Social media is an incredible tool: we’re able to connect, share, learn and of course, evolve, faster than ever before in human history. Yet, the problem is that we have also begun to use it to quell some of the most common anxieties: self-identity, affirmation, connection to others, and so on. Of course, our obsession with grows because it does not fulfill us in the way we think it will, so we just seek more and more.
We need to stop blaming social media for being “bad,” and start addressing how we are creating and sustaining an unhealthy relationship to it. So here are a few signs that your digital life has replaced your real one, because an image of life – however lovely – cannot supplement the actual experience of it.
1. Posting a photo of doing something makes you happier than actually doing it. In fact, sometimes you feel inspired to do things simply because it will be a nice photo that you can share.
2. When you feel anxious, scrolling through one of your news feeds relieves it. You feel as though you cannot miss anything crucial that happens, and to stay aware of what’s going on online is to stay in control of your life.
3. You ask people to take photos of you every time you go out, and they comply, though you have a hunch they’re not thrilled about it. There’s a difference between wanting to take a photo to remember a cool experience, and enlisting friends as your personal documentarians.
4. You feel awkward asking people to take your photo and do it anyway. Because the feeling of being able to edit and post a nice photo of yourself overrides that discomfort, right?
5. You eat dinner with your phone in hand, when other people are at the table. Worse, you check your phone when you’re eating with other people, scrolling, posting or responding to things that could very well wait 20 minutes.
6. After you post something, you refresh the page dozens of times to watch “likes” add up, so much so that you’re spending more of your day staring at how people respond to your life, rather than how it feels to live it. You can’t just post something then check back on it later, you need to extend the high by watching the numbers tick upward. This makes you think: “Other people will see how cool, loved, beautiful and popular I am.” That thought makes you happy.
7. You don’t take pictures to remember moments, you take them because it feels like without public documentation, it didn’t really happen. This is a specific feeling you get when you’re out doing things: if you don’t post about it, it feels empty.
8. You get into fights online more than once a week (or, you know, at all). Your arguments heat up quickly because it seems as though someone is trying to attack you publicly, and this is embarrassing. Though admittedly, you could choose to not engage altogether. Your arguments are not attempts to understand or communicate, but to display dominance.
9. If you’ve been out for a while and realize you haven’t checked your social media accounts in a few hours, you instantly become anxious, and pull your phone out. You become physically uncomfortable when you leave your phone at home, or feel “disconnected” from the Internet for an entire day.
10. You make judgments about people based on their online presence, rather than observations. You take what you see and fill in the gaps with assumptions, creating an idea of people you hold in your mind that is wildly disassociated from reality.
11. You compare yourself to other people online enough that it’s in some way changed your behavior IRL. Not only do you compare yourself to others, but it’s affected your life in some concrete way. You dress differently, you speak differently, your goals have changed to essentially make yourself feel better about your perceived inadequacy.
12. The best moments of your day, or at least, the most engaging ones, happen while staring at a screen. The happiest part of your life is the idea you think other people have of it… not how you actually feel.