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There has been a lot of talk lately about mental health issues associated with social media. As a psychologist, my clients of all ages are fluent in the negative impact of other people’s posts on their mental well-being. Many feel socially rejected when they see an event they weren’t invited to. Or, other people’s posts can trigger unfavorable comparisons that make them uncomfortable: “Everyone seems to have ______ than me. “ [Insert: more fun, more friends, more money, a better body, etc.]
But what about why people post in the first place? Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with people and share information. However, it can also fuel excessive comfort-seeking behaviors and unhealthy attempts to gain validation from others. In other words, people often use the opinions of others to feel good about themselves.
What is reinsurance research?
Every now and then we all need a little reassurance that everything is okay. You can check in with a friend to make sure you haven’t upset them with something you said, double-check to make sure you’ve locked the door, or ask your roommate or partner what you look like in a new outfit. . It’s good to do these things every now and then.
When it’s a problem
Seeking comfort becomes a problem when it is more frequent and when a person becomes more dependent on it. Consider the following scenarios:
- Someone who suffers from body image issues frequently posts a revealing body photo on Instagram when they are feeling unsure of themselves. They tend to get a lot of likes and comments about their beauty. As a result, it boosts her self-esteem, making her think “maybe I look good.” ”
- A person who often feels lonely and thinks that people don’t care about him. Instead of seeing his friends and family, his solution to this problem is to post regularly on Twitter, sharing his mental suffering too much. He feels best when he receives positive feedback from people about how great he is and, “to hang on, things will get better.”
- Another person has a lot of conflicts with their partner and children. She frequently creates Facebook posts featuring photos of her happy family. With each comment and like, she temporarily feels better about the situation in her house.
With these three scenarios, people are reassured and validated by others to feel better. For some, the frequent search for solace is addictive, almost like a drug. Likes and comments are a temporary solution. Although they may feel better in the moment, the positive effects are usually short-lived because they come from others and not from within themselves. However, they might be inclined to post again the next time they’re feeling down because they get that boost of reassurance.
They continue to use social media to seek external validation and reassurance, preparing for a vicious cycle. They do not learn to tolerate and manage their problems effectively. Reinforcement research perpetuates the problem and does not get to the root of the problem either. It can even lead to an increased negative mood if there isn’t a lot of feedback from others.
How to break the cycle
1) Engage in a conscious publication.
Before posting something on social media, take a look at your motivations.
- Ask yourself, “Why am I posting this?” ”
- Consider if you are seeking approval or comfort from your friends / followers in an unhealthy way.
- Also think about the consequences and ask yourself if you won’t be upset if you don’t get a certain number of likes and comments.
- If it turns out that you are posting for these reasons, or that you feel a great deal of distress over the potential consequences of posting, consider not posting.
2) Do things that will effectively solve your problems.
If every time you go to Instagram you see pictures of people triggering your body image issues, delete the app, unsubscribe from accounts that trigger you, or at least limit your use of the app. If you are feeling lonely, call a friend or family member. Or solve problems on how to meet more people or build more meaningful relationships. If you’re having relationship difficulties, talk to your partner about your concerns or consider seeking help from a couples therapist.
3) find ways to grow
Think about how you could validate yourself instead of looking for it on social media. There are many resources on self-compassion as a starting point. Starting a mindfulness practice is another place to start and can help fight destructive thought patterns. Keep a gratitude journal of the things you are grateful for in your life. Finally, working with a therapist can help you manage your issues effectively without looking for it from others on social media.
In short, not all interactions with social media are harmful. It can be a great way to stay in touch with people and can be an appropriate way of support. For others, it can be a great source of information, and many use social media to start their small businesses. This can ultimately benefit your mental well-being if you can ask yourself what your motivations are before posting.