We all know how useful social media can be when it comes to chatting with our friends, sharing photos, and making plans. But, not many of us are aware of all the negative and even dangerous side effects of spending too much time on it. Everything that we see on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can affect our real life. Here are some ways in which social media can impact you and your relationships.
It can lower your self-esteem
Unfortunately, what many people do on social media is constantly seek validation (even though they will never admit that). Everything they post on their social profiles is supposed to make them appear more popular than they might be, since that’s how they want others to see them. However, what this actually does is make them way too dependent on the attention they get, which makes their self-esteem drop to zero the moment they don’t get as much validation as they need.
Plus, social media has been shown to make people more self-conscious about their appearance because they are constantly comparing what they see in the mirror to their profile pictures. If they can’t always reach the same level of “perfection” their profile shows – disregarding the filters and the amount of Photoshop most of them use – they start to believe that they are simply not as good as they could be.
Also, chatting online is much easier since, well, nobody can actually see you. But what happens when the person you texted online wants to actually meet in real life? For some people, how they appear online can be completely different from how they would act in person, and they just can’t seem to show the same amount of online confidence in real-life situations.
It can ruin your relationships
Besides affecting your self-esteem, social media can influence your relationships as well. For example, if your significant other likes posting photos of themselves with their friends, co-workers, and pretty much everybody but you, it might make you feel jealous, which could shake up your relationship – and not in a good way. Similarly, if you keep seeing photos of all those happy couples all over Instagram, you might start questioning your own relationship because theirs look so perfect, even though there’s no way for you to know what those kinds of relationships actually look like behind all those endless selfies and “cute” nicknames. Also, no matter how many times we hear the infamous phrase “we are just friends”, we all know how easy it is to fall under the temptation of chatting with our exes, or how hard it is to reject that cute guy’s compliments when an interesting chat is only a few keyboard clicks away.
In the end, the most valuable thing you can give each other is your time, so if your partner is spending hours on Facebook posting selfies and trying to get more likes than the day before, it’s safe to assume that they are probably not spending enough time with you, and your relationship is bound to suffer.
It can lead to emotional issues
Unsurprisingly, social media has been shown to lead to depression, loneliness, envy, anxiety, narcissism, and reduced social skills. Everything we see on Facebook and other social networks is mostly positive and cheerful, which is, let’s face it, often far from the reality. However, as that is the only thing we see, we might think that everybody else is leading a perfect life, except us. And since it is completely normal to compare one thing to another, when we start comparing our life to the lives we see on Facebook or Instagram, we usually fall short, which can make us roll into a blanket burrito and contemplate all our life choices.
What can you do about it?
The first thing you need to do is (surprise, surprise) spend less time on social media. If you are in a relationship, you should make spending quality time together your top priority. If it’s already quite a serious problem for you, take baby steps by spending 20 minutes with each other without your phones, and increase that time as you become more comfortable away from the Internet.
If you just can’t help but post every single detail of your life online, check with your significant other whether it is really okay to post that silly photo of the two of you together. Usually (and hopefully), one partner in a relationship is less active on social media than the other. So, if your partner is more down-to-earth, let them influence your behavior a bit – focus on your relationship in real life instead of what you show online.
If nothing seems to work for you and you notice the signs of your relationship falling apart, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help. If going to therapist seems too much, try to consider online counseling, just don’t allow social media to ruin something good if you can save it.
Finally, the phrase that should become your guide ‒ if you wouldn’t do it in person, don’t do it online. In real life, we have quite real and much more obvious social boundaries, which social networks tend to blur. So, before you write any inappropriate comment that might seem “funny” at the moment, think whether you’d dare say something like that to the person if they were standing right in front of you.
Getting addicted to social networks can cause numerous emotional problems, which can then lead to physical ones, and before you know it, your health and your relationships can be ruined by something that is not even real. With that in mind, pay attention to the amount of time you spend on social media, be aware of its illusions, and don’t let it guide your life. Online relationships can never be as valuable and fulfilling as the real ones, so do your best to focus on what truly matters in your life.
Isabel is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.