DBT is centered around the concept of dialectics, which is the belief that two seemingly conflicting ideas can be true at the same time. Social media is a way to increase connection and community building. Social media makes me feel unworthy. Both of these statements are true for many individuals, especially adolescents. The question then becomes; “How do I manage social media and its effect on my wellbeing”?
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has the belief around dialectics that change occurs when we analyze and give validation to both statements. Social media is built at its core to connect people. Individuals can share photos, stories, and achievements with others in an instance. It can give individuals a common language and conversation starters. Adolescents can find peer groups that understand them and their experiences. At the same time, social media can give individuals a false belief of what their peers lives actually looks like. Often social media can be an airbrushed version of an idyllic life while in reality, its often highly edited content with six added filters. Even bullying has increased as people feel more empowered to say things behind a keyboard that they would reframe from in person.
A 2020 study by Common Sense reported that adolescents aged 13-18 spend, on average, just under four hours a day on social media including online video platforms such as YouTube. Adolescents are spending a majority of their free time interacting in these platforms. This is just a fact, it alone does not guarantee negative attributes for mental wellbeing. However, for many users social media can be linked to depression or anxiety when it is consumed without a critical lens.
When parents and adolescents alike can validate that social media has its pro’s and con’s they can start making active decisions on how they want to interact in those spaces.
If you are concerned that you or your child’s social media intake is slipping towards the unhealthy here are some recommendations:
- Have a bedtime for your phone. Have a specific time everyday that you set down your phone and do not return to it until the next day
- Turn your phone on “Airplane Mode” or “Do Not Disturb” for certain hours to limit the pull to check notifications
- Track your use for specific social media platforms to truly understand how long you are spending on these tasks and see if it aligns with what you were expecting
- Make a list of activities that you enjoy that do not include social media to utilize during social media breaks
- Turn you phone on greyscale so that apps are less interesting to click on
- Delete apps from your phone so you have to go through a web browser to use on them
- Curate a diverse set of individuals to follow that empower you and increase your self-worth
- Block anyone that goes against your boundaries or makes you feel unsafe
- Notice if you start to feel inadequate from posts, and check to see if this post feels edited or manipulated
- Remember that individuals choose what they post, and identify what messages they are trying to curate. Do they only post the best aspects of their lives? How many photos do you think they took to get this specific shot?
- Finally, does engaging in this content bring you joy, if not it may be time to log off and go get a drink of water
Last fall, a coalition of the nation’s leading experts in pediatric health highlighted the negative impact of social media and declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. At Hillside, we are seeing this crisis unfold and need help responding to this emergency; many of our clients are citing social media as triggers for their depression and anxiety. This year the Hillside Atlanta Foundation is raising $100,000 in scholarship funds for families no longer able to afford treatment. Will you help us reach our goal? Visit HillsideAtlantaFoundation.org for more information.