One of the side effects of the ongoing circuit breaker is that social media screen time has risen substantially.
This, combined with free time on our hands and prolonged social isolation can trigger introspective thinking, and overthinking.
Tapping through the endless feed of Instagram stories content, you can easily classify peoples’ stories in these categories:
- Home workout routines/exercising in the park
- Zoom meetings with friends or work colleagues
- Cooking/baking creations
- Thanking someone for sending a delivery your way
Scroll through long enough and thoughts will start to creep in – “When is someone going to send me a delivery?”, “I miss my friends. Why haven’t they called me?”, “I wish I could find a job.”
Such introspective thinking is not uncommon. In fact, health experts have repeatedly documented the adverse effects of excess social media screen time.
Researchers have found that technology-based social comparisons and feedback-seeking were associated with depressive symptoms.
After all, social media has the tendency to create an artificial echo chamber. You are instantly plugged in on everyone else’s life. If you follow a few hundred users, you are guaranteed to come across someone who (appears) to be doing “better” than you if you keep scrolling.
Now back to the topic of food deliveries. If you’re an active Instagram user, it’s not uncommon to cycle through over a hundred different “stories” each day. Our limited cognitive resources and attention span means we easily forget who posted what.
Rachel could be getting a special cake delivery for her birthday, while Joshua could have received a bubble tea delivery from his girlfriend. But in your mind, this information is grouped into general categories, so you’ll remember what is most salient – other people received something from someone today and I didn’t.
The truth is, social media is not the most accurate benchmark for social comparison; far from it. Every time you’re tempted to drift into self-destructive thoughts because of someone else’s life, think of all the problems that other people have that they chose to filter out of social media.
Behind Joshua’s bubble tea post was a night of tears resulting from a couples’ fight. Rachel got her birthday cake, but she has to deal with her parents fighting at home almost every day. Of course, none of that is going to be aired on social media, we have been conditioned to present only the best version of ourselves to the world. If the grass looks greener on the other side, it’s probably astroturf.
So cut yourself some slack. You are doing better than you think you are.