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Why introverts need a break from social media

Woman using facebook on phone

Who would have thought that social media platforms would evolve into the juggernauts they are today?

From teenagers to soccer moms to grandpas, practically the entire world has a presence on sites like Facebook.

To be fair, such platforms certainly came in handy last year at the onset of this seemingly endless pandemic, when people across the world were forced put their in-person social lives on hold and hunker down. 

It gave us a way to stay connected with friends and family. Sure, pictures, videos, and likes were no substitute for the real thing, but at least it kept us abreast of significant events -- from work promotions to baby announcements -- in the lives of those who matter most to us. 

But as the saying goes, everything has its pros and cons. And social media has an  unmistakably dark side. 

Sites like Facebook have become a breeding ground for drawing comparisons between ourselves and others -- largely thanks to the continuous stream of videos and posts that saturate our News Feeds. 

Friends, relatives, and acquaintances post photos and clips of themselves with their partner or family enjoying what appears to be the perfect vacation or expensive restaurant meal. Nothing but smiles and hugs. 

Some of the content might be more pedestrian, like a picture of a friend and her boyfriend with the caption, "I couldn't be happier to have this man in my life."

Now, let's be clear: There is nothing wrong with communicating to the world that you're having a good time and enjoying life. I've done it myself on many occasions. 

The problem lies with those who do it in order to:

  • Mask underlying problems in their personal or professional lives
  • Compensate for something they perceive as missing from their lives 
  • Show off and make others envious of them
In the first example, putting a happy face on a bad situation will only exacerbate pain and suffering. Instead, they should reach out to their contacts for support or enlist the help of a professional. 

Secondly, showing off on social media is just distasteful. These folks are partly to blame for what the first group I just mentioned goes through. It's the show-offs who put more pressure on others to signal that they're just as happy, even though these people may be going through serious financial, health, or relationship problems. 

Unfortunately, introverts -- who are sometimes prone to bouts of low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and other adverse outcomes -- are no exception. As the pictures and video clips continue to trickle in, we find ourselves comparing our lives to others' -- prompting such questions as:
  • "Why couldn't my life be like theirs?" 
  • "Why can't I be that rich or attractive?"
  • "How do I get my relationship to be that perfect?"
  • "Where did I go off track?"

One thing for introverts to keep in mind is that those pictures and videos don't tell the full story. 

No one has a perfect life, even if they may aim to project as much on social media. 

Chances are they may be facing problems we would want nothing to do with, but are keeping them under wraps (which they have every right to do). No one wants to be a Negative Nancy. 

Rather than comparing yourself to these people, here's a far sounder strategy: Compare yourself to an earlier version of you.

It could be the person you were six months ago, a year ago, or even 10 years ago. 

Now, ask yourself this: 

  • Have you made significant progress?
  • Have you grown stronger and wiser since?
  • How many issues have you resolved in that time frame?
  • What steps can you take to further improve yourself?
  • Which goals do you aim to achieve moving forward?
I'd be willing to bet that you can come up with a whole host of answers. 

Did you notice, though, how this exercise could change one's frame of mind entirely?

Whenever you're feeling dour because of what you're seeing on social media, follow these tips:
  • Limit your social media time and focus on other things that you enjoy or that put you at ease 
  • If they're bothering you that much, perhaps adjust your settings so that posts from certain people are blocked 
  • Remind yourself that these folks could be dealing with a lot worse stuff behind closed doors
  • Be grateful, because you probably have it better than a lot of these people -- if not financially, then mentally/emotionally 

Taking a break can help you refocus on yourself in a mindful, non-judgmental way. Meditate. Take deep breaths. Go out and commune with nature. 

Spending so many hours of your day on Facebook or Twitter just isn't healthy. It can make you fall behind on your work and get in the way of more pressing matters. 

Even something like taking the dog for a walk or hitting up the gym can help to disrupt your pattern of negative thinking. A wonderful world out there beckons! 

The more time you allocate to others' Facebook content, the less time you have available for the things and people that actually bring you delight, for the projects and interests that keep you engaged. 

Though not as draining as in-person encounters, social media can wind up being physically and mentally draining for many an introvert. It can tempt us into drawing comparisons between ourselves and others, which can leave us feeling dejected and inadequate.

If parents notice that their introverted child is finding it too difficult to break loose from social media -- especially if he or she shows signs of depression or anxiety -- they can do the following:

  • Adjust permissions/settings on the sites
  • Limit how much time the child spends on social media
  • If all else fails, have him or her see a counselor 

If you must stay connected, stream a movie or show. Watch a fascinating documentary. Check out cat clips on YouTube. The more you can distract your mind, the more you loosen social media's firm grip. 

Whether you're watching TV with your kids, having dinner with your spouse, or trying to get through a novel, it's imperative you get in the habit of putting the phone aside. Otherwise, you may watch your life pass you by. 


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