Is Social Media Making You Unhappy?

Feeling left out? Your digital life may be an isolating factor.

If you spend a lot of time online engaging with social media sites, you may feel as if people you know are always partying, and you never received an invitation. You are not alone. Thanks to the magic of technology, anyone can make his or her life look like an ongoing celebration with lots of friends and fun times. As a result, many people viewing their friends’ carefully crafted social media pages may experience an ongoing fear of missing out, a.k.a. FOMO.

“We only see part of the story through what is being posted on social media and miss out on the context,” says Timothy Volbrecht, LPC, CSAC, Licensed Professional Counselor with Prevea Health. “In the absence of this context, our brains create information about being excluded. This can cause fear, anxiety, anger, and/or depression, along with a growing sense of insecurity or instability.”

In addition, those perfectly tailored online posts do not depict the struggles of everyday life. They also subtly encourage viewers to constantly compare. Is your job or vacation good enough? Is your house big enough?

“The need to have more of X, Y, or Z generates unrealistic expectations in our lives,” Volbrecht says. “We wonder what we have done wrong because we don’t have what others do. That can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and increased stress.”

According to Volbrecht, many people continue to use social media regardless of their FOMO because of the short-term pleasurable feeling that comes when others respond positively to their social media posts. This leads to more comparisons and creates a cycle of feeling dissatisfied.

Tips to Shift the Narrative

Social media can be a useful tool to stay engaged with family and friends when used sparingly. Pay attention to how it affects your moods and self-talk. If you notice that you feel drained or sad after going online, step away for a bit. Set limits on how much time you spend on social media. Do your best to use it only to send positive messages, arrange activities with loved ones, and connect with people you care about.

“Limiting time on social media allows your mind to take a break and refresh itself,” Volbrecht says. “Technology will continue to be a presence in our lives, but we have the ability to make decisions about how much and when we connect with other people through our devices and screens.” 

Are you concerned about your child’s online relationships, behavioral changes, or mood? Call 715.717.5899 to set up an appointment with a Prevea Behavioral Care counselor.

Spending time communicating via screens is convenient, but to truly connect with one another and life, try unplugging from devices.

“Scrolling through feeds and messages contributes to a sense of disconnection from the people around us,” says Timothy Volbrecht, LPC, CSAC, Licensed Professional Counselor with Prevea Health. “If we cut down on technology use, we can be more present for the meaningful activities and relationships that make life truly fulfilling.”

You may also be interested in “Keep Social Media a Safe Place for Your Child.”