Most of us are familiar with social networking sites such as 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, children’s momentous occasions, birthdays, weddings and even difficult life transitions such as divorce, sickness and death.
Although social media relationships can have a positive effect on us emotionally, numerous studies have been conducted linking social networking to depression and social isolation while also eliciting feelings of envy, insecurity and poor self-esteem.
Other studies indicate that social media sites can be positive for people struggling with social anxiety and depression.
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.
Related: Is Social Media Making You Anxious?
Once we understand what the psychological needs are underlying our use of these sites, we can then adjust our expectations to meet these needs.
Ask yourself why you are using 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, resiliency while fostering feelings of connectedness and decreasing depression and anxiety.
I would like to hear from you. Do you use social networking sites often? How do you balance your virtual relationships with your real life relationships? Do you feel the same type of social pressure from social media sites that you may feel in your non-virtual social life? Comment below or email me privately at email@example.com
This post was originally published in February 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.