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Social Media and Mental Health: How Stress Awareness Day Can Play a Role

Stress Awareness Day falls on the first Wednesday of November each year, this year falling on November 3rd. Many people find November and December to be the most stressful months of the year due to the holidays, the extra income needed, the shorter days, and so much more. It’s so prevalent that this is actually the fourth time I’m writing this blog this year; different iterations, of course, but I have written about Stress Awareness Day for three clients already. 

We’re going in a slightly different direction for this Smarter Searches blog, though. We know why people have stressors during the ‘happiest time of the year’, but we’re going to take it a step further and discuss the role that social media plays in stress management and overall mental health. As social media takes up a large chunk of my everyday life, both professionally and personally, I feel right at home discussing the larger role that it can play.

People are meant to connect with one another; that’s one thing that sets us apart from animals, that and opposable thumbs. Connecting with friends and family helps us to feel happier, less stressed, and can even add years to our lives. So shouldn’t social media be something that always helps? At first glance, you may think so: social media was created in order to let us connect with others: we can reconnect with our favorite teacher from elementary school on Facebook, we can follow celebrities on Instagram and see their fabulous lives, and we can stay up to date with all the memes and new trends floating around on Twitter and TikTok. When looking at platforms like LinkedIn, social media even allows us to network, find new jobs, and learn about our industry or hobbies. 

These all sound great! So what’s the catch? Let’s go back to the “following celebrities on Instagram to see their fabulous lives” part – this part is where the negative effects of social media come into play. When people do this often, they start to compare themselves to these celebrities. They start to feel inadequate in their own life because they don’t have that fancy car, home chef, or physical trainer. They also don’t edit every photo, get BBLs, or liposuction like many celebrities today. Some people can get too invested, or even obsessed, with trying to live like celebrities they see scrolling their feed; oftentimes trying to become an influencer themselves. While doing what you can to better yourself – eating right, working out, etc. – is a wonderful thing to do, doing so for the wrong reasons or taking it too extreme to look like or become your favorite celebrity is not good for your overall mental or physical health.

Everyone at the office knows that I love the Kardashians (still, sorry not sorry) and that I am jealous of the fact that they somehow have a G Wagon in every color. But do I let that affect my day-to-day life? Of course not! I can admire their fitness routines while realizing they’ve also had work done, I can wear Kylie Cosmetics or KKW without the hope of contouring my face so much I turn into a Kardashian, and I can admire the work (some disagree on this, but I digress) that they’ve put into creating this sort of lifestyle for themselves. 

Admiring someone in a healthy way is completely fine, whether that is someone you know or a celebrity. When that turns into an obsession and you try to do everything they do, regardless of what it is, that’s when issues start. 

There’s a trend going on around TikTok right now that I absolutely love. It’s called “social media isn’t real” and it shows beautiful women and men showing the pictures they post and immediately cutting to the real, unedited photo. The differences are insane. The amount of editing that influencers, celebrities, and even ‘normal’ people put into the images they post is more than anyone would think. I hope this trend continues to grow so that people understand that what you post isn’t everything and what you see may not even be real. 

While knowing this information helps me not become obsessed or overwhelmed, I also know that I spend 10+ hours a day on social media – both for work and for fun – and I’m very well versed in all of its pros and cons. When treated the right way, social media can be an amazing thing – I was able to invite my favorite teacher from high school to my wedding because we’re friends on Facebook and I’m able to watch my cousins’ children grow up on Instagram. But know that there are limits and signs to look for. If you find yourself becoming self-absorbed, stressed, anxious, or depressed when constantly logging on, take a break. 

While it’s nice to connect with family, friends, and even celebrities on social media, you must put yourself and your mental health first. Use social media in a positive way and don’t let the negative parts rule your life. If they start to, log off and tell your best friend about it – she can help keep you accountable and ensure you don’t log on. I’ve done this with my friends multiple times when things are just too much, and trust me, it works. 

So, on Stress Awareness Day, take a moment to think about the role social media plays in your life. Do you log on for a break during the day or do you spend 5pm – 10pm scrolling? Do you share pictures with your friends or do you spend hours editing the perfect photo to post? There are many healthy ways to use social media but we understand how easy it is to get lost in it all. It’s 2021 and that is more common than you may think, so just remember to put yourself first, and don’t let social media run your life.

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