Being more mindful on social media

Scrolling through my Instagram feed one night I couldn’t help but feel sad at all of the happy, smiling faces looking back at me.

It felt like the world was out having the time of their lives whilst I was at home, battling my anxiety and isolating myself.

Yes, there are times when it’s me you’ll see on your screen, having fun with friends or taking silly photos with my family but they felt like a distant memory on this particularly difficult evening.

It wasn’t until I attended a recent mental health support group titled Social Media Influences that I started to see things differently and alter my perspective a little more.

We discussed the ‘business side’ of social networking and the ways in which many people manipulate what you see for personal, and in many cases, financial gain. 

We also touched on false portrayals, image enhancement and the freedom to pick and choose what we do and don’t want to see.

It was all very eye-opening and helped me to come up with five key things to consider when using social media sites…

Everyone’s lives look better online

‘Social media smugness’ is definitely a recognised thing now and we all know people who use their Facebook and Instagram profiles for nothing more than showing off.

When’s the last time you uploaded photos of yourself having an awful day where nothing’s going right, you feel stressed or unwell and you don’t like your hair/make-up/outfit choice?

I’m guessing probably never…and neither does anyone else! They only showcase the best of their lives to the world and it’s important to remember they also experience turmoil and hardship behind the scenes like the rest of us – we just don’t see it.

We all love a good filter

Image editing is becoming easier every day and very few people post photos without the odd tint and tweak somewhere along the line.

I don’t know about you, but my friends and I very rarely upload pictures without filters to either enhance our appearance or hide something we’re not so keen on – and I doubt we’re alone in that. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong but it’s important to remember when you’re perhaps feeling insecure and comparing yourself to others.

Follow the right people

Amongst a sea of people who use social media for all the wrong reasons, there are hundreds of great motivational channels out there, designed to spread positive messages to their followers.

I occasionally find myself searching for profiles and hashtags that I shouldn’t and resisting that temptation when it’s so readily available is hard. What helps me is following lots of inspirational users who promote wellbeing, encouragement and spread words of affirmation to lift my spirits instead.

Mute what you’d rather not see

If you have friends, family members or colleagues that trigger you or make you feel underconfident in some way, it’s probably time to mute their content and have a break from them.

That needn’t mean unfriending or blocking anybody and risking conflict, you can just opt to have their updates removed from your home feed either permanently or until you feel able to see it again.

Choose your time to go online

We all have times when we feel down or vulnerable and when this happens being suffocated by other people’s seemingly perfect lives will not help us at all.

There are much kinder ways of distracting our minds or escaping for a while that won’t leave us feeling rubbish in comparison. These may include doing creative hobbies like crafts and colouring, gentle exercise or spending quality time with supportive family and friends as opposed to viewing the world through a screen.

It’s OK if all you did in lockdown was survive!

We all know a social media show off, who uses their channels as a shop window of how perfect their lives are.

Whether it’s their amazing figure in their work-out gear, their latest glistening expensive purchase or their envy-inducing home and garden, it can feel like these people exist to make us feel completely inadequate in comparison.

Sadly, they didn’t take any time off from flaunting in lockdown and continued to spend their days showcasing their best lives for us all to see and crave.

With a reported 87% increase in social media usage over the last few months*, it’s been impossible to escape seeing others using the pandemic to upskill themselves, renovate their properties or embark on new healthy eating and exercise regimes. It’s exhausting to scroll through, let alone actually do!

The Covid-19 crisis has been the most extraordinary event most of us have ever experienced, altering the way we live our lives and creating new rules and protocols to abide by in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

We were each forced into our homes for an intense period of three months and left to make our own entertainment, distractions and coping strategies to endure what was, on reflection, a pretty terrifying period of time.

Even those without any pre-existing mental health difficulties have admitted to finding it tough – the uncertainty, concerns about unemployment and struggling to stay confined to our homes all the time. It wasn’t great for anyone!

Some chose to use the time to study online, broadening their skillsets and qualifying in new areas. Some made home improvements, brought pets and modernised their gardens. Others bought home gym equipment and bikes and vowed to eat healthily or quit drinking.

All that is great. Seriously, hats off to everyone who made the most of it and managed to be productive – but it’s OK if all you did was survive.

If you were able to calm a racing mind, if you made it through the days without crying or, heck, if you just got up and dressed most days, you did great too!

Thankfully, restrictions are easing now and the ‘new normal’ is upon us. As many emerge as ‘better’ people with new skills and outlooks on life, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to return to life as it was before. To not be a new person, or to not have changed in a big way.

Anxiety, depression and mental health conditions are on the rise as a result of lockdown and it can be difficult enough to get back to our former lives and routines, let alone trying to be brand, shiny new versions of ourselves.

So however you’re ending lockdown, remember it’s OK. This is a situation unlike any other and there’s no right or wrong way to be. Keep going – you’re doing great!

* – Business Today