Is social media linked to life dissatisfaction? Gone are the days when our mum would bring out the family album once a year to the dinner table. From diaper photos to holiday snaps; relatives were able to peep into our special family moments. We now have the pleasure of scooping into our peers’ lives the first thing in the morning. Sarah’s son just leaked his nappy twice this morning, Mariam snapshotted her Acai bowl (organic of course) and in the midst of a pandemic Aishah managed to drop six pounds and homeschool her three kids with a newborn. With overwhelming feeds cluttering the mind; are you in need of a digital detox? Here are some sure ways to plow through a digital detox.
1. ‘The Grass is not Greener, It’s Just Fake Grass’
Can these constant notifications influence our emotions? Experts believe so. America’s leading family therapist Chloe Madanes states that ‘one of the easiest ways of achieving great unhappiness in life is to compare our lives to others’. And social media does just that. A platform where your life is on display. Parts of your life you want presented of course. Giving the viewer a distorted assumption of one’s day. Imagine we showed a #NoFilters image of our lives. Would we be so courageous to show our daily spats with our spouse, dirty dishes or our toddlers’ tantrums in the supermarket? Instead we show their merit awards, family holidays and roses from our hubby. As Muslims we must ask ourselves; is it truly necessary to display and boast of our dunya? What effect is this having on the state of my heart? Conquering desires and accepting that you already have enough will allow you to live contentedly. Social comparison can also rear its ugly head when we start to compare our bodies and appearance to others, tearing ourselves down in the process. A study out of the UK surveyed 1500 Facebook and Twitter users, finding that 62% of the group reported feeling inadequate and 60% reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users. Even being the innocent passive Facebook user, or “lurker” increased feelings of envy, jealousy, and even resentment toward the network itself. Jodie Cook, social media specialist claims “Images are edited and updates are positive and generally depict success, happiness, and milestones and rarely focus on anything else.” If you’re not careful, you might be fooled into thinking that everyone is having a better, happier, more prosperous time than you, whether it’s true or not.
2. Guard Your Precious Time
Time is also an issue. Time is one of Allah’s creations and it’s management is a life skill that must be learnt. Ibn Mas’ud narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said
“The feet of the son of Adam shall not move from before his Lord on the Day of Judgement, until he is asked about five things: about his life and what he did with it, about his youth and what he wore it out in, about his wealth and how he earned it and spent it upon, and what he did with what he knew.’ (Da’if)
So if time on our devices is left untamed one can quickly lose control with studies proving that people can spend almost six years of their life on simply viewing social media.
3. Reclaim Your Real Relationships Not Cyber
Waves of data have shown the correlation between social media and its effects on personal relationships. Findings reveal that face-to-face social interactions were positively correlated with overall well-being whereas network activity was negatively associated. The results were especially telling when it came to mental health:
“Most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health and life satisfaction,”.
(Holly Shakya and Nicholas Christakis).
Hence, strengthening our face-to-face relationships has positive effects on our overall mental health.
4. It’s Time For Rehab
So, with these findings; why are we so attached to these networks? Addiction. Addiction is defined as a condition of being addicted to a substance or activity that negatively interferes with important daily activities such as work and relationships. According to research conducted at Chicago University ‘social media addiction can be stronger than addiction to cigarettes and booze’. One study recorded the cravings of several hundred people for the duration of a few months. Findings revealed media cravings ranking the highest amongst both cigarettes and alcohol.
5. Gratitude is Key
In Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, she refers to gratitude as “a kind of meta-strategy for achieving happiness.” Lyubomirsky’s research demonstrates that expressing gratitude has several benefits. People who are grateful are likely to be happier, hopeful and energetic, and they possess positive emotions more frequently.Yet social media breeds desires of higher expectations of beauty, lifestyle, and status linking it to dissatisfaction in one’s life. Abu Hurairah r.a. reported that the Messenger of Allah advised us to
“Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah.” (Sahih)
Furthermore Allah advises the believers to practice gratitude:
‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you’. (Quran 14.7)
Blessing being in the form of wealth, tranquility, stability or health. Often people place unrealistic expectations on this worldly life. Dennis Prager, author of Happiness is a Serious Problem, highlights that expectations undermine gratitude and therefore undermine happiness. “The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have. If you get what you expect, you will not be grateful for getting it.” He suggests lowering expectations, particularly pertaining to circumstances beyond your control, to bring gratitude to fruition. Echoing Tony Robbins famous advice; ‘Trade your expectation for appreciation’. Although there are well documented benefits of social media and how it has shaped this generation like connecting to family and friends across the world, ocean of information at your fingertips, digital relationships etc. Studies do warn of its link to increased narcissism, decreased self-esteem, relationship breakdowns, ties to depression and overall poor life satisfaction.So, without migrating to a cocoon, one can enjoy life and continue to have a healthy dose of networking. How? Moderation does it. Experts advise having a Wi-Fi vacation in which you have digital-free times in the day. When one is able to understand the deceptive nature of social media they can then enhance appreciation in their own lives. Unplugging completely from social media seems unrealistic in the modern world but a detox can bring immense benefit. Self-awareness is key to monitoring your habits to avoid being another nasty social media statistic.