During the past decade, social networking has caused extreme changes in the way people communicate and interact. Today, we are rarely alone, especially teenagers. There is constant pressure to be available at all times; talking, posting, messaging, liking, sharing, writing, commenting, interacting – the social pressures are unrelenting.

You feel as though you are never doing enough, or good enough, all while comparing your ‘status’ and ‘life’ to other’s, who are perfectly photographed, timed and sculpted to perfection. Pressure to be perfect, to look perfect, act perfect, have the perfect body, eat the perfect food or have perfect amount of likes on Instagram. Perfect, perfect, perfect. If you don’t meet these ridiculously high standards, insert self-loathing, low self-esteem and cyber bullying.

There’s no separation between a life online and one offline. It’s become all consuming and very difficult  to know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t.

Besides the exhaustion of trying to keep up, this new environment is training our younger generation to value themselves based on the number of likes they get, types of comments they receive, pictures they post and how many followers they have. There’s no separation between a life online and one offline. It’s become all consuming and very difficult  to know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t. What is truly authentic and genuine and what’s digitally enhanced… {which is almost everything that gets posted}. The lines become blurred of knowing if we are viewing a highlighted version in someone’s life versus what’s normal in the context of everyday. But worse, we then use these momentary highlighted glimpses as a way to judge and compare our own life, looks, body, and success.

“Comparison is the thief of joy”

When it comes to our impressionable younger generation, what are they searching and finding for inspiration? Today, images of girls covering Instagram are endless. Images of girls showing off parts of their body, or their whole body, being praised, liked and followed for it, is becoming a norm. Women are taking off more, showing more, posing for attention, in a quest of approval from the online world. Trends like #thinspiration, #thighgap, #bikinibridge, and #proana are raging on media platforms as outlets for girls to find body inspiration in. These trends become merged with the stereotyping and notorious objectification of women in today’s culture. Boys are not totally immune to it either. Studies show body image concerns in boys have been growing, as they chase the pursuit of perfection for the chiseled jaw lined, ripped six packs, and big muscles, seen in the superhero-like, muscular action figure and playboy music artists.

There is a connection between heightened social media use and deteriorated mental health.

When you stand back and look at the situation, it’s not surprising that current research indicates there is a connection between heightened social media use and deteriorated mental health. Numerous studies have found connections link to; increased depression, anxiety, eating disorders, compulsive behaviour, loneliness, narcissism and low self-esteem.

The self-exposure one feels from engaging in social media, triggers the fundamental reward system of the brain – in much of the same way powerful rewards of food and intimacy do.

Social media is obviously undeniably popular. It is now our culture. But what is it that makes us so attached to it, at the expense of all these damaging mental health effects? Recent neuropsychological research holds a potential answer: the self-exposure one feels from engaging in social media, triggers the fundamental reward system of the brain – in much of the same way powerful rewards of food and intimacy do. Interesting connection?!

Start Your Heartfelt Social Media Detox

To begin the process of changing your feelings about your body and the relationship with have with yourself, it is vital to evaluate the ways in which you expose yourself to these constant, potentially damaging messages.

  1. Unplug for “X” amount of time per day (choose a realistic amount of time that your life allows. I.e; 30min / 1 hr/ 1.5hrs)
  2. With this time, meditate, go for a walk, take an exercise class, read, take a bath, go for coffee with a friend – do something to connect with yourself, for yourself, that brings you happiness.
  3. No iPhone, computer, tv, Netfix, Instagram, Facebook, etc.

When we do engage in social media, we can start to take responsibility for the types of pictures and comments we are choosing to post on our platforms. Try to make compliments to people based on their efforts, abilities, talents and actions, rather than just their appearance. 

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