Most of us are familiar with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the social world, feeling instantly connected to people that we may not have spoken to in years.
Hours of our time can be spent witnessing our friends’ family vacations, momentous occasions, birthdays, weddings and even difficult life events like divorce, sickness, and death.
Some studies indicate that social media sites can be positive for people struggling with social anxiety and depression. However, numerous studies have been conducted linking social networking to depression, social isolation, eliciting feelings of envy, insecurity, and poor self-esteem.
Perhaps it’s best to understand our own personal reasons for using social media and to evaluate whether or not our use of them is helping or hindering our sense of connection to others, as well as our overall emotional health.
Once we understand what the psychological needs are underlying our use of these sites, we can then adjust our expectations to meet these needs.
Below are a few tips to help you balance virtual relationships and real-time relationships:
- Ask yourself why you use social networking sites – is it to build relationships, for professional networking purposes, to connect to old friends or to stay connected to those that live far away? Once you determine what you are looking for you can then set realistic goals.
- Limit your time on social networking sites – this will help with controlling the amount of time you are spending in the virtual world.
- If social networking sites cause you to feel disconnected, depressed or lonely – consider “upping” your interactions with people by sending them a private message or even a text message. This level of virtual communication is more personal and intimate than communicating in an open forum.
- Make sure to schedule time to see your friends and family beyond the virtual world – having positive, secure, relationships is strongly associated with high levels of self-esteem and resiliency, fosters feelings of connectedness, and decreases depression and anxiety.
Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, whose practice focuses on psychological issues affecting individuals, couples, and families. She is affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital and Lankenau Medical Center.