Ever feel jealous, angry, or sad after looking at someone’s Facebook updates? Ever posted something that you regretted later? Ever cringe when you see a friend post something way too personal for the whole world wide web to see?
I think we have all had some level of Facebook drama at one time or another, but social networking sites can actually cause significant mental health symptoms for some people. Check out this study that showed the more time a person spent on Facebook, the less happy and less satisfied they tended to be.
1. Monitor your overall use. Sounds simple, but you may be surprised by how much time you actually spend online. Over 3/4 of Facebook users login every day to check their account. Most spend at least 45 minutes a day.
2. Consider disabling Facebook on your smart phone. If your phone allows a Facebook app that sends you alerts, you are more likely to get sucked into Facebook activity, even if you aren’t sitting down at your computer.
3. Get your needs met in healthier ways. If you find yourself posting updates in order to get sympathy from others, you run the risk of being disappointed by a lack of a response or pushing others away. No one likes to constantly see pessimistic rants from their friends. Misery loves company, but it can also be emotionally draining to be around negative people.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Easier said than done, right? One of the main reasons people get down while spending time on Facebook is that it can be a constant arena for social competition. Cute babies, advanced degrees, new cars, fitness goals achieved and vacations are all happy occasions that people love to share. If we are prone to jealousy or self-doubt, it is easy to feel less-than by comparing how we stack up against others. A key sign that you are getting too much Facebook time is when you stop sharing in others’ joys and start feeling resentful or jealous.
5. Think before you post. Try to avoid posting when your emotional brain is active and your logical brain has taken the day off. If you anticipate an evening of drinking or drug use, disable your access to Facebook. Worst case scenario: you can always delete an unflattering post, but sometimes even a short-lived post can be damaging. Nowadays, many employers search Facebook to find information about job applicants or current employees.
6. Be careful who you befriend. My own policy is that I don’t accept friend requests from people I’ve never met in person and I never accept friend requests from current or former clients. In general, it’s a good idea to avoid those who hold positions of power over you, like your boss or supervisors. Facebook also allows you to block certain people from your posts.
Facebook can be a great way to connect with friends we otherwise don’t see because life just gets in the way sometimes. Just make sure it serves a positive purpose in your life and doesn’t cause you distress. If you find yourself getting irritable or bummed out due to Facebook, take a time out and connect with the real-world for a moment. Social media and networking sites can be great, but there simply is no substitute for sunshine, nature, physical exercise, and face to face connection.