Social media can be such a downer.
You look at Facebook photos of friends having fun and exciting times. Their lives are so much better than yours. Sigh.
Those feelings are a genuine social media phenomenon. Research has shown that many Facebook users tend to feel worse about their lives after visiting the site and seeing what their friends are up to.
Teens can be especially susceptible to negative feelings — anxious about what peers are doing and who they are with; measuring their place in the universe by the number of likes and comments they get.
“It’s such a real thing,” said Dr. Jessica Castonguay, a physician in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Pictures on social media can make you feel left out and alone.”
Social media anxiety has a designated acronym, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). It’s important to keep it in perspective, Dr. Castonguay said. Here are some things to keep in mind (for both you and your kids):
- Facebook and Instagram posts are not reality.
They’re excerpts of reality, at best.
“People are posting just the best parts of their lives,” Dr. Castonguay said. “Don’t compare what you see on social media to your life.”
- Some people are prolific on social media, and make lots of virtual friends, because they crave validation. Again, don’t compare. Try not to compete.
“It creates this falsified sense of belonging that makes them feel good,” Dr. Castonguay said. “It’s akin to an addiction.”
Urge your kids not to get twisted in knots over likes.
Likes from people you know and respect are nice. But likes from a horde of social media faux friends?
“What do those likes really mean? Probably not a whole lot,” Dr. Castonguay said. “It’s not about how many likes you have, it’s about the quality of your likes.”
- Limit online time so your kids aren’t living on social media. Make sure they are involved in other activities.
- Make your kids charge their devices in a common area overnight. Not that you don’t trust them, but it removes the temptation.
- As always, keep lines of communication open. Talk to your kids about their online activities. Provide information and perspective. Set limits and expectations.