Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 1-20-2022
This blog is about social media and how it impacts our social lives and our mental health. Sorry, I just found that title to be somewhat appropriate and more of an attention grabber. I don’t consider social media to be simply a ‘tool’. It’s deeper than that, it is a significant part of the majority of our social lives. Does it come up in my sessions? Absolutely! There are people with many gripes. I find myself always asking clients now: “What are your preferred social media apps?” And if the client feels they may have an addiction, I absolutely want to know that too! Many gripes and questions come up regarding the impact social discussions have on us when we are online, as well as how much this compulsion robs us from our time to do other things during the day. You know, in the ‘real world’ away from the screens.
‘I spent X many hours arguing online with an internet stranger‘ Okay most people do fall into this trap from time to time. Let’s talk about why. First of all, it’s so easy to scroll through and find a post or meme that contradicts our own world view. People are so diverse in upbringings, cultures, religious preferences, political views and so on. It’s too easy to find something you do not agree with. It’s also easier to get ‘triggered’. Meaning it’s easy to experience emotional flair ups while online because there’s trillions of opportunities for people to be assholes, every day, on purpose too. Some people, like me, will say “Try not to take the bait.” Filter, filter, filter, scroll past, filter more, less reacting and practice some self-control. While some people hold the belief that if it’s an important topic, they should speak up and educate. Or speak up and fight, or attack. There’s definitely a balance somewhere in the middle. I say, educate if it seems appropriate and beneficial, and otherwise, stay away from the bait. For the sake of your own mental health too.
‘We were flirting hot and heavy and then they ghosted’ Meeting people, to include potential romantic interests, is getting a lot easier. We have access to billions at our fingertips. It’s also easier to flake out on people too. And it’s easier to see different sides of someone when you have access to their posting history. Even 3-4 years after I broke up with an ex, there were girls in my DM’s asking me about him because they played detective and found out I was one of his exes. Statistically speaking, the more opportunities we have to “put ourselves out there” toward the opposite sex, the more opportunities there are for rejection too. That’s just common sense. But sadly, some people deal with these occupancies so regularly it becomes a part of their story, it becomes personal. But about the ghosts, those are typically attachment avoidant people, or people trying to play the field and just tip their toes in the water. To save ourselves the trouble, we should look at internet ghosts in only one way; “They’re not that into me, and they are too emotionally immature to have that conversation.” The end. And onto the next.
‘They want to do phone calls or text, I prefer DM’s’ If two people have completely different communication styles with their devices, they may never speak again. Most people have a hard time compromising their social messaging preferences. Some would argue that there are almost too many ways to get a hold of someone. But to reframe, there’s so many different ways for us to communicate, why not have a compromise? If one person is comfortable with texting because they are in the middle of something, and another person would prefer to talk on the phone because in the long run, it actually does ‘save time’; why not do audio messaging? That’s just one example, but there’s a million more. Communicating takes work, especially in the world of modern social media, if you aren’t willing to put in the effort, the relationship fades away, despite the worldly access.
‘I have anxiety and depression, but I don’t want to lower my screen time’ Kids, teens and adults alike get a bit upset when I remind them of this. People come to therapy for magical answers, but they often leave with practical strategies. Strategies they already know about but want to skip or conveniently forget. A denial exists within many of us, that we are in fact, responsible for SOME of our suffering. In daily lifestyle choices. When we experience emotional flair ups, it’s quite common to gravitate toward instantly gratifying hobbies, vs the boring/ healthy things that offer long term benefits. A long-term strategy does not ‘fix’ my depression or anxiety ‘right now!’ Social media and other on-screen activities offer fireworks and escapism. Too much of anything causes harm though. From the fear baiting news articles to the sedentary lifestyle that’s involved in most screen activities. We must practice caution. Also, constant escapism is hopefully not the goal, especially if you want a mentally and physically healthier life.
‘No one is ‘too busy’ to text, DM, or call at least sometimes throughout the day…’ Technically this is true, in most cases someone could theoretically call, DM and/ or text you at least a few times a day. But, instead of expecting people to do just that, it would serve us better to recognize that that said person is making the conscious decision to give us the ‘bare minimum’ when it comes to communicating. What are we going to do after we recognize this? Are we going to keep trying to force something that is completely out of our control? That being another human beings’ behaviors. Or will we move on and choose to keep people in our lives that actually give effort while discarding the rest. Let them slip away, stop hanging on. Social media has made it that much harder for people to let people go. We try to grasp them with all tools/ devices just because we can. ‘They should text/ call me _____ many times a day’ is a thought that sets us up for many strained relationships.
‘They never get the Hell off their Phone!’ There are millions of differing opinions on how much is ‘too much’. And even if you have a bunch of people telling you that you are on your phone too much, you can easily think of someone who is on their phone more, making it easier to excuse your own addiction. The truth is, yes, there are quite a few people developing social media addictions. There are also many people who now make their sole income due to social media. With the changes, we must develop new ‘social norms’ and courtesies. For example, I find it very rude to hang out with someone and ‘be on my phone’ instead of present with my friend, and i would expect the same courtesy. But I walk around and see the opposite every day. Groups of people in each other’s presence but tied to their phones. More engaged in the phone social life vs what is right in front of them, humans in the flesh. I guess the answer to this for now is: Find your crowd.
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