Social media. It virtually rules some (inevitable) aspect of the modern woman’s life. It is seemingly inescapable. As a millennial woman myself, I have thought about how social media affects my mental health on a daily basis. Well, maybe a “thought” was a bit generous. It’s swiftly crossed my mind, but then it’s back to the double-tap on Instagram.
What’s the Stat?
But what happens when a like or retweet is harmful to your mental health? A 2018 University of Notre Dame study found that for young adult women (ages 18-23), Instagram made them feel worse towards their bodies and physical appearance. For women in their mid-20’s, Instagram made them feel an inadequacy towards their work and lifestyle. I do not want the notion of this piece to be that social media is evil. There has always been some type of medium to transmit these pressures. However, only in this modern, technological age is the medium easily accessible at all times. Generations previous were forced to adhere to magazines, television, radio, and the everlasting tie to “keep up with the Jones’.” So how exactly does social media affect our mental health? Let’s start with the actual physical development of the young adult brain.
There are neurobiological changes in the brain structure and function that extend well into the early/mid 20’s. During the developmental phase of “emerging adulthood”, one would have adopted adulthood responsibilities while simultaneously straddling adolescent tendencies. Compounded by societal pressures and norms, do you understand how the cards can be stacked against young women? And how that affects our mental health? In other words, you are completely normal for feeling less-than-your best after taking a scroll down your Explore Page. As empowered women, we know that we are the captain of our life’s ship, we are the creator of our realities, and we have more power to shift our own narrative than we may give ourselves credit for. And because we take our feminine power seriously, there’s several things we can do to counteract these affects.
Firstly, curate your content. Take a good look at your social media platforms, are you still the same person you were when you followed all these pages/people? Do you still have the EXACT same interests or have you picked up some new hobbies? Unfollow those pages that you do not interact with. Unfollow that person or page that triggers you, even in the slightest way. As the captain of your life’s ship, you are entitled to scroll freely without being triggered into a negative pattern of thinking. Replace some of those pages with uplifting accounts. Sincerely Essie is a great, motivational account that is dedicated to empowering women and spreading positivity. By surrounding yourself with pages that remind you are not alone in womanhood, it can make the mundane Instagram scroll not so tedious. You may even find yourself excited to see what new content you’ll see on your feed!
Secondly, take advantage of the ‘Close Friends’ feature on Instagram. Naturally, we may feel the need to post the things that will give us the highest quantity of likes. However, sometimes, those things can be an unnecessary, additional pressure. By utilizing the ‘Close Friends’ feature, you are able to select your audience, then post for their viewing only. It can be liberating to post without question and know that your content is in a safe space in which only those whom love and care about you will view.
Lastly, take a break. No – seriously. Take a break. Depending on where you are in your womanhood journey, sometimes social media can teeter the scales too much. Try challenging yourself to a weekday cleanse. Delete your social apps on Sunday evening, challenge yourself to go Monday through Friday without, see how you feel at the end of the week. With time, you should start to feel a sense of relief. This way, you are finding other means to use your time during the week.
However you choose to look at your personal relationship with social media, it is okay to acknowledge that sometimes the cons outweigh the pros. As a means to protect ourselves, it is also okay to step back and re-evaluate if our social content aligns with who we are today. Whatever path you take, I honor you. I see you.