Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not.” ~
We are living in an age of ubiquitous distractions and interruptions. Technology has given us the ability to stay connected to each other every single second of the day. You can watch events unfold throughout the world in the palm of your hand. Like no other time in history, you are given unparalleled access to the lives of others. In today’s society, there appears to be no such thing as oversharing. Unfortunately, access is granted without a warning stating “Beware… what you see may just be an illusion and may not be good for your mental health.”
We live in an instant world with disposable dreams. Unanchored to anything real we float from one distraction to another looking for the next thing to anchor ourselves. Our thoughts are constantly being interrupted. In the past, humanity has benefited from being able to sit quietly deep in uninterrupted thought. Currently, the beauty of being able to sit alone in thought and imagination is getting lost by the massive influx of information. It appears that moments of solitude are out of favor and divine inspiration has been lost in a sea of tweets and selfies.
Most of us have heard of FOMO, the fear of missing out and may understand it as a social media issue. Studies show that individuals who spend a lot of time on social media are more likely to develop a deep apprehension (fear) that they are missing out on experiences that they see others having. This can be a better vacation, social event or even a perceived better life. The constant viewing and comparing to others on social media, such as Facebook, may create an exhausting loop of social comparison followed by dissatisfaction in your own life.
Studies show that FOMO may have a negative impact on one’s life and mental health. Having the ability to have unlimited access to other people’s “perfect” lives often leads to automatically comparing your life to the life of others. Bombarded by professionally edited images and filtered lives, our own existence, by comparison, will be seen as less appealing and unfulfilling. After viewing these perfect images we may find ourselves focusing on what we want and lack instead of what we have.
As a result of the constant exposure to filtered images of unrealistic lifestyles, the expectations for our lives will become warped and unfeasible. Due to our frustration of not having the life we imagine we should have; we may begin to express our discontent toward those who care about us the most. For example, you may become dissatisfied and resentful that your spouse is not as perfectly groomed and flawless as the images you see on Instagram. Or, perhaps your family vacation will be less enjoyable because you are not yachting on the Riveria.
It is important to recognize how you feel after using social media. If you find that what you are seeing makes you depressed or anxious then you must take a timeout from the source. It is important to understand that what you are seeing is only a snapshot of someone’s life. There is no such thing as perfection in life and we never know what someone is going through in their private lives.
At the end of the day, we must learn to sit quietly in moments of self-reflection. We must be grateful and appreciate what we have and not focus on what we lack. Stay connected to your own existence and accept where you are currently in life. It is a waste of precious time to focus on where you are not. All life is a blessing and just because others may have better photography skills or a whole public relations team staging their photos it does not make their life better than yours.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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