When Social Media Isn’t Fun Anymore

You have definitely heard it before: social media is not real life; real life is not social media. And I think we all know and accept this to be true. This definitely rings true during our time as an adolescence. But I think we still think there might be some truth to it, especially in our teenage years - after all, your cousin Jessica has had pretty flawless hair since she was all of five years old; you know for a fact your cousin Kailey is actually in southern Spain.

It is like, we now have Christmas Card updates 365 days of the year - and maybe, yours feels a little sad: that plant hobby you started during quarantine is in lots of dirt, but not so much the greenery - more like 50 shades of brown as the plant itself decays. This decaying of your new passion imitates the feelings of depression you do not understand. And then, while yes, you have a decade's worth of intermittent yoga classes, it just means you can touch your toes - not that you're “Instafamous”. And it's all fun and games until…Well-until it isn't.

*Until you feel anxious about your friend circle knowingly excluding you from events;

*Until you begin to wonder how many meals you should skip for that look - or if you should just go to the extremely sketchy, not board-certified plastic "surgeon" who operates in a country with much more lax laws than the United States for some work;

*Until the constant sharing of political ideology creates a rift between yourself and your family; 

*Until your partner complains that you care more about your social media life than your real one.

It seems like over-indulging in social media to ignore our trauma is much easier to spot in others than in ourselves, but that is why we think about what we are thinking. I think it's vital we periodically ask ourselves some questions: 

Why am I scrolling? For example, I have diagnosable ADHD; my brain is constantly looking for dopamine (the "happy" brain chemical) and social media does that for me. When I'm mindlessly scrolling, a lot of times, I'm helping my brain take a break. 

How long have I been scrolling? It's not uncommon for me to set a literal timer. After this point, I need to do something else. In this way, I know I'm not wasting hours of my time.

How am I feeling as I'm scrolling? Do I feel more anxious? Is it making me feel more creative? Do I feel motivated?

Asking these questions will help you self-identify if you are using social media to mask feelings of trauma, to live vicariously through someone else, to gain information, or something else; understanding your motivation can help hone in on why it might - or might not - be toxic for you. It is also important to determine which platforms elicit which responses from you. Instagram might be toxic for you, but TikTok is great; you might be a prolific Twitter user but balk at the idea of Facebook. It is a good idea to ask yourself why this.

Finally, if scrolling through social media has actually revealed something about you to you - maybe you did not realize that your mom leaving you in the car for an hour at a time was traumatic and neglectful, but a thread told you it was actually abusive - you can and should find a mental health professional. Facebook groups are great - but they don't take the place of trained professionals. We can educate ourselves, but it can be instrumental to learn from someone taught to educate us, especially during our teenage years.

You are not alone, nor are you the lone person just trying to figure out how to be social without social media being your only social life as you develop in your teenage years. You can get help.