Social media apps and websites are mostly meant to be a fun diversion or just a way to communicate with friends and family. For people suffering from mental health issues, however, social media can be full of triggers that make it difficult to fully enjoy the potential for connection in these platforms.
For better or worse, it has completely changed how we interact with people. It is important for people with mental health issues and disorders to learn how to avoid triggers and have a healthy relationship with social media so that it does not negatively affect them.
Although in some ways it brings people together from all over the world, some people believe that it actually negatively affects our abilities to connect with others socially. Social media has been known to cause issues of depression and anxiety especially in young people.
The dangers of social media can be especially problematic for people with existing issues with depression as it can create feelings of loneliness or the belief that they are different than their peers. Any mental health or behavioral problem can be exacerbated by social media if the user is not careful about minimizing their use.
Anxiety and Comparison on Social Media
Experiencing triggers on social media often happens for a number of different reasons depending on the individual and their personal issues. People with anxiety may be triggered when they see a photo of their friends hanging out and wonder why they weren’t invited or worry that their friendships are fake. Seeing photos of friends can sometimes trigger those with trust issues if their friend is presenting an image that seems unfamiliar or different than they expected.
A common problem with social interactions is the tendency for people to compare themselves to others. Social media is a place where people tend to tailor the image of themselves to only present positive things. When other people present their stories or images of success, achievement, beauty, love or happiness it can trigger feelings of inferiority.
When people with issues of depression or anxiety view posts about other people experiencing things that they don’t have it may reinforce their belief that they are a “loser” or less than others. A friend posting about their job promotion, acceptance into grad school or marriage proposal can make people worry that they are not making enough money or are not in a good relationship. These reactions can make scrolling through social platforms a painful experience that leads to feelings of isolation rather than connection.
Recovery and Social Media Triggers
People who have gone through a serious addiction and are now in recovery also find social media very difficult to deal with at times. Someone who is newly sober may scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see photos of their friends out partying and drinking. For alcoholics or former addicts, these images can make them experience cravings or the feeling that they are missing out by being sober.
People in recovery may see photos of people drinking or out at a party and forget about the bad experiences that they had, only remembering the fun moments. In the same way that being at a bar or seeing old drinking buddies can trigger them, photos on social media can have the same effect.
The problem with it, especially in cases of recovery, is that often presents a fabricated narrative of a person’s life. You may see a photo of someone having fun at a party but not know about an argument that took place or other negative things that could have happened. This focus on the positive can make people in recovery forget about the bad times.
Coping with Triggers
In order to prevent it from causing triggers without quitting completely it is important to be cautious about your use. Do not look at social media sites when you are already feeling low as this is likely to cause a downward spiral.
You can also edit your newsfeed on sites like Facebook by “unfollowing” people who are triggering you without unfriending them. This means you won’t see their posts and they will not know that they are not in your newsfeed.
Other methods of coping with social media triggers include:
- Following more positive or inspirational accounts
- Minimizing the number of people you follow
- Taking a break from certain sites or deleting apps from your phone
- Focusing on your own accomplishments and writing them down
- Avoiding the urge to compare yourself to others as much as possible
- Remembering that other people feel triggered by social media too
While some people may feel that social media is unavoidable if specific sites are just too triggering for you then you can delete your account. Your mental health is much more important than maintaining a social media profile.