Social media is an amazing tool for connecting with others, the kind of tool that would have blown our 1998 minds! So why are so many of us so frustrated with it? Because social media drama is cluttering our feeds and bringing us down in real life.
Social Media Isn’t Real Life
First of all, social media isn’t real, and hasn’t been for several years. A survey in 2015 found that women took an average of 7 photos for every one selfie posted to social media. Thirty-three percent reapplied their makeup and 46% styled their hair before snapping. The average 16-25 year old woman reported spending over 5 hours a week taking selfies.
Another survey, this one in 2014, found that 50% of photos posted to social media had been touched up. The highest offenders (ages 18-34) came in at 70% of women and over half of men editing photos. That was in 2014!
Today there are 23 different Instagram filters and entire apps dedicated to erasing wrinkles and whitening teeth. I’m not positive what percentage of posted photos are edited now. Let’s just assume the worst.
Social Media Brings Out Our Worst Traits
Secondly, social media is an outstanding conduit of our worst traits:
- Bragging, especially when it’s not true, or at least not the whole story.
- Humble-bragging, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud”. Example: “I hate that repairs are so expensive for my Ferrari! Cry face!”
- Deepening divides by writing or sharing inflammatory, one-sided posts.
- Airing dirty laundry.
- Perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards. Example: Taking wrinkle erasing to a whole new level by erasing every natural crease from our faces.
- Feeding narcissism.
Drama, drama, drama!
3 Questions That Curb Social Media Drama
Some people can just let the drama roll off their backs. Others find that social media causes depression, anxiety, and a general unrest. How can you enjoy all of the benefits of social media, but also minimize drama to maintain your own sanity? Consider these 3 questions:
- Why do I have a social media account? What do I hope to gain from its use? There are an endless number of reasons that someone might maintain a social media account. Some want to keep up with friends and family, others are killing time, others staying informed of current events, etc. A friends/family sharer is likely going to want a lot less social media drama than someone that really enjoys trolling posts (to each his own!). Zero in on your intentions, and you’ll find your preferred level of drama.
- Is this person a true friend, or has social media created a false sense of connection? I once posted a sincere, impartial question about a certain political movement. I asked if someone in support of it would mind helping me to better understand it. An old high school classmate replied to very helpful responders with some pretty rude, provocative words. I was a little confused, because I hadn’t seen or heard his name in years, and didn’t even realize that we were Facebook friends. A closer look revealed that we had been “friends” for 10 years. I had never seen him like or comment on any of my posts before, but he made a special appearance to insult people he didn’t know. While Facebook says I have 538 “friends”, I actually only keep up with about 5 friends outside of social media. (I’m an introvert – don’t judge me!) When someone’s posts are causing more stress than I’d prefer, I have to weigh the reality of our friendship. I probably won’t miss out on much if I unfollow my old college roommate’s sister that I haven’t talked to in 15 years, even if Facebook has made me feel more connected to her.
- What’s my best option? Sometimes you just have to cut ties for your own sake, whether it’s over one unforgivable post or one person whose consistently offensive posts have finally crossed the line. In order of your increasing wrath, you can choose to unfollow, unfriend, or block someone completely.
- Unfollowing a friend is usually the most civil approach. They don’t know that you’ve unfollowed them (at least on Facebook) and you don’t have to see their posts in your feed anymore. It’s a win-win.
- Unfriending is more serious. It says, I disagree with or dislike you so much that I want to cut all ties. Keep in mind, your friend might notice your sudden absence from their feed if they interact with your posts often. Therefore, unfriending’s not the best choice if you prefer to avoid confrontation.
- Blocking is like an online restraining order. Your friend will find that nothing shows up when they search for you. They might believe you’ve blocked them, or they might believe you’ve deleted your account; it’s tough to tell the difference. This is usually not my style, but I’ve blocked a few acquaintances that made me feel really uncomfortable. I was more concerned about my own safety than hurting their feelings. You can also block businesses, media sources, or others that fill your feed with unnecessary social media drama.
If Your Drama’s Game is Too Strong
If despite addressing these questions and taking appropriate actions, your feed still leaves you feeling unhappy, annoyed, fearful, inferior, or any other negative emotion, it may be time to reassess your use of social media altogether. Remember that social media is mostly fake. Most “friendships” there wouldn’t exist if social media wasn’t so darn convenient. Plus, a study in 2017 found that increased Facebook use resulted in “subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction”. You might consider taking a short break to see how it feels, and to decide if you’d like to make your break more permanent. The positives might not outweigh the negatives!
Wrap It Up
Social media seems to bring out both the best and worst in human nature. When social media drama is causing us to feel negatively in real life, we can ask a few important questions to help curb the drama to a more tolerable level. (1) Why do I have a social media account? (2) Is this person a true friend? (3) What’s my best option?
If it still seems to be altering your well-being, consider reevaluating your relationship with social media itself. At best, social media is a potentially useful tool at your disposal. At worst, it’s fake and a breeding ground for drama. Don’t allow social media drama to manipulate or compromise your well-being, because it’s just not worth your peace of mind.
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