What if people could not like our posts on social media? Would we still post as much as we do now? Instagram recently proposed that hiding the ability to see other people’s likes on social might be better for users’ mental health. Technology isn’t addictive because we crave the information it offers, but rather because of the pleasure we gain from the validation it provides. Social media gives us a platform to be seen and heard, which can either help us build communities and strengthen relationships or it can tear apart our self-esteem. Striving for likes on social media is a form of external validation that creates more self-doubt than security. However, it’s the power of likes that keep us plugged in. Social media and mental health are closely connected and it’s important to be aware of how powerful the effects of social media can be on mental health.

Instant Gratification: Social Media and Mental Health

The human brain is wired to seek out pleasurable sensations that meet our short-term needs. We thrive off pinging personal devices and flooded inboxes. No matter how trivial the notification, it activates the same reward circuit. .The first thing we do whenever we log on to a social media platform is check all of our notifications, making sure nothing slips under our radar. Even notifications from someone you don’t know posting in a Facebook group you check occasionally can feel like a good excuse to re-open the app to follow the thread.

We aren’t always patient waiting for notifications to appear, especially when we have posted something or anticipate that something might be posted about us after spending time with friends. Instead of waiting for responses to accumulate, we are constantly wondering Has anyone liked my post? Who has liked my post? Has this specific person seen it? Has anyone commented? This cycle repeats for the next 24 hours and continues if anyone engages with it days later.

Social Comparison

Although we spend most of our time on social media scrolling through our newsfeed and looking at other people’s posts, we are often more focused on how we personally compare to the people we follow. I wish I looked like that. Would I ever be brave enough to post that? Why didn’t I go to that thing I didn’t know about? Yet, we deny that people may have the same experience when looking at our posts.

It’s not all about appearances. We compare clothes, experiences, personal interests, captions, even the effort we put into social media. On one hand, we are taught that social media is toxic and should be minimized at all costs and on the other, we are taught staying connected online is the only way to survive in the social world. These mixed messages we receive from a variety of people can make it difficult for us to understand changing social norms and may leave us feeling like we can never measure up.

The Illusion of Realness

One of the main benefits of social media is your ability to curate the mass media you consume by selecting who you follow and what you choose to read. Whereas magazines may present unrealistic beauty expectations, some people choose to be more vulnerable on personal accounts. You can choose to follow people that better represent you and your goals in life. For some people, this serves as a protective factor as they can surround themselves with uplifting content that boosts their self-esteem instead of destroying it, but it can also create a false sense of acceptance. Using private accounts where you follow a small amount of close friends may create a safe space for vulnerability and feeling like you are able to present yourself more accurately.

Many teenagers cling to their online lives because they are so concerned about wanting to present themselves in a positive way and being accepted for who they want to be, which may not actually be how they present offline. No matter how vulnerable you are on your “finsta account,” you are still in control of what parts of yourself you want people to pay attention to and to “like.”

How BlueFire Can Help

blueFire Wilderness is a adventure-based wilderness therapy program for teens. We help troubled teens, ages 11 to 17, grappling with depression, ADHD, addiction, defiance, and other emotional or behavioral problems. Wilderness therapy removes students from the distraction of peers, devices, and demands of life and allow them to heal in a supportive and nurturing environment. Most teenagers are dependent on technology for socialization and external validation and struggle with knowing who they are offline and how to stay in the present.

Clients engage in adventure activities to increase their self-awareness, strengthen their self-esteem and explore their long-term goals. We believe that through a balance of self-assessment, insight oriented therapy, outdoor living, adventure activities and academic focus these teens will find their true selves. BlueFire gives them the skills and tools they need to address problem behaviors and move forward to lead happy and healthy lives.

For more information, call 1 (844) 413-1999. We can help your family today!

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