Stop Negative Consequences of Social Media: A Guide to Mindful Social Media Use for Teens
For teens, the overuse of social media is a problem for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram, teens are using the internet to communicate with their peers more than ever before. For better or worse, social media isn’t going anywhere. Instead of discouraging social media altogether, educators should encourage mindful and moderate use of social media. Mindful social media use will help avoid the feelings that come with the overuse of social media, such as comparison, depression, and loneliness.
To combat the psychological consequences of comparison, we need to understand the primary reasons why teens compare themselves to others. Guess what? These bad mental habits don’t just affect teens! Adults are also prone to comparison, but teenagers are particularly vulnerable because they lack the level of self-regulation that adults develop in their later years.
At the end of this article, we’ve included a printable reflection for teens on how to stop comparisons on social media. Before you teach this material to your class, clients, or children, take a moment to reflect on your own experience with social media. The best way to teach good habits to kids is to model appropriate self-care for yourself.
Before passing out this printable reflection on mindful social media use, talk about the following pitfalls of overusing social media:
1. Seeking Comfort from Our Fears
We are all familiar with the feeling of falling short when we compare ourselves to others. But do we recognize when our comparisons make us feel better in some way?
When you compare yourself to someone else and find that you feel superior, there can be something comforting about it. You may have your faults and struggles, but at least you’re doing better than so-and-so.
In its more extreme nature, this can take the form of schadenfreude, finding pleasure at others’ misfortune. But even in its most mild and innocent state, schadenfreude is an empty comfort with a problematic shadow side.
If you feel good about being better-off than some, the trade-off is feeling bad about being worse than so many others. This is the destructive cycle leading to the second pitfall of social media.
2. Confirming Your Imperfection
Much more obvious, painful, and commonplace is the sense of inadequacy that arises when we compare ourselves to those we perceive as having more than us.
This can be the envy you feel at someone’s perfectly curated vacation photos, or just hearing someone else’s good news.
Comparisons can even lead to questioning your worth. Despite all evidence to the contrary, you may start to belittle yourself for not being good enough. It’s difficult to appreciate who we are and our inherent value when it seems like other people have it so much better than we do.
3. The Destructive and Unattainable Ideal
Even if we are able to let go of comparing ourselves to others, another potential comparison still remains – comparing ourselves to an idealized version of ourselves.
This can arise as a romanticized version of who we remember being in the past. Or, instead of looking toward the past, some people imagine an unrealistic \ future. We compare who we are today to a much better-off version we will be “someday, when…”
The problem is that this ideal cannot be achieved. We disregard what is actually real - who we are right now - in exchange for a theoretical, better future that will most likely never exist. Even if you did win the lottery or lose those last 10 pounds, this arrival fallacy, the sense that it could always be better will continue to remain.
Disrupting Comparison with Mindfulness
We all experience comparison and self-judgment. However, when you notice that you have fallen into one of these mental comparisons, I invite you to pause, take a few deep breaths, and disrupt the thoughts with some self-inquiry.
In order to teach this lesson to teenagers, I’ve written the following reflection. Fill in your information below to get a copy of the downloadable PDF.
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