Written for Face It Today, an organization committed to empowering girls by teaching them important life skills, including how to take care of themselves and to feel confident in who they are.
I’m going to start out with some words from Mackenzie’s latest post “Too Social or Not Too Social?”, because I don’t think I can really say it better than she already did. A very simple line from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s piece Self-Reliance tells us that ‘envy is ignorance’. Mackenzie says, “When Emerson compares envy to ignorance, he is telling the reader that when you become jealous you are choosing to ignore the amazing things going on in your own life. It’s kind of crazy to me that these three sweet little words that Emerson wrote in the 19th century can still hold so much relevance in our society today. ”
How relatable is that? Admitting that we do experience envy, when we are jealous of somebody else or wanting what they have instead of what we have, can be difficult, but the truth is that we all feel it. And whether you’re aware of it or not, social media has a way of feeding that envious, comparison-junkie part in all of us. Something I work a lot on with girls is how to not let instagram get the best of them...how to use social media for good rather than allowing it to destroy their confidence or authenticity.
Here are some tips to make the best of social media instead of letting it get the best of you:
1. Prune your feed. Are there certain pages, celebrities, or acquaintances that you often compare yourself to, judge, or otherwise feel negative towards yourself or others when you see their posts? This can also apply to former friends or exes that you’d just be better off not knowing what they’re up to. Think about what accounts you can unfollow (I’ll often unfollow celebrities or promotional accounts that are less personal) and what accounts you can mute (which is a great feature for people whose posts and stories you’d rather not come across, but you don’t necessarily want to unfollow).
The caveat here is that if you unfollow or block someone, they aren’t notified but they can find out through other apps, or through looking at their followers list, which is why muting is such a great new feature! Trust me, cleaning up who and what is showing up on your feed can make a world of a difference! There are a lot of good, fun, inspirational accounts out there too that are really uplifting and helpful, so look for those!
2. Use social media as a positive outlet to do things like: find role models, be a role model, socialize, connect, share your story, make friends, keep friends, use your voice, promote things, be creative, express yourself, get help....Social media is awesome for these great things and more. BUT, my addendum here is to be careful not to use social media as your only platform for these things. Don’t let it simply replace other healthy social/creative/expressive outlets. Try not to take it too seriously, and, in all of this, stay authentic.
3. Start doing a gut-check when you’re scrolling through. I can specifically remember one day last year when I was getting ready to fly home from a weekend girls trip in San Francisco, already feeling the Sunday blues and sad to be leaving my friends. I found myself so deep in the insta-abyss that I lost track of time and almost missed my flight. Not only that, but I was in an even worse mood, feeling sad and negative, after scrolling through and scrutinizing what other people had been doing over the weekend. AND my butt was numb from those awful plastic airport chairs. Why??? I had just had a great weekend with my besties from college and was heading home to be back with my hubby and my dog, yet I was bitterly comparing myself, my life, and my body to random people based on how their lives looked. “envy is ignorance!”
When I realized all of this as the airplane doors closed and I made it to my seat, I deleted the instagram app and decided to take a week-long hiatus. I was suddenly so aware of how badly I was allowing it to make me feel, and how much it was cutting me off from my own life. Not having access to it for just a week truly did a world of good for my confidence, my mood, and my ability to enjoy my own wonderful. Every so often I’ll take a break from instagram to reorient myself back to reality and just notice the difference it makes for me, and I encourage others to do the same.
4. This one is for the parents. I know that it can be disappointing to watch your teens be addicted to their phones and it impact them negatively. But what I’ve seen is that criticizing it, banning social media or trying to micromanage their use is generally not helpful. In fact, your negativity towards their phone or their instagram/snapchat will likely make it more enticing to them. And the bigger picture truth is that these platforms are not going anywhere...they will be a part of your kids’ everyday life, social development and mental health, and their future whether you like it or not. I’ve seen kids who are having difficulties with peers, anxiety or stress become more depressed and anxious when their phones are taken away as punishment, because they become even more isolated and cut-off from connection and socialization. Having open conversations about it and setting limits with phone use is absolutely recommended, but remember that your kids are watching you, and if for example, you ask them to put their phone away during certain times, you need to do the same.
- Rachel Daggett, LMFT, FIT expert contributor
This piece was written for Face It Today, an organization committed to empowering girls by teaching them important life skills, including how to take care of themselves and to feel confident in who they are.