Is Social Media Toxicity Making Us Unhappy?

Wellness | Is social media making us unhappy?

It is no secret that 2019 has been a year full of challenges for me – personally, professionally, and academically. I know that I am constantly becoming a more resilient person. However, sometimes I can’t seem to escape my own anxious thoughts.

After completing a grueling semester at school, I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel much relief. I felt empty.

As a first step in getting my mindset right, I had to deal with the negative effects of social media toxicity.  I took a brief social media detox. I needed time to myself to declutter my mind, boost my mood, and escape the mindless social media scroll.

Ironically, after coming back from my break, I came across a thought-provoking Instagram TV video that inspired me to write today’s post. At a high level, this post explores the idea that our friends and social media are corrupting our minds and making us depressed. But how can this be true?

Please keep reading to find out more on how our family and friends are contributing to social media toxicity.

Heart 2 Heart: What Motivates You?

Research conducted by the scientist, Timm Kasser, suggests that individuals who live their lives for external motives are more likely to experience dissatisfaction, depression, and poor health when compared to those who live their lives for internal motives.

Internal motives are experienced when doing something purely for joy, as opposed to another external reward. External motives are things like money, material things, social status, approval from others.

Interestingly, Kasser’s studies showed that achieving external goals did NOTHING to improve someone’s happiness. His finding highlights the fact that materialistic or external goals do little to actually improve how we perceive our lives.

In fact, his research found that individuals who lived their lives primarily for external motives experienced a lower quality of life, emotionally and physically. Comparatively, the research indicated that individuals who were motivated by internal goals experienced greater levels of joy and satisfaction. Internally motivated people felt less anxiety when compared to those living for external goals.

Junk food looks like food, but it doesn’t meet our underlying nutritional needs. In the same way, having junk values won’t meet your underlying psychological needs of having meaning and connection in your life.

-Steven Bartlett

Social Media Toxicity | Are Friends & Social Media to Blame for our Depression?

Yes and no.

The human heart (and mind) is like a sponge. The heart soaks up whatever is surrounding it. In other words, the desires of our heart are wildly influenced by the things we consume and the people that surround us.

So how does social media toxicity come into play?

According to Nielsen, the average American spends more than 11 hours a day consuming digital media such as television/video, radio, mobile web, etc. In a world of Real Housewives, Kardashians, and Instagram, many of us are finding that our values are shifting towards greater levels of fame, achievement, and wealth.

We use technology and social media to share our rosiest moments and greatest achievements and as a measure for keeping up with our friends. We forget that social media is not a perfect mirror of reality.

On a personal level, I know that social media tends to make me more unhappy, more insecure, and less-fulfilled. I find myself unintentionally fixating on the material things that I seem to lack. However, I’ve come to the clear realization that no material item can truly fill the void that internal motivators and relationships can.

My Heart: What is Motivating Me?

Looking back at my life over the past year or so, I have a clear understanding that I wasn’t living my life for the right motives. I’ve been living my life playing the comparison game.

Despite getting a pay raise and being promoted, fixing my work-life balance, getting into graduate school, and receiving good grades this semester, I didn’t feel any happier. My intentions weren’t internally motivated.

I was focused too much on my “achievements” and less on the things in my life that actually make me happy and truly spark joy.

After much internal exploration, I’ve come to the obvious conclusion that I need to do a better job at prioritizing my relationships with others. I need to  focus on the things that make me happy, and not what I see on social media. I cannot let social media toxicity or a lust for persona achievement ruin my life.

Am I going to stop my graduate program? No. But I need to remember why I wanted to go back to school: increase my knowledge in the marketing field because I actually love marketing… not because I want to live a super posh life.

Tips for Redefining What Motivates You

I may have been too focused on external motivators this past year, but I’m working hard to shift my mindset by changing my habits.

  1. Digital Detox | Take a break from social media, if you find that it triggers you to compare yourself to others or that it leads to excessive materialism. Personally, I have had the most success with digital detoxes when I delete the triggering application off my phone or when I deactivate the social account that is most influencing my anxiety.
  2. Set Time Limits | Try setting time limits on your phone or browser to limit how many minutes (or hours) a day that you’re spending on social media. Don’t want to download a new application? If you have an iPhone, use the Screen Time function to see how you’re spending your time and to set usage limits.
  3. Unfollow Toxic People | Do you have digital friends that make you feel bad about yourself? Unfollow them or limit their posts in your feed (people can be muted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter FYI).
  4. Take Time to Reflect | It is essential to take time to think about the things that motivate you, whether this is done at a counseling session, talking with close friends,  or through journaling. It is impossible to fix a negative mindset without first acknowledging it.

Final Thoughts on Social Media Toxicity

Social media isn’t all bad, but we need to be conscious of how often we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling through our feed. Mindless scrolling often leads to negative self comparison and unhappiness. Comparison is the thief of joy. Social media toxicity makes it very easy to live our lives in a constant state of comparison and in the pursuit of others’ approval.

Also, I feel it is important to mention that it is okay to want a nice job or home. However, material factors shouldn’t be the only things motivating us to achieve our dreams.

Please click here to watch the video, originally put together and shared by Steven Bartlett, a speaker who focuses on inspiring others.

Let’s connect on social media: Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Bloglovin’ | Influenster

Social Media Toxicity | Is Social Media Making Us Unhappy_

Looking for more personal and wellness-driven posts? Check out my tips for showing yourself some love and dealing with failure.

What do you think about Kasser’s findings – do you agree that internal motivators lead to a greater sense of inner peace and joy? Have you ever done a digital detox before?

27 thoughts on “Is Social Media Toxicity Making Us Unhappy?

  1. I do think social media can take a lot of blame for the way society is going. We don’t speak to each other we DM and message and who really picks up an actual phone to call someone now. I love a good social detox x

    1. I agree – there are so many people who I “follow” online, but avoid in person! I know that is something that I need to work on with myself, but I agree that social detoxes are so important for our mental health.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with this 💯
    It took me a long time to realise how social media has been affecting my mental health from so long.

    You’ve written this beautifuly with proper points and research 💯

  3. Thank you so much for this! Can’t help but relate to this post, especially at this point in my life. I have been so overwhelmed with everything happening in my life and social media has only made me feel worse. It’s hard to take a break from social media without the fear of losing engagement, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary for the sake of your mental health.

    Much love always,
    GABBY |

    1. I agree with you completely – this is part of the reason why I’ve been so MIA on Twitter and IG. I feel a sense of relief whenever I take a break even though it does affect growth and engagement, but I always come back around and when I do, I feel much better.

  4. Needed this post today – I’ve found myself getting so angry recently and it’s mainly down to getting sucked into arguments on social media and things like news sites. I’ve made the decision to completely detox over Litha (which starts tomorrow) and hoping it will make a difference! That’s really interesting about internal and external factors too – I’ll consider this next time I set goals.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been made to feel angry due to online arguments and discouraging news. A detox is always so helpful – such a great way to refresh your mind since we take in so many thing subconsciously that we don’t even realize we do! Wish you all the best if you start a digital detox this summer!

  5. Such a smart and insightful post, LP, as always. I could benefit from so much of this. Social media definitely affects my mental health, too, and I tend to replace one thing with another. Thanks for this. ♥️

    1. Thank you so much! That’s what I’m trying to be cautious with – I’m currently giving up Netflix/YouTube/VOD through July, but I need to be careful not to replace it with something just as mindless (like IG or Twitter).

  6. My last digital detox was Easter Weekend when I was with brother 3, wife and baby bc we are trying to not be on the phone around him. It was the most amazing weekend – I had planned on doing social media and staying “on top” of things while I was walking the nephew and he was napping but it turned out that I couldn’t manage to push the pram and look at my phone at the same time.
    FInding that it didn’t drastically affect my blogs overall stats for the month gives me more confidence to do it again; although I need an external motivation to put my phone away (which I know seems counter to this post).

    I don’t think I get down because of SM though, I don’t think I tend to do the comparison game as much because of my personal situation meaning that I know I’m on a different path with different timings and goals to most of my peers. Social media does give me a connection though, which I find it very easy to go “that’s enough peopleing for today” and turn the app off (I also turned off all notifications a while ago).

    1. That sounds like it was such a lovely weekend – and I’m so glad to hear that social media helps you to connect with others!! That is one definite benefit to social networking. Thank you for your comment!

  7. Honestly, I think it’s a mix. As long as used correctly, social media can be great. It’s very easy to accidentally use it in a damaging way though, unfortunately.

    1. I agree – for a while I’ll be doing really well with managing how I use it, but then sometimes outside forces can contribute to me using it in a way that becomes unhealthy. Trying to work on that though!

  8. This is a good wake up call though! I feel like my time on social media increased A LOT since I blog and sometimes it’s so overwhelming… And I have to admit that I sometimes am too focused on materialistic goals instead of internal motivation.

    1. Honestly – same. I was doing SO well with my spending and my digital screen-time, but once my blog started to really flourish, I started to develop some unhealthy financial and social habits. Trying to strike that balance though!

  9. I do believe it has played a part in our downfalls. But we have to take a step back sometimes and see whats happening. I think in small doses and knowing when and how to cut back on it, it should be fine.

  10. Digital detox! I need this! I can believe the average person spends 11 hrs a day on media. While I’m at work, I use the computer for nearly 8 hours! Technology seems to be taking over our lives.
    Great post. I really love your blog posts!

  11. Interesting post! I’m always in two minds about the effects of social media and I’ve done a couple of posts on it before too. I think it can be so damaging the way we compare ourselves all day long, but there are also a lot of positives that come with social media too, especially with blogging! Deffo think it’s good to detox once in a while! Loving your blog by the way!

    Alice xx

    1. Def agree that there is a lot of good and bad that can come with social media and it likely varies from person to person. For me, I’ve noticed that social media really triggers me to spend money … especially Instagram so detoxing is def necessary sometimes. Thank you for your comment. <3

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