How Your Screen Time Is Affecting Your Self Esteem
It’s time we talk about it—screen time. The selfies. The Instagram photo editing. The late night hours of TV. The Instagram stories documenting our grocery hauls, evening routine, fun nights out, you name it.
Screen time is inevitable—we live in the modern age. But have you noticed how the amount of screen time you partake in is affecting you?
A story about screen time
So I’m at a boujie bar. I decide “You know what? I’m going to put my phone away tonight, for, you know, self-care.” I am waiting for my cocktail, and I see a couple sit down next to me. They order their drinks, and they both immediately whip out their phones and start scrolling through who knows what. I watch the woman as she holds an indifferent, empty look upon her face. She begins to hold her phone out in front of her and whips out the biggest (ahem, fakest) smile and snaps a pic. As soon as she’s done, a frown returns to her face. She puts her phone down and suddenly says “Hey!” to her partner. Their phones remain on the bar near their drinks the entire night.
Okay, so why tell this story about screen time? Well, we spend so much time documenting our lives as what we want to portray them as, rather than what they really are. In my opinion, that woman might as well have posted her frown as her selfie instead of that smile that I never saw on her face again since the photo was taken. The consequence of this screen time behavior (that we are all guilty of) breaks down into two things: 1. We believe we have to be put together and perfect before we present ourselves to others. 2. We see others as perfect and feel worse about ourselves.
The need to be and feel perfect
I found myself stressing out to the point of a near anxiety attack planning my next Instagram post. I set up my tripod and began taking some photos with, of course, lots of fake laughter. Then I looked at the photos and felt an immediate sense of self-hatred and hurried to put on some makeup and do my hair. Then I did another photo shoot, hated all of the photos, and prepared a lavish (healthy) meal to post instead. What I wish I had done instead was just post the experience of all of that and be honest about how infuriating it is to feel pressured to post something perfect.
The components that go into any post are 1. What will people think of me? 2. Am I good enough? 3. Do I meet my standards of perfection? While these feelings are natural even without social media, they are highly intensified with social media. When these feelings are intensely on repeat all of the time, our confidence is greatly diminished as we’re always second guessing our worth and putting our value in just the way we look and appear to others.
When seeing others makes us feel worse about ourselves
As a yoga instructor who has yet to do a handstand, I have felt the intense self-doubt and jealousy as a result of seeing countless yogis posting their flawless inversions on Instagram. Seeing this has made me feel less of a yoga instructor, inferior to even call myself a yogi, and I have felt ashamed for my lack of strength and flexibility.
It doesn’t have to be yoga—anything at all can make us feel inferior, like another woman’s beauty, or her perfect body. It could be her fun social life or her fairytale relationship. When we focus so much on what others have and what we don’t have, we will never feel like we have enough or that we are enough. The worst part is that we begin to hate other women. Instead of drawing closer to people of similar interests and of similar personalities, we create a divide between each other and we put each other down.
How do we heal from abusing screen time?
The first step in this healing process around screen time is to put a name to what’s going on. If you deny that you are experiencing any of this, you will never move beyond it. Secondly, begin practicing self-love. Anytime a person on social media makes you feel worse, just unfollow them! For now, as you’re vulnerable, it doesn’t help to be reminded of what you feel like you don’t have. Take some time away from screen time to focus on what you love about yourself and what you do have. Finally, reach out to your friends and make a commitment to go out and do things without documenting everything. Focus on the experience and start talking in person or on the phone instead of text. These simple changes can transform your relationships with others and with yourself.
Kate Wilke is a 200-RYT yoga instructor, meditation teacher, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She teaches and works with clients in Nashville, TN. She believes in self-care in the form of colorful, healthy cooking, daily walks with her dog, and a glass of red wine. Follow her on Instagram — @meditatekate