By David Joel Miller.
Are your social media posts making you emotionally sick?
Writing about your problems and your feelings is a standard treatment in mental health and recovery settings. Researchers tell us that writing about your issues can speed your recovery. They also tell us consistently, in multiple studies, that the more time people spend on social media the less mentally healthy you become. How can we make sense of this? Is writing about your feelings good or bad?
Studies say “expressive writing” can make you healthy and happy.
There are a lot of reasons that talking about and writing about what is on your mind can improve your mental health. It depends however on who you write to and what kind of reaction you want from them.
Writing in a journal or other private place can help you work through difficult things. Exposing yourself on-line to the attacks of the trolls leads to emotional damage.
Writing out your story brings clarity.
Writing things out can help you explore what you are thinking. It can turn a jumble of feelings into a coherent story of your life and make meaning out of your experiences. It can also expose you to a lot of negative consequences if the trolls get hold of that story.
When we write for friends and supporters we do it to express ourselves. On social media, it is more about hoping for a favorable response. People start measuring the value of what they have written and therefore their self-worth, on how many “friends” they have and how many “likes” they get.
True friends like you no matter what. Trolls feel so bad about themselves that they look for people to pull down. Have you ever know someone who felt so bad about themselves that they needed to put everyone else down in order to feel OK about themselves? Those type trolls gravitate towards social media where they can spew their venom and move on.
One reason that negative comments affect us so deeply, especially on-line, is the human tendency to compare up. You do not compare your popularity with the person with only one friend – you. We tend to compare ourselves with those who have thousands of friends. Some people wage relentless quests to accumulate the most “fake friends.” There are even places you can buy friends, likes, and followers.
Social media works on intermittent reinforcement just like drugs and slot machines.
One week you get 5 likes on your social media page. This means that people like you right? Next week you get 3 likes. This should equal 8 likes in two weeks. That should be good. What we see however is not that he have now accumulated 8 likes but that this week’s likes are down by 40% a severe decline in your popularity. And you had a couple of snarky comments also. You are now likely to be desperate.
Most people will at this point increase the number of posts they make. If you want to be popular, if you want to have friends and be considered an OK person, you need to be on-line all the time. You need to put in more posting hours. At this point, you are becoming hooked and your self-worth is dependent on those electronic rewards, the friends, and likes, that pop-up with you say and do the “right” things.
Rewriting changes the ending.
In expressive writing, we can write, rewrite and revise. This presents opportunities to think more about these feelings and to change them from unhelpful thoughts to more helpful thoughts. Staying up all night posting on-line, hoping someone will like your results in sleep deprivation, disappointment, and depression.
On-line once you click post you are stuck with the result. One typo and you can kick yourself for being stupid forever. That typo will never be recalled but all the good things you have ever done will fade away.
People who are told that what they are going through is normal may get better.
In counseling and with support systems there is a good chance you will be told that what you are going through is normal and that helps ease the pain of the moment. On-line those fake friends will tell you how they never have that problem and announce to the world all manner of negative things. That has to deflate your self-esteem.
Consider your on-line presence.
Are your on-line activities making your life better and happier? Or are you like so many others becoming addicted to social media? The more time you spend on social media the more likely you are to become dependent on the opinions of others and the lower your self-esteem may become.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books