• Evelyn DeJesus, LCSW

The Self, Relationships and the Fallacy of Social Media Connection

As I sit writing this blog, I think to myself, “How many people are actually going to read this? Will it make a difference in anyone’s life?We all to some extent make posts so that others will relate to what we share. Social media plays a huge part on how individuals across the world “connect” to each other, whether its Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter. According to a survey conducted by Nielsen Ratings, the total time spent on social media by United States citizens is approximately 121 billion minutes. So, if all of us are glued to a screen, when are we physically making true in-person connections with others?

Studies show that the use of social media influences our emotional, psychological and physical health. I’ve been a witness to this in my use of social media. There are times I am up, can’t sleep and so what do I do? I pick up my phone and either play a game or simply scroll through the several social media platforms that I use. If I’m lucky, I get sleepy and soon fall asleep. But if not, then I am wired and before you know it, I have to be up in a couple hours to get ready for work. I become anxious, can get to sleep, then feel exhausted the entire day due to lack of sleep.

As much as social media can bring people together, it can also negatively impact one’s sense of self. We hear about teens emotionally breaking down and in some cases, killing themselves because of what was said about them on Snapchat, or via text. Becoming a victim to cyber-bullying increases the risk of depression and anxiety. And teens are not the only ones who experience this type of negativity. Many adults will argue, name call, troll and slander individuals online. And before you know it, you have full blown online war. Online character assassinations are real. They can negatively affect one's home life, work, and overall well-being.

Social media bombards us with all kinds of information. Some of it is interesting, funny or entertaining, while some of it, in my opinion, is just plain ridiculous But continue scrolling, and chances are that you will come across some very disturbing posts. These include, violence, abuse towards women, children, or animals. Think of what it does to your brain. You may not be physically exposed to violence, misery, hate, etc. but your mind is rapidly taking in visual and auditory stimuli that can make you feel vulnerable, afraid or calloused and disconnected. Then when met with real-life experience that warrants your involvement, you don't know how to actually deal with it. You’ve become so numb or disconnected that nothing phases you.

Ask yourself how much information you share face-to-face about yourself with strangers. On social media, we are an open book. We post pics of ourselves, our children, family members, pets, etc. As for privacy settings, they are somewhat of an illusion. Once it’s posted it’s out there.

Self-care is important if you spend a lot of time on social media. Some of us have to carry some kind of electronic device because of the work we do. But that also means that we are always looking at some kind of screen.

So what can you do if social media becomes addictive, overwhelming, or you get triggered or disturbed by an online post?

1. Take a break.

If you are constantly checking social media, make it a point to cut back on the amount of time you spend online. For some it may mean cutting back for an hour or two. For others, it may require a day or week of no social media.

2. What you read or see on social media is not absolute truth.

I know. Common sense, right? Yes and no. Because we are social creatures, what we see, hear and say about ourselves and others, often becomes the basis of how we develop connections. Who’s behind the one hundred smiling selfies? Are they really always happy? Makes me think about the many times that folks have said to me that I should've smiled on my social media pic. you need to Actually, no. I don't need to smile and especially if I’m not feeling it.

Then we have the author of posts claiming how life should be

because “they’ve figured it all out and now they want to impart their truth to you. Do these authors really have their act so together that they feel they can tell others how things should be? Or are they hiding behind every written word because deep down they are simply trying to figure life out?

3. Make face-to-face contact with people.

How many of your so called social media friends do you actually know? Do you know all 2,457 “friends”, connections, etc. Probably not. Attempt to develop connections with friends, families or co-workers. Actually get together and spend some time with each other. Oh and please put your phones away.

4. If you feel you can’t break away from social media, and have other addictions, you can always seek help.

Even if you don’t have any “addictions,” the use of social media can become one. It keeps us from establishing real connections, it takes up a lot of time where we could be actively doing something productive, like cleaning house, staying focused at work, having a meal with family or friends.

Remember. Be mindful about how and why you use social media. Social media and technology, has its place and purpose. It’s all about balance.

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