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Suppressing Emotions: Social Media As An Antidepressant

I think it’s time we had that talk; the one about using social media as an emotional suppressant, i.e. a strategy for suppressing emotions so that we don’t have to confront them.

Many people don’t want to confront their emotions because they fear what their emotions may reveal and any changes they would be required to make in order to eliminate those emotions.

Nowadays there is this sense of pressure for us to do and have it all, the successful career, marriage, kids, active social life, good looks, general knowledge, wealth and fashionable clothes.  If we want to stand out from the crowd even further then a celebrity-like status is a must that can be garnered by engineering loads of “fans” on social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

So – much – pressure…and so little time to actually stop and think and reflect.

In this busy, pressurised world, problems are not welcome; too often they are suppressed, along with suppressing emotions attached to them.  If I can pretend it’s not happening, I don’t have to:

  • add more pressure on myself;
  • make changes I’m scared to make;
  • face the fact that perhaps a relationship break-up is on the horizon;
  • face up to a career change I have to take;
  • confront my low self-esteem issues;
  • recognise that I have made a mistake;
  • and so on.

For those who want to pretend that reality is not reality, they can indulge in various forms of emotional suppression such as emotional eating, excessive alcohol consumption, drug taking (legal or illegal), working too many hours, obsessing over fairly insignificant matters and even using social media.

Social Media For Suppressing Emotions

So how do people use social media for suppressing emotions?  Here are just a few ways:

  • If I have lots of friends on social media, I don’t have to acknowledge that I have an unsatisfactory number of true friends.
  • If I spend a lot of time on social media, I can pretend I have a social life when really it is lacking and making me feel miserable.
  • If I have self-esteem issues, on particularly bad days I can use social media for a temporary self-esteem boost (flattering photos, lifestyle updates, etc), even though it is not addressing the root of the problem.
  • Rather than talk to my partner about suspected infidelity, I can keep an eye on him/her on social media and reassure myself that way instead of having to “open a can of worms”.
  • If I want to feel that I am achieving great things when I fear I am not, I can look at those on social media that seem to be achieving less than me, as a way of making myself feel better.
  • If I want to reassure myself that my life is great, even though I’m secretly unhappy with major elements of it, I can post a picture of my exuberant lifestyle so that I can see myself through the eyes of others’ comments and rose-tinted perceptions, rather through my own.

I’m sure you can think of many other examples.  Someone posts something on social media hoping to suppress emotions and convey one thing, but it really highlights something quite different, when you scratch beneath the surface meaning.

If you find yourself using social media for suppressing emotions then understand that you are not alone and you’re only delaying your own happiness, and in many cases, your life.

The thing is guys, we either confront our emotions or we wait for them to slap us in the face; even if 20 odd years from now, that slap is on its way.  If we wait for our emotions to take charge of the change that’s awaiting us, we can end up depressed, in knots, hazy or bewildered, and the emotions will have pervaded much more of our life by then.  If we take charge ourselves by confronting our emotions head on, we find problems are rarely as big or scary as we had suspected, and they haven’t been given the chance to infect too much of our life.

As a good rule of thumb, try to use social media when you are feeling good about yourself and your life, to avoid using it for suppressing important negative emotions.  You’ll probably alienate less people this way, too!