Guard Your Gates: Social Media and Mental Health

Many of us have heard or engaged in the back and forth debates about social media - some believe it helps us connect and engage with each other better. Think about it: our ability to make "friends" and stay in the know now surpasses geographical boundaries and borders. But at what cost?

While social media is a space for us to communicate, keep others up to date with our lives and stay in the know of what's happening around the world, the reality is this surplus of information breeds a battleground of comparison, low self-esteem, depression, self-inflicted pressure, anxiety, unrealistic expectations and uncertainty of what's true. We develop an expectation that we must "level up" and always put our best foot forward, when the truth is, nobody on social media is always putting their best foot forward.

Many of us, young and old, are going through our day to day lives trying to figure things out, just like you! It seems as if in each generation the yearning to please and be "liked" by others is heightened..... it's actually scary. We equate comments and likes to real value and worth. But I'm sure you've heard this all before, right?

What I have realized is it's important that we are honest with ourselves about what we can and cannot take with this increase of information, opinions and filtered lives. It's okay to not always be plugged in and know what's going on with everyone else. It's more important to check in with yourself and know what's going on mentally and emotionally.

A friend of mine told me,

"Less resentment and more resolve!"

Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot take… and let no one make you feel guilty for what you need! If you need time away to quiet your mind and heart, do so!

Be resolved that you do not expose yourself to every visual, every audio/conversation around you, or every opinion posted. It's okay not to follow certain people, even if you have real relationships with them! Truth is some of our emotional and mental well-being depends on these barriers and boundaries. What some consider a stretch and not that serious, is actually that serious. Know your limits and boundaries and do not apologize for it!

Personally, I am quick to take sabbaticals off of social media, without any notice. I am quick to unfollow and I am quick to click "see less of these posts". It's nothing personal to others, but it's personal for me. My life can already be noisy with my own thoughts of the present and future. I'd prefer to keep the noise of others to a minimum.

My life and purpose requires that I hear and think clearly.

*Transparent Moment*

In a previous relationship of mine, the Diamond who did not know her self worth accepted just about anything. I stayed connected to an individual who honestly did not respect me or our relationship. I saw a pattern: he would befriend females on social know how it goes: "hey big head". Next step, he would start sliding in those DMs and essentially things would escalate from there lol.

How did this impact me? His admiration of these females caused me to question my worth and my appearance. Was I not good enough? If that's what he likes, how can I ever match up to what they have to offer? (I'm literally cringing as I type this just thinking about how broken I was in my way of thinking and seeing myself...but this was my reality). What I took in via social media impacted how I saw myself.

Bottom line: my cognition was distorted!

I was insecure! I didn't see what I had to offer because I continued to look at who and what was getting attention. I realized I was not a good gatekeeper of my own gates. Your gates are important. They are the entryways in which information can enter or exit your mind and heart. Typically, this includes your ears, eyes and mouth... what you see, what you hear, what you say and what you allow others to say to or around you. This all impacts your mental and emotional well-being.

I had to reevaluate not only my relationship at that moment, but what information I allowed to come in and out of my gates. I also had to question why I allowed this free flow of false information.

For those who may have found yourselves in similar situations, not guarding your gates properly against the messages on social media, there is good news! At any given moment you have the ability and power to stand guard, protect your gates and rewrite your story. For those who have found yourselves saying it’s not that serious, let’s vow to be more empathetic to other people and their journeys. We are not fully aware of the extent to which what we see, hear or say impacts our mental and emotional health.

Proverbs 4:23 NKJV Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it spring the issues of life. The Good News Translation says, "Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts."

I'm rooting for you, always.

Diamond James, MSW, LCSWA

#BreakingDownStigma #MentalHealth #EmotionalWellness #SocialMedia #GuardYourGates

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