It is no secret that 2019 has been a year full of challenges for me – personally, professionally, and academically. Although I know that I am constantly becoming a more resilient person, 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… but rather, I felt empty.
As a first step in getting my mindset right, I took a brief social media detox this May. 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 brief break, I came across a thought-provoking and inspiring 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.
Heart 2 Heart: What Motivates You?
Research conducted by the scientist, Timm Kasser, suggests that individuals who live their lives for external motives (money, material things, social status, approval from others) 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.
Interestingly enough, Kasser’s studies showed that achieving external goals did NOTHING to improve the overall happiness of an individual. 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 found that individuals who were motivated by internal goals experienced greater levels of joy and satisfaction and 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.
Are Friends & Social Media to Blame for our Depression?
Yes and no.
I’ve heard it said that the human heart (and mind) is like a sponge because of the way it takes in and 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 we surround ourselves with on a daily basis.
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, it is no wonder that 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… forgetting 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 because I find myself unintentionally fixating on the material things that I seem to lack when compared to my friends or my favorite celebrities. 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, being admitted into graduate school, and receiving good grades this semester, I didn’t feel any happier because 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.
So now what? 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 and focusing on the things that make me happy. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Social media isn’t all bad, but we need to be conscious of how often we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling through our feed and comparing ourselves to others. Comparison is the thief of joy and social media 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.
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?