Social Media During The Holidays Isn't Always A Gift

by Nikkya Hargrove
Originally Published: 
Scrolling through social media during holidays
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty

It’s hard to stuff down emotions and feelings that bubble to the surface as you take your daily social media scroll. In an interview with Scary Mommy, Dr. Paula Durlofsky, clinical psychologist and author of “Logged In and Stressed Out: How Social Media Is Affecting Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It”, shares some helpful tips to get us through the lows and highs of social media as we head into the holiday season.

According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 86% of young adults in America use social media.

Social media is a reflection of pieces of people’s lives, but not all aspects of their lives will be showcased on Instagram. Dr. Durlofsky says, “Upward comparisons, whether based on our social media consumption or our real life, are made when we compare ourselves to people we believe are better than or superior to us. For instance, we might believe a virtual friend is more attractive or more financially successful than we are. Not surprisingly, upward comparisons can hurt our self-confidence by triggering deep-seated feelings of resentment, envy, and shame.”

We’ve all done it — looked at a photo and said “Wow, what does it take to get their kid to smile for a photo…I wish…” or “She got a new car, I wish I could afford a new car,” and then there goes the hamster wheel of envious thoughts. The negative feelings we get after spending time on social media, Dr. Durlofsky says, can be opportunities for emotional growth and personal development.

The new year is just around the corner. If you’re making some healthy changes in 2022, and a healthier relationship with social media is on your list, here’s what Dr. Durlofsky recommends.

She stresses the importance of “Knowing your attachment style and how it impacts your ‘attachment’ to devices, technology, and social media. According to attachment theory, the quality of our relationships with our early and primary caregivers sets the stage for the health and success of our future relationships and how we connect with others.” It’s so impactful, she says, that studies show certain attachment styles are more prone to experiencing negative effects from something as trivial seeming as social media. It can be difficult to be realistic about what social media is for and how it impacts one’s mental health. But if you can, take a step back from the screen and see it as another relationship in your life — create boundaries around it.

This is also a great lesson to teach your kids so they can also have a healthier relationship with social media, especially during the holidays. Their friends might be flashing new sneaks or the latest iPhone, and your kid isn’t. Heading back to school after the new year might be a social nightmare for them. What does Dr. Durlofsky suggest? She shares four ways you can help your kid with social media, and these tips will work for parents too, she says:

Help kids gain a realistic perspective of social media.

Let’s keep it real — social media, in general, is a mechanism to showcase all the goodness in one person’s life. We don’t see the bloody knees, the messy bathrooms, the negative balance in one’s bank account. No one’s life is as rosy as they make it appear.

Cultivate and model mindfulness regarding social media habits.

Dr. Durlofsky suggests doing regular social-media check-ins with your child. This will help gauge their emotions and discuss what they might be seeing online.

Teach your kids how to tune into their emotions.

Take the opportunity to talk to your kids (and have a little self-talk yourself) about how the holidays and being on social media might impact their mood. If history teaches you that they’ll be in a foul mood after a quick morning check of their Insta, don’t do it. Take this as an opportunity for self-care.

Encourage your kids to make plans to see friends in real-time.

Sure, you might sound archaic if you say this to your kid, but the point stands: Nothing compares to showing up and having in-real-life experiences with people, face to face. Dr. Durlofsky says, “Discuss with your kids the importance of maintaining relationships offline. When in-person plans aren’t possible, they can maintain important relationships through phone and text communications.” But face-to-face time is crucial.

Our relationships with social media (and people) are evolving all of the time. We can all take a social media cleanse over the holidays. It might be the right option for you and the protection of your mental health. It can be exhausting to look through Instagram or Facebook or TikTok for hours. Take the holidays as a time to truly be in the presence of your family, with purpose and connection, and don’t let the power of social media spoil your (or your family’s) holiday. Be grateful for what’s right there in front of you, in real life – and remember that everyone else’s life on Instagram is prettier than their real one.

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