It’s complicated.

That’s a relationship status on Facebook, but it’s also a summary of our relationship with social media.

Social media sites can bring us together and produce a range of positive results. They can also tear us apart and wreak havoc on our mental health. Oddly, they can do many of these things at the same time.

For example, we may be browsing Facebook or Instagram and see pictures of our cousin’s baby son or daughter. This might be a reason to celebrate. It also might be a reason to grieve, if we want children ourselves and can’t have them.

Emotions are difficult, so it’s no surprise that we may find it difficult to process emotions produced by social media. People may internalize their bad feelings and act out on them. They may abuse alcohol or drugs or criticize themselves.

These tactics don’t work and can make us feel even worse than we did before. There are healthier ways to process our emotions, though, and healthier ways to use social media:

1. Enjoy, but don’t compare

Yes, people post pictures and other information about their lives on social media, but are they truly an accurate depiction of their lives?

Do you know anyone in real life who has a perfect life? Probably not. Why do we think that online lives are perfect, then? Sure, everything may look fun and beautiful, but people are showing edited, curated versions of their lives, not the whole messy, imperfect pictures.

The glossy, curated pictures on social media may lead you to compare yourself to others. They may make you forget that you have good things in your own life. But, you do have them, and remind yourself of them. Heck, you may even want to look at your old social media posts to do this. Keep in mind what Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

2. Remember that you don’t have do everything or know everyone

On a related note, you could be seeing posts about fun things and fun people. They may make you feel bad that you’re not doing those fun things or spending time with those fun people.

This anxiety has even prompted a new abbreviation, FOMO, or fear of missing out. People may be worried that they’re not experiencing all that they need to experience or not being all that they need to be.

Again, remember that social media depicts a sliver of life, not all of life. People may be doing things and posting them on social media, but they’re not depicting the entirety of their lives. You won’t be able to do everything, but neither will they.

Focus on a few things that you enjoy doing and find fulfilling, instead of trying to do and be everything. Living with intent and contentment is better than trying to check a series of boxes of things you think you should do.

3. Disconnect from time to time

Think about your life outside of social media. There are things that you like to do offline, right? You have friends and family members who enjoy spending time with you because you’re you. Social media can be a good way to connect and stay connected, but it’s not the only way to be social.

Consider meeting your friends for an actual face-to-face conversation instead of chatting with them online. Such meetings can help improve your mental health by reducing stress and depression, but did you know they may also benefit your physical health? One researcher said that people who had less social contact faced almost the same risk of death as people who smoked.

While social media can connect people, it can affect our mental health. We can be social without social media. We can use such sites in healthier, more productive ways.

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