Depression is spreading through American culture like wildfire.
I see it as a psychologist, a consumer, an observer of our culture and as my alter-blogging ego, the Social Media Lama.
Despite such remarkable advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, it seems as though more people are depressed than ever before.
Why is depression so widespread?
I'm going to share with you why social media is increasingly responsible for depression's attack on society and what you can do about it.
Once you understand how social media is hijacking your mental health, you can make smart adjustments to minimize its negative impact.
So why is social media making you depressed and how can you overcome its negative influence?
Whether you realize it or not, social media is brainwashing you to believe that perfection is necessary for happiness.
Social media is constantly strengthening this association, especially photo-heavy sites like Instagram and Facebook, which are inundated with idealized versions of people and everyday experience.
Through the daily observation of your friends' "perfect" lives and the subsequent pressure to look like you're also living the ultimate life, you're essentially being trained to adopt a perfectionistic standard for what life is supposed to look like.
Since the standards promoted via social media are essentially unachievable, those of us who don't take mindful countermeasures will either exacerbate an existing depressive condition or pave the way for a more depressing life in the future.
The pressure to live up to a Kardashian-esque standard subtly depresses your mood and self-worth, even if you deny its influence.
The conscious manifestation of social-media-induced depression is felt as mild annoyance with someone else's shared image of success or perfection, or a fleeting sense of longing to have what someone else has.
But make no mistake about it...the painful, perfectionistic and impossible standard harvested in your mind through social media wreaks havoc on your inner world behind the scenes.
Over time, it will put massive distance between your expectations for how reality is supposed to be and your actual experience of reality, especially if you don't practice seeing through the grand social media illusion.
Companies are also perfecting their marketing pitches aimed at convincing you that happiness and perfection can only be bought.
Daily exposure to images of perfection has the power to make you unhappy and unaccepting of who you are and what you have.
The following recommendations are aimed at minimizing the negative impact of social media on your mood and self-image:
- Strive toward authenticity in your own life. The more true you are to yourself, the easier it will be to see through false appearances. You'll see right through the illusion of perfection shown on image-heavy sites. If you're authentic (and you convey it via social media), then you'll function as a mirror reflecting back to others their own deception.
- Make yourself painfully aware of the price you and others pay for placing such a high value on a state of perfection.
- Learn to embrace your imperfections by posting imperfect photos on social media. For an easy way to do this, take a look at my suggestions for how to take a healthy selfie.
- Develop a strong observing self that studies your own reactions to advertising. I've learned to giggle to myself when I feel the appealing pull of an ad to buy something. If you practice observing your reactions to appealing media pitches, you won't fall for the allure and promise embedded in advertising.
- Most importantly, strive to avoid judging people who fall for the allure of superficial appearances. Embrace them with empathy and understanding. This will help you in your own process of judging yourself less harshly. For more on this, see one of my favorite posts called, "Your Habit of Pointing Out Other People's Faults Is Ruining Your Life."
- If you're in a sensitive phase where people's feeds bother you more than usual, take a break from social media. Remove the app from your phone for a week or two. (Note: I'm not going to tell you to stop checking your Facebook feed all together because I know it's a reality of the modern digital lifestyle.)
Please feel free to comment below. I sincerely enjoy your feedback.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog post, which tackles the way social media creates the illusion of having more problems that you really do.
This post was originally published on Techealthiest. Dr. Greg Kushnick is an innovative clinical psychologist who blogs about how to live healthy with your technology.