5 Signs It’s Time To Take a Break From Social Media (E18)

social media break selfie muscular man

Show notes from podcast

Hello and welcome to episode eighteen of The Men’s Self-Help Podcast. I’m Dr. John Moore and I’m a clinical mental health counselor out of Chicago, Illinois.

I’ve been practicing in the Windy City for about 15-years. I started this podcast because I wanted to extend the walls of my practice and reach three specific groups.

The first are guys who might want the perspective of a men’s therapist about a specific life issue. The second are men who are curious about what counseling might be like.

And then there’s this third group – guys who would never show up on the doorstep of someone like me, a therapist BUT might just be curious enough to tap on an app and listen to a show.

But here’s the real deal, regardless of your gender or how you ended up here today, know that I am deeply grateful to have you as a listener.

Now quick disclaimer – the material shared on this podcast isn’t designed to act as a replacement or substitute for mental health.

So, let’s move on to today’s topic – social media and how it can trigger insecurity, anxiety and even depression.

You may be thinking this is an issue that only impacts teens but I can tell you that’s simply not true. In fact, one of the major issues that comes up in my work with men – and the people who love them – is social media.

At its best, platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat can help us to feel less isolated and more connected. But if you aren’t careful, it can also act as a gateway to irrational thinking where you make unfair – and often inaccurate comparisons about your looks and lifestyle.

As part of this discussion, I’ll share with you 5 ways to know it’s time to take a break from social media.

To help provide context, I’ll tell you about of a former client of mine named Mark who found himself in the deep throws of depression after getting too involved with Instagram.

And so, we’ll talk about that.

We’ll also discuss this week’s listener’s email; a note from a guy who isn’t sure how to tell his new girlfriend that he has obsessive compulsive disorder.

Lots of things to explore – I’m glad that you’re here!

5 Signs It’s Time To Take a Social Media Break

So, when I was a boy, growing up in the South Suburbs of Chicago, my brother and I used to watch this kiddie show. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but here it goes – the program was called Romper Room.

If you are of a certain age, you may remember it. It was an educational show for preschoolers that had a bunch of different characters. At the end of the show, Miss Nancy used to pull out this thing that – at least to me – looked like a giant lollipop but was really a mirror.

She’d hold it up to her face, which revealed a swirl pattern.

That’s when she’d say:

“Romper, stomper, bomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?”

Through the magic of television, the swirl would disappear and reveal her face. That’s when she’d look through this thing and start calling out kid’s names:

“I see Tommy and Amy and Billy. Oh, there’s Chris and Tina. Oh wow, I can see Nathan and Sherrie.”

Now let me tell ya, when you were 5-6 years old, you actually believed she could see through that darn mirror right into your living room.

While it didn’t happen often, she would occasionally say, “I see John” or “I see Frank” (that’s my brother’s name). When that happened, it was the coolest thing in the world! And it was also magical and fun all at the same time.

And you know what else – it was addictive.

You see, my brother and I used to run to the television when we knew Romper Room was on and wait until the end of that program, just to see if Ms. Nancy could “see us”.

To this day, I still kinda wonder if that mirror wasn’t just a little bit magical.

Well, that’s television for you.

In some ways, social media was like the end of Romper Room. You know what I’m talking about, right? That immediate hit of adrenaline when someone recognizes you. Shout outs and likes are powerful things, don’t you think?

Funny how a tiny bit of recognition can send us floating on cloud nine.

Not long ago, I worked with a man named Mark. Well, that’s not his real name but we’re going to call him that. At any rate, Mark was a person who came to me hoping to gain insight around problems he was having with self-esteem.

I don’t remember his exact age but in thinking about him now, I’d be surprised if he was a day past thirty. I’ll never forget our first session. Right in the middle of exploring goals, his smartphone went off. I think it was a chime or a beep or something like that.

“Sorry me Dr. Moore, I forgot to turn this off, he said to me as he powered down his device. But as he did it, I could see a giant grin on his face. Curious, I asked him what made him smile.

He explained to me that he had recently posted some pics of himself working out and that it was getting lots of likes from people, including women.

As work continued in that session and in future ones, it became quickly apparent to me that social media was an important part of Mark’s life.

It’s how he stayed in contact with his friends and family, plus his main way of staying in the loop with the news. Maybe you can relate?

But here’s where his participation in “social” – as it’s now called” – became unhealthy. You see, Mark would regularly scroll through the photos and stories on his phone and get down on himself.

He revealed to me that first thing in the morning, before he had even gotten out of the bed, he’d pick his phone up on the nightstand and start tapping on the apps. He’d check to see who liked the pics he’d posted the night before and if anyone had made any comments.

He’d also scroll through in a fury, before getting ready for work, to see what was going on with people he was following. Sometimes, this would go on for 20-30 minutes, to the point that occasionally, it would make him late for work.

So, here’s one thing you need to know about Mark. He had depression. In fact, he had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder several years earlier by a psychiatrist.

And while he had contacted me for help with self-esteem, it was inescapable that he struggled with depression.

Now I want to stress there’s nothing wrong with social media. Apps like Instagram and Facebook provide tons of entertainment for many people. Shoot, I’m on social media myself – occasionally.

But, if you are struggling with a life challenge like depression or anxiety or simply aren’t in a good space, social media can sometimes be a real problem.

In the case of depression – for some people – social can actually make you feel worse. I’m not just saying that for chips and giggles. There’s plenty of clinical research to explores this issue in detail.

I’m going to put a link in show notes to a 2017 study that appeared in Computers and Human Behavior that offers more insight.

Again, I’m not railing against social media. There’s plenty of positives with the different platforms to be sure. But I am suggesting that depending where you are in your life, social media may be doing you more harm than good.

So, how do you know when things have become a problem? Here’s five things to consider. As I read these, know that all of them applied to Mark; something he eventually recognized as part of our work together.

1. You reach for social before you get out of the bed

Upon waking up in the morning, do you reach for your phone to check Instagram or Facebook? Is this a regular thing, almost like a ritual?

2. You romanticize what you are seeing

When reviewing the posts of others, do you think to yourself, “Wow, I wish I had a body life that or “Why can’t I have a life like that?”

3. You are addicted to “Likes”

When you create a post, is your goal to “out do” your previous post with the hope of getting more likes? Does the thought of getting Likes energize you – to the point where it is addictive?

4. You miss important life activities in favor of social

Are you running late to work or class because you can’t get off social? Do you skip out on spending time with friends or family because you can’t pull yourself away from social media?

5. Your phone has become an appendage

When you are with friends, are you constantly on your phone? Do feel the need to take pictures and plaster them all over social while doing something mundane with someone, like a friend or when with a romantic partner?

Learn about Skinner Box and the research showing social media has been engineered to become addictive in nature. The BBC revealed this information in 2018.

The rise of addictive technology (Amazon)

Learn how compulsive smartphone use is tied to a lower sense of wellbeing.

Discover why happy couples don’t blast pictures over social media.

Do I have a problem drinking? Use, abuse and dependence explored.

Should I Tell My Girlfriend I’ve Got OCD?

This week’s listener email comes to us from a man in the Detroit area. He contacted me about a problem that a lot of people struggle with.

I’m going to read to you what he wrote to me and then share my response.

“Dear John,

“I really like your podcast and thank you for putting together the different shows. I found your podcast when searching for podcasts on assertiveness skills and started listening.

The reason I’m writing you today is because I’ve got OCD. In my case, mine is the type where I must have everything symmetrical and orderly.

Over the years, I’ve worked hard to try and not let my need to keep everything looking perfect ruin my life and I’ve made a lot of progress. Still, this issue still exists for me – with some days being worse than others.

So, my problem is this. I recently started dating a woman I really like. We’ve only been out on a few dates but I can already tell we have chemistry.

We haven’t gotten to the point of having sleep overs yet but if things keep going the way they are going, its very likely.

My concern is telling her about my OCD. Should I do it? I fear that if she does spend the night, she’s going to pick up on my OCD. I’m torn because I think if I tell her, she might think I’m crazy and break things off. At my age, 40, it’s not easy meeting someone new.

Any thoughts here?”

Thanks,

Feeling Misaligned

  • A disclosure of my personal struggles with OCD
  • The harm in hiding our mental health issues from people close to us is that “hiding them” unintentionally feeds shame and fear. And here is the thing – you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Remember that your OCD is just part of you but doesn’t define you
  • The benefits of sharing your OCD include OCD itself having less power over you. Your girlfriend also will be in a better position to support you.
  • In my experience, everyone has something. When we first start dating someone, it’s only natural to try and hide things about ourselves. But as the relationship continues and two people become closer, those “hidden” things have a way of revealing themselves.
  • How do you know your girlfriend doesn’t struggle with something? Examples include anxiety, depression or maybe even bipolar?
  • I’ll also share with you that trying to hide an aspect of our mental health from other often makes the symptoms stronger. It’s called a paradox.
  • I can’t tell you what to do but I can say that with the clients I’ve worked with who live with a mental health challenge, they’ve experienced much relief by sharing their story.

I’m going to share with you an affirmation that I say to myself. It’s based on the tenets of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which is an offshoot of cognitive behavior therapy.

I love and accept myself just as I am. 

Repeat

I love and accept myself just as I am.

I’ll leave you with this to reflect on. From your perspective, you are worried about how your girlfriend might respond after revealing your OCD – meaning she might decide to call it quits.

But what if you don’t reveal and over the course of time, it eventually comes out anyway – because she can see the symptoms? How do you think she’ll feel, knowing you didn’t feel comfortable enough – safe enough – with her – to share this aspect of your life?

I hope this response was helpful. I’m really glad you wrote.

So, there you have my response. Maybe you have some type of mental health issue that you hide from the world and on some level can relate to what the listener shared.

Can I level with you? As men, many of us are taught to not talk about our feelings and emotions and this includes mental health issues. And while things are getting better, slowly, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Maybe you’ve got something going on in your own life, like a past trauma or a panic disorder. Perhaps like the listener, it’s OCD.

Regardless, we have to ask ourselves how much power we are giving to our mental health challenges by concealing them from folks who are close in our lives?

What would it be like to simply be open and transparent? Imagine the freedom of guilt and shame.

Food for thought.

Wrap Up

We explored several different topics today, didn’t we? There were the five warning signs that it might be time to take a break from social media – like Insta and Snapchat.

We also explored the issue of disclosing our mental health challenges to people who are close to us.

It was a lot, don’t you think?

Before we wrap up here, I want you to know there are a number of different ways to reach me.

You can visit my website at guycounseling.com or – ironically, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Through the end of August, I’ve set a personal goal of trying to post one positive thing a day that relates to health and wellness. So far, I’ve been able to keep my promise – and so there’s that.

I also want to quickly say that I’ve been touched by the many positive reviews listeners have been leaving on iTunes.

Here’s one from someone named Scorpio Sun:

“I have been suffering severe anxiety and something about Dr. Moore’s podcast helps more than anything else. Everything from his voice to the way he breaks down buts of thinking is just what works – I haven’t felt this great in years.”

All I can say is wow, these are the very kinds of comments that keep me so motivated to do these shows. Thank you for that.

Here’s another one from AR-112

“First time listener and I really got a lot out of it. Loved the people pleasing show!”

See, right there – that’s what I’m talking about. Knowing that I am making a difference in people’s lives is just humbling and exhilarating.

If you are a listener and would like to leave a review, please do. I read them all and I want you to know your comments are extremely meaningful.

Well, that’s another show. I don’t have an audio staff or engineer – and I’m the first to admit quality problems may pop up from time to time. But maybe my imperfections can serve as an example in some way that we are all imperfect.

And so, I’ll leave you with this – think about your relationship with social media. Reflect on the warning signs we explore and don’t be afraid to give yourself a break when necessary.

I’m Dr. John and this has been another episode of The Men’s Self Help Podcast.

About John D. Moore 349 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a licensed counselor and Editor-in-Chief of Guy Counseling. A journalist and blogger, he writes about a variety of topics related to wellness. His interests include technology, outdoor activities, science, and men's health. Check out his show --> The Men's Self Help Podcast