On the flip side, though, we’re also under a lot more pressure to conform and contribute to the world’s standard of beauty because we see people we know attaining it.
We know that constantly viewing other people’s highlight reels on social media can quickly lead to comparison and can be damaging to our own self-image. If you’re not careful, it can consume the way you think about yourself, and it can push you to start living for other people’s approval, admiration, or attention.
In my opinion, those things aren’t worth living for. They’re fickle, finite, and fleeting. You were made for more.
Social media isn’t all bad. It can help us stay connected in some ways, it can serve as a platform for artistic expression, and it can help us share ideas and perspectives. That’s why I’m all for conscious social media use – keeping it in its proper place instead of allowing it to completely rule our lives.
Here are some ideas about how you can do that.
Ask: What Am I Avoiding or Escaping?
Before opening up Instagram, check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling. What prompted you to reach for your phone? Are you avoiding some emotion or responsibility?
As I’ve said before, social media isn’t a great place to be when you’re already not feeling great about yourself. If you’re having a bad body image day, it’s a better idea to stay away from social media and focus on caring for yourself in a way that will address negative emotions instead of attempting to hide from them.
Limit Your Social Media Time
For some people, it might seem a bit strict or regimented to place time constraints on your use of social media, but sometimes structure is good for you.
Think about what you’re sacrificing by spending excessive amounts of time on social media throughout the day – giving attention to meaningful work, being present in your relationships, connecting with God. Are those things worth constantly checking your feed for updates, seeing how many likes your most recent post has gotten, or re-watching your own Instagram story for the eighth time since you posted it?
Designate a specific time to go on social media, and set a time limit. This puts you in control of your social media use instead of allowing it to control you.
Unfollow Triggering Social Media Accounts
There’s no question that the media you consume matters. Whether consciously or unconsciously, your thoughts and opinions are influenced by the messages you receive through social media and other media channels.
I think most of us can relate to the experience of scrolling through social media and stopping on a photo that makes us feel a sort of longing. You might call it envy.
My spiritual director once told me that envy is sadness over another person’s joy. And while we’re usually in control of how we react to images depicting someone who has something we find desirable, some social media accounts seem like they’re designed to make you feel inferior or lacking.
While this might be controversial, I have to touch on them – the Instagram accounts that almost solely post bikini pictures. Ask yourself what you’re adding to your life by following those accounts, then – and this is probably the harder question – ask what you might be losing by following them.
When you’re fighting to love and accept your body, it’s a good idea to give the enemy one less place to attack you.
Show Up as Your True Self
Finally, being a conscious social media user involves both consumption and creation. What you share contributes to social media culture at large, and you have the power and responsibility to make these platforms more honest and authentic.
If you choose to be on social media, you obviously get to decide what you post and promote. Maybe instead of falling into the self-glorification trap, you could use your platform to promote some truth, goodness, or beauty from your unique perspective. The world needs you to be you!
My hope and prayer is that you’re able to find a healthy spot for social media in your life and that you never let it stop you from being you.
So, I want to hear – what specific struggles have you had with social media influencing your self-image? And what are some ways you’ve been able to combat social media comparison in your own life? Let me know in the comments below.