By Alena Visnovsky
I open Snapchat and click on one of my friends’ stories. I instantly feel bad about myself and start rationalizing that my friend either is lying or is sharing this to make themselves feel better than everyone else. All these ugly, unnecessary thoughts and all these negative emotions from viewing just one story.
The “story” feature on social media allows users to post any number of photos or videos in a slideshow format that stays on their profile for 24 hours and is archived afterward. You can see how many views your story gets and who specifically viewed your story.
I had viewed just one story and then quickly closed out of the app. Throughout the day, I continued to feel inadequate and inferior to the people in my friend’s Snapchat story. Are my own insecurities partially to blame? 100%. However, social media use has been linked to feelings of insecurity and discontentment.
For the past year, whenever I browsed social media, I would flip through my friends and acquaintances’ stories, viewing some and skipping over others. Eventually, I realized that there was little to no benefit of viewing social media stories. In fact, there was more harm being done than good. For me, it was a waste of time and a catalyst for feeling worse about myself.
After that singular story post cast a shadow over my whole day, I concluded that it would be in my best interest to stop viewing social media stories. Now, I currently still use social media apps, but I don’t click on the story feature within the software. I keep the apps for networking, keeping in touch with friends, and viewing the content that businesses and organizations post.
Social media is a fantastic tool, but like any tool, it is used to both harm and benefit society. For me, social media is hugely distracting, so minimizing my usage of it has improved my attitude and my time management. My opinions of people have improved because I’m not checking their “highlight reel” every day. I don’t need to know who you hung out with, where you had lunch, or if you worked out today. I can’t be bothered.
According to research from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, “Access to copious positive news and the profiles of seemingly successful ‘friends’ fosters social comparison that can readily provoke envy.” This research also found that Facebook use, specifically, led to invidious emotions which adversely affected social media users satisfaction with their own lives.
Mayo Clinic references a study that focused on undergraduate college students and indicated that the longer they used Facebook, the more they believed that other people were happier than they were.
Facebook has been around longer than the social media platforms I primarily use: Instagram and Snapchat. The studies I found predominantly discussed Facebook use or general social media use. It’s unfortunately gratifying that other people’s experiences parallel my own.
Social media stories are one of those trivial and meaningless elements of social life that frequently antagonize people. Because the story feature is selfish by design, it shouldn’t be surprising that it fosters discontentment and resentment.
I was able to take a step back. For me, this decreased distraction and discontentment. I encourage students especially, to evaluate your feelings and consider what your relationship to social media is providing you.