As the first generation of social media children matures into adults, we have to wonder how are these platforms transforming our society? Is their impact positive or negative?

Some people who are concerned by the impact of social media are sponsoring what they have called a “Scroll Free September,” when people are supposed to curtail their use of social media. But is a complete boycott the right approach for you? How should you respond if you find that social media isn’t making you happy, that all the smiles in your selfies are forced and all your happy pictures staged? This is a very hard question and we don’t have an answer, yet, only a few suggestions to consider.

How to Be Happier on Social Media

Maybe You Should Do Less–or More

When posed the question of how to improve social media’s impact on your life, almost everyone says you should cut down, or cut it out entirely. But this recommendation ignores the fact that social media can actually be beneficial, when done right.

A recent study in Japan looked at this issue for mothers raising children under the age of 3. The study looked at many factors affecting their loneliness, including their use of social networking sites (SNS). Loneliness is a big issue for these women. Japan remains a society with strong gender inequality, so women bear the burden of childrearing more than in other developed countries. With the breakdown of multigenerational family structures, these women find themselves alone more than in the the past.

Many of these mothers use SNS every day, and researchers found a U-shaped relationship between SNS-use and loneliness. Women who use an SNS 0.5 hours a day or less (including those who don’t have a smartphone) had high levels of loneliness. Women who use SNS for 3+ hours a day also had high levels of loneliness. However, SNS use between those two extremes was associated with relatively low levels of loneliness.

So this study suggests that maybe if you’re a heavy user of social media, cutting back would be a good idea, but completely cutting it out might not be recommended. And if you don’t currently use social media much at all, maybe you should try spending more time on it.

Switch Platforms

Another important thing to understand is that not all social media platforms are equal when it comes to their impact on your emotional state. In 2017, the British NGO Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) surveyed nearly 1500 young people (age 14-24) on how the top five social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube)  impacted their health and wellbeing. The survey included questions about 14 different issues, including: loneliness, anxiety, bullying, sleep, and FoMO (fear of missing out). They found a great disparity among the platforms as far as which made people feel better and which made them feel worse.

Although YouTube had the most negative impact on sleep (shock!) it was, overall, the most positive social media platform. On the other hand, Instagram was the most negative. It seems the curated feed of selective life images presented by the platform made people feel bad about their own lives. This could lead to some pretty vitriolic attacks on people for relatively benign posts. We have to admit that Instagram is a pretty heavy source for us because of what celebs post there, things like Drake’s advocacy of charcoal toothpaste, Cardi B’s veneers, and even the woes of the Instagram-famous being offered free veneers.

But if you find that one social media platform is making you unhappy, maybe it’s time to switch to another.

Curate Your Contacts

Of course, it’s just as likely that the problem isn’t the technology so much as the people using it. Every technology is a tool that can be used for good or evil. So you should take the time to carefully select who you are following, and which posts you heart, like, retweet, or share.

It can be hard to find the right mix for your feed. Some people recommend cutting out influencers and advertisers who want to present you more fake images. Others say cut out the friends and family whose carefully constructed images of life can hit you hardest. Some say cut the people altogether and just follow cute puppies and parakeets.

The important thing to remember is that you’re in control, and you should use that control to create a social media feed that will make you happy.

We Want to Make You Smile

At the office of cosmetic dentist Dr. Pamela Marzban, we are all about the smiles. We don’t just offer cosmetic dentistry, we take a comprehensive approach that seeks to give you a firm foundation for health, beauty, strength, and happiness. From basic preventive services to life-changing smile makeovers, we can be here for you, no matter how much or how little you are looking for from a dentist.

To learn more how we can help you, please call 703-349-4277 today for an appointment at the office of Dr. Pamela Marzban in Burke, VA.