Social media keeps you connected to friends and family, but slowly, the social apps you love can became an obsession.
Do you know someone that can’t go out to eat without taking a photo of their food and posting it? I met someone that joked about how she even planned her vacation according to what would look best online.
The fascination with social media can transform into something dark and ugly. It can become a toxic influence that affects every area of your life.
Maybe you recognize parts of your story above or perhaps you simply think that you have become too focused on social media. Now you’re wondering how to know if your social media usage has turned toxic. Here are ten signs to look out for…
Sign #1: You’re Not Present
The biggest and most distressing red flag of too much social media usage is not being present when you’re with others. Instead of watching your kids play at the park and interacting with them, you’re on the phone. You go out on a coffee date with a friend then you spend most of that time scrolling through your feed while you give your friend half your attention.
If you only do these things every now and then, it’s not a big deal. But if they’ve become consistent habits—where you’re checking out to login—then you have a problem with social media usage.
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a coffee shop because of covid-19, but I remember how difficult it was to resist using my phone whilst waiting for a friend. I decided to be old school and ‘people watch’ instead of looking at my phone, but the urge to pick up my phone was overwhelming.
Sign #2: You Feel Worse After
You want to check in for just a quick second. Next thing you know hours have passed that you spent mindlessly scrolling through your feed and consuming content that others have created.
By the time you close the app, you feel worse. You’re distracted, tired, cranky, or discouraged. But you can’t seem to figure out why. All you know is that you felt fine before you logged in.
Sign #3: You’re Stuck in the Comparison Trap
Some people use social media as a way to evaluate how well their life is going. Maybe you do the same thing. You log onto see your best friend is planning a trip to Tahiti, and suddenly, your adventure at the Grand Canyon doesn’t sound all that exciting.
You discover that a former colleague got fired and is now working a menial job. For a moment, you feel a rush of excitement. Suddenly, you feel better about your own job.
Using social media to compare your life to the lives of others can be a dangerous thing. You either feel good about yourself while looking down on others or you feel bad about yourself while judging others. Neither attitude is particularly healthy.
Sign #4: You Seek Validation
It’s normal to want attention. You achieve a lifelong goal, and you want to celebrate. You move across the country and want to share your new adventures with friends and family. These are normal urges.
But sometimes with social media, the need for validation can become an obsession.
Maybe you’re concerned about how your garden will look on social media or you’re anxious that the pictures of your kids didn’t get you as many likes and comments as another mum’s photos did.
Using the internet to seek validation in the form of likes or comments is a dangerous idea. You’ll only feel good about yourself and your life when you’ve gotten enough engagement (and it never feels like enough).
Sign #5: You’re Passively Consuming
It’s natural to be curious about what others are up to. Maybe you want to know what colour your cousin is painting her nursery or you’re curious about which book your best friend is reading right now.
The problem with too much social media usage is that it can make you a passive consumer. Instead of going out and creating your own memories, you sit on the sidelines and enjoy the rush of living vicariously through social media.
Sign #6: You Stop Texting Friends
With social media, it’s easy to simply lurk on a friend’s profile each day and stay updated on their life. Unfortunately, this doesn’t build a strong friendship and can leave you feeling isolated and alone.
If you’ve stopped texting friends, talking to them on the phone, or meeting up in real life, it could be a sign that your social media usage has gone too far. Checking in with friends is a valuable part of maintaining a relationship and it simply can’t be replicated by social media interactions.
Sign #7: You’re Missing Out on Mornings
You wake up, roll over, and grab your phone first thing. You don’t think anything of this seemingly harmless habit until an hour has passed and you’ve spent the entire time scrolling through your feed. Now you have to rush to get to work on time or help your kids get out the door for school.
It’s not that you can’t check your social media in the mornings. But if you’re constantly running late because of it, then it’s clearly become a problem in your life.
Sign #8: You’re Anxious Now
Social media can expose you to many negative people and brands. This could be in the form of trending headlines, friends complaining about their lives, or politicians spewing hate at anyone who disagrees with them.
If you notice that you’re always anxious after checking in on social media, it’s a sign that something’s not right. Maybe you’ll need to mute certain friends or unfollow a brand that always posts offensive messages.
Sign #9: You Don’t Trust Yourself
Before social media, you confidently made a decision when you wanted to purchase a new purse or when you were choosing a travel destination. But now you feel the need to stop and check with in twenty-five other people.
Needing validation before a big decision every now and then is one thing. But if you feel like you can’t trust your own gut for even the smallest decisions, then your social media usage has most likely eroded your self-confidence.
Sign #10: You’re Always Accessible
You have notifications on your phone turned on for every possible social network. You can constantly be reached on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, Clubhouse, Tumblr, Skype, or Snapchat.
Anyone can reach you at any time. From your boss who just thought of an urgent project that must be done, to your spouse that wants you to pick up another bottle of soy sauce at the supermarket, you’re never out of touch.
There’s nothing wrong with loving social media. But you definitely need boundaries when it comes to your accessibility. Doing this prevents burn out and allows you to login only when you’re feeling refreshed and ready to tackle problems.
Social Media Is a Tool
Social media is a tool that can have many wonderful benefits to improving your life and communication. However, sometimes it can be too much of a good thing.
If you think your social media usage has gone overboard and you recognise some of the signs above in your life, it might just be time for you to take a social media detox.