Study after study has shown that social media makes us feel bad. Whether we browse through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or Pinterest, we get the sense that other people are more successful than us, look better than us, are having more fun than us, or even just living a better life than us. Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression and decreased social skills. It’s all about that comparison – and usually, we’re comparing our real lives to the highlight reels of others.
It’s easy to forget about the promotion we just got, the vacation we just took, or even just the nice dinner we just had, even if we did post it to social media, and got a thousand “likes”. You know what I’m talking about here. It’s when you save up for some type of large, extravagant purchase that you’re absolutely sure will change your life for the better. Or when you’re chasing that goal achievement of making a certain amount of money. Or perhaps getting to your goal weight. The, “If only I…” creeps into your mind. If only I had more money. If only I could lose those last 10 pounds. Yet when we actually reach those goals, our happiness is rather short-lived. We forget about it and move on to the next thing.
This is because of the phenomenon of the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill is a term coined by psychologists Brickman and Campbell to describe the tendency of people to keep a relatively stable baseline level of happiness despite external events or changes in our demographic circumstances. This is why lottery winners aren’t happier months after their big win, and people who go through difficult times tend to often bounce back to their former disposition. Rather than changing our circumstances, we need to change the way that we look at the life that we’ve already experienced. Instead of chasing the next dream all the time, what if we were to spend some time re-living, or savoring our memories of the past?
The good news is while changing our external circumstances often doesn’t lead to increased happiness, changing our internal circumstances does. According to Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the field of positive psychology and a past president of the American Psychological Association, “there is quite a number of internal circumstances (…) under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly.”
So here’s my suggestion for the one social media habit that will make you feel better:
SAVOR YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MEMORIES.
That’s right, instead of going through the social media feed of others, go through your own highlight reel. Connect with the good memories, those moments where you felt pride and joy. The moments that are a part of your past, but rarely a part of your present.
According to Denis Waitley, author and motivational speaker, “a good life is a collection of happy memories.” Well luckily for you, you’ve got that collection in your hands right now.