It is no secret that 2019 has been a year full of challenges for me – personally, professionally, and academically. Despite the hardships, 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. But why? And I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Is social media toxicity making us unhappy?
Is social media toxicity making us unhappy?
As a first step in getting my mindset right, I dealt 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 IGTV 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. In turn, this makes 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 our joy or satisfaction. With these motives we are not moved to act by an external reward. More specifically, external motives are things like money, material goods, social status, or 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. These individuals felt dissatisfied emotionally and physically. Comparatively, the research indicated that individuals motivated by internal goals experienced greater levels of joy and satisfaction. Also, 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.
So are Friends & Social Media Toxicity to Blame for our Depression?
Yes and no.
I once heard it said that the human heart (and mind) are like sponges. The heart soaks up whatever is surrounding it. In other words, the desires of our heart are wildly influenced by the things we consume, as well as the people who surround us.
So how is social media toxicity making us unhappy?
According to Nielsen, the average American spends more than 11 hours a day consuming digital media. This includes media such as television programs, online videos, radio broadcasts, mobile applications, online news outlets. In a world of Real Housewives, Kardashians, and Instagram influencers, our brains our being warped. Our values are shifting towards greater levels of fame, achievement, wealth, and the need to ”keep up.”
We use technology and social media to share our rosiest moments and greatest achievements. However, we use social media a measure for keeping up with our friends, too. How do we measure up? However, 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. Moreover, I find myself unintentionally fixating on the material things that I lack. However, I slowly realized that no material item can replace the joy brought by internal motivators and relationships.
My Heart: What is Motivating Me?
Looking back at my life over the past year or so, I understand that I lived for the wrong motives. In fact, the comparison game ruled my life. Am I at the ”same level” as my peers? Do they have better jobs? Are they living in better places?
In 2018, my manager promoted me and I received a raise. Also, I adjusted my work-life-balance. Moreover, I was accepted to Graduate School where I was rewarded for my efforts with good grades. But I didn’t feel any happier. Despite these external factors improving, I still felt void.
I was focused too much on my “achievements.” Things in my life that actually make me happy and truly spark joy fell to the back burner.
After much internal exploration, I concluded that I need to do a better job at prioritizing my relationships. I need to focus on the things that make me happy, not what I see on social media. Social media toxicity and a lust for personal achievement can no longer rule my life.
Am I going to stop my graduate program? No. But I need to remember why I wanted to go back to school. My reason for going back to school was not to live a posh life. I wanted an advanced degree to expand my knowledge of marketing.
Tips for Redefining What Motivates You
I may have been too focused on external motivators this past year. However, I’m working hard to shift my mindset by changing my habits.
If you feel empty after the infinite social media scroll, try the below tactics to prevent social media toxicity from making you unhappy?
Digital Detox | Take a break from social media. Social media acts as a big trigger for others who feel the need to ”keep up” materially. In the past, I succeeded with social media detoxes by deleting the offending application off my phone. I cannot check what isn’t there. Also, deactivating the triggering app helps.
Set Time Limits | Try setting time limits on your phone or browser. Apple makes it ridiculously easy to limit how many minutes (or hours) you spend using apps. Try using the Screen Time function to actually track how you spend your time online. Then, use that data to set usage limits.
Unfollow Toxic People | Do you have digital friends that make you feel bad about yourself? Unfollow them. Otherwise, limit their posts in your feed. Mute them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Take Time to Reflect | It is essential to take time to think about the things that motivate you. Find a method that works for you. Whether you talk to a couneslor, write in your journal, or spend time in prayer, you can reflect on your life and habits. Negative mindsets require introspection and effort to be changed.
Final Thoughts on Social Media Toxicity
Social media isn’t all bad. However, we need to be conscious of how often we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling through our feeds. 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. We begin to live in pursuit of others’ approval rather than our own satisfaction.
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.
Is social media toxicity making us unhappy? Please click here to watch the video, originally put together and shared by Steven Bartlett, a speaker who focuses on inspiring others.