“Don’t compare yourself to what you see on Instagram!” – calls for reduction in social media usage over Christmas

Turn2Me, a national mental health charity, is encouraging people to reduce their social media usage over Christmas. The charity stated that comparisons to the perfect “Instagram” Christmas can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment. Turn2Me emphasised that social media can be very damaging for our mental health and that deleting the apps from our phones, deleting social media accounts, or reducing the amount of time we spend on social media can have mental health benefits.

According to the Pew Research Centre, almost seven in ten Americans use social media. A British 2015 study called The Children’s Well-being 2015 publication, found that ‘Children who spent more than three hours using social networking websites on a school day were twice as likely to report high or very high scored for mental ill-health.’ The 2016 Journal of Adolescence found that ‘Social media use in adolescence is associated with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem’.

“The research is clear: social media can be very detrimental to our mental health,” Fiona O’Malley, CEO of Turn2Me, said, “What we see on Instagram is a very filtered and edited version of people’s lives. People don’t put up the difficult, the mundane or the tedious parts of their lives on social media because it’s not as interesting, and people don’t want to wash their dirty laundry in public. So, when we compare our own reality to the apparently perfect “Instagram” lives, it’s an unfair comparison because it’s comparing your life to the edited glimpse of someone else’s life. Christmas can heighten this imbalanced comparison and make people feel even more dissatisfied with their own lives, because there are moments of celebration over the Christmas period for so many – people get engaged, move into their new dream homes, announce pregnancies, get or gift luxurious presents, and capture precious moments with close family members. This isn’t reality. Most people have at least one dysfunctional or damaging relationship in their family, most people won’t mark the Christmas period with a life-changing celebratory event, and particularly with the rising cost of living, most people won’t be getting or gifting over-the-top luxury presents. It’s important not to compare your own life to the lives you see on social media because it’s an unfair comparison – it’s like comparing your reality to what you see in an advertisement. It’s not real and that type of comparison can be really damaging to our mental health.”

Turn2Me is encouraging anyone who feels anxious, depressed, or lonely over the Christmas period to sign up for their free mental health services on Turn2Me.ie

“Social Media has some benefits, however, it has huge downsides,” Suzanne Ennis, Clinical Manager at Turn2Me, said, “Social media can be addictive, like a slot machine, when you open the app you see fresh content, giving a sense of reward and the body releases dopamine, linking it as a pleasurable activity. When someone doesn’t get the interaction they want on posted content, they can feel disappointment or invalidated. It can be a world of social comparison, distraction from other tasks, in turn causing low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. It’s crucial that time spent on social media is limited and other non-screen related activities are prioritised.”

Turn2Me is running free ‘Christmas Blues’ support groups from the 25th December until the 1st January, available on the Turn2Me website. Anyone who wants to avail of Turn2Me’s free, professional mental health services over the Christmas period can sign up on Turn2Me.ie.

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