Social media is in one word powerful. It allows us to connect with and build relationships with people all over the world in a matter of seconds—which I think we can all agree is truly amazing. But is it too powerful? Since the development of social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, we’ve dedicated a good chunk of time to scrolling through our feeds and watching the lives of others unfold.
And sometimes doing so doesn’t make us feel so great about ourselves. In fact, more often than not, too much time on social media contributes to a low self-esteem. So how can we enjoy all that social media offers and ensure our self-esteem stays intact at the same time? Here are four essentials:
1) Foster confidence within—don’t rely on appearance.
First, your confidence shouldn’t be based solely on your looks. Many of us post pictures of ourselves to Instagram and Facebook in search of validation—hoping all 800 of our followers or friends will like the post and maybe even leave a nice comment. And depending on the actual feedback we receive, we experience either a rise or a dip in self-esteem. Instead of letting your looks and resulting approval (or disapproval) from others determine your self-esteem, boost your confidence in ways that aren’t appearance-related. Pick up a hobby that you enjoy and find pride in. And then share your experiences—whether they be with painting, working out, knitting, or rock-climbing—on social media with the goal of inspiring others and making yourself feel good at the same time.
2) Be picky about who you befriend and follow.
There’s absolutely no reason to follow a person or page that consistently diminishes your self-esteem. Choose who you befriend and who you follow wisely, as their social media use and habits will have a direct effect on you. Say one of your friends shares nonstop pictures of himself hanging out with your ex; and every time you see these pictures you feel a punch to the gut. Sure, this person might be your friend, but following them on Instagram or Snapchat obviously isn’t doing you any good. Therefore, it might be a good idea to unfollow them. If you’re worried about them taking this personally, simply explain your situation. They’ll understand. Now, onto what and who you should follow: make it a goal to fill your feeds with uplifting and beneficial content. Users, pages, and posts that inspire and inform. If you’re into traveling, follow world travelers. If you really like to cook, follow chefs and foodies. Do what you can to make your experience on social media the best it can be.
3) Limit your time on social media.
Even if you follow the last rule and only follow people and pages that inspire you, you should limit your scrolling time. It’s not healthy for anyone to spend each morning, day, and night switching back and forth between Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter feeds. Be intentional in how much time you spend on your phone, as well as when you allow yourself that time. It might be best to allocate social media time for the middle of the day, as scrolling first thing in the morning can start your day off in a negative tailspin and scrolling right before bed can result in sleep deprivation. So, make it a habit to log off an hour or so before you plan on heading to bed, and avoid the temptation of checking your phone seconds after awaking. And when you do sign on during the day, set limits for yourself; perhaps allowing yourself 10-15 minutes on a given platform.
4) Remember that social media is a highlight reel.
The past few tips will help keep your self-esteem intact and drastically improve your social media experience as a whole, but I have one final and essential tip for you: you must remember that social media is a highlight reel. In other words, people only put their best foot forward. We’re programmed to share only the most flattering pictures and redeeming posts. Think about it: you’ve probably seen a friend share exciting news about accepting a new job, getting engaged, or traveling the world. But you probably haven’t seen many posts about a friend getting fired, being dumped, or canceling a vacation they were excited about. And chances are, you’re very particular about the content you post as well—careful to share the best picture of the bunch and only the most gratifying statuses. Remember this as you scroll through the beautiful travel and food photos that grace your screen. Sure, the pictures are nothing but beautiful, but the person on the other side of the screen are imperfectly human just like you.