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Coping with Triggers on Social Media

coping with triggers on social media article image person on phone looking at social media
It’s important to recognize your social media triggers and begin to figure out how to use social media in a way that is the most beneficial to your mental health.

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Originally published November 19, 2015

⚠️Trigger Warning: depression, loneliness, body image, eating disorders, insecurity

We live in the age of social media, where the lives of family, friends, and acquaintances are at our fingertips at any given moment. As a college student, social media has helped me keep track of family and friends without the burden of time-consuming phone calls and lengthy emails.

I check Facebook and Twitter before I even get out of bed in the morning.

social media person using phone illustration

I’m constantly glancing at Instagram posts, Twitter, and Facebook as I walk around campus. Sometimes, what I see does more than inform me of the happenings in the lives of those I care about.

A post of friends hanging out will trigger my anxiety, which can quickly spiral from disappointment from not being invited to feelings of intense loneliness and despair over what appears to be fake friendships.

A status update of someone being accepted into a graduate program or celebrated in an article on my school’s web page will trigger feelings of inferiority and an aggressive refrain of feeling “not good enough”. Stunning images of friends on Instagram make me want to hide my ‘hideous body’ and trigger the eating disorder thoughts I’ve fought for so long.

Social Media and Comparison Triggers

Social media causes me to constantly and implicitly play the comparison game. A game where there is no winner and the loser is always me and my mental health.

In social psychology, we talk about impression management and the ways we consciously or subconsciously regulate and control what information we present to others in order to influence others’ perceptions.

social media person on phone with bubbles around of people and social media content

My social media is filled with friends and family sharing the most impressive, entertaining, and attractive versions of themselves. I see how much happier and more successful others are than I am.

My mind takes over and sees how much I am not doing, how much I am struggling, how much I am failing.

Seeing the seemingly perfect lives of others portrayed on social media intensifies the feelings of inadequacy I experience as part of my depression.

A lack of likes and comments sends me into panicked loneliness and thoughts of all the reasons I must be disliked and hated.

I don’t know how to keep myself from these triggers without also keeping myself from the connection they provide. Slowly, I am learning to cope with the triggers social media provides.

6 Tips for Coping with Triggers on Social Media

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I don’t have all the answers, but here are some ways that I’ve learned to cope with triggers on social media:

1. Avoid social media when your mood is low

phone with social media crossed out

This is the time I am most prone to be triggered by social media posts, so I avoid the ones that are most likely to trigger me, especially Facebook and Instagram.

If I must engage in some form of technological distraction, I play Candy Crush on my phone instead.

Sometimes I’ll scroll through Tumblr or Pinterest, searching posts tagged with ‘inspiration’ or ‘encouragement.’

2. Follow positive accounts

phone with a heart on the screen

See positivity, think happier thoughts! One thing I do on all of my social media accounts is to follow positive and encouraging accounts.

This is a great way for me to counteract some of the negativity and triggers that exist in general social media.

There are great inspirational images on Instagram and encouraging Twitter accounts out there. And you can always count on us here at Libero to post uplifting, non-triggering content! (follow us on Instagram: @liberomagazine)

3. Know when to take a break

person's head with brain shaped like heart and gear shifts inside

Sometimes, social media can become too much. I was friends with a girl in treatment who didn’t use her Facebook account because she found it too harmful.

There is no shame in stepping away from social media for a while, whether completely or partially.

I stepped away from Pinterest for about a year during an intense period of eating disorder treatment because I found myself too triggered by fitspo and similar content.

It’s okay to give social media up for a day, a week, or several months. You do what you have to for you.

4. Record your successes

heart shaped notebook and pen

Log out of your accounts, set down your phone.

Get out a piece of paper and list the things you have accomplished that day that deserve to be celebrated.

Maybe it’s something as seemingly insignificant as getting out of bed this morning and putting on clean clothes, or maybe you didn’t engage in self-harm or addiction or an eating disorder behaviour. Maybe you looked in the mirror and thought, ‘I look okay today,’ after endless bad body image days.

Then take time to validate yourself for all you’ve done to fight for your mental health.

5. Avoid the comparison game

hand holding phone with social media profile on screen and bubbles around of what the profile shows

This is a challenging one, especially since it is an innate human tendency to compare ourselves to others. With social media though, remember you can’t know a person by their social media profiles.

Instagram photos are taken dozens of times before the perfect one is captured and even then, it is filtered and edited so flaws are either absent or minimal. Facebook updates and tweets are meticulously crafted to portray the writer in a particular light.

Try to remind yourself of how curated social media content is, and when you fail, be gentle with yourself.

Ask for help from a trusted friend, family member, or professional if falling into the comparison trap is something you can’t shake.

6. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow!

hand holding phone with unfollow button

Sometimes, a post will appear in my Tumblr dashboard or my Facebook feed that is especially triggering and distressing. I immediately unfollow or unfriend whoever posted it, regardless of the relationship we have or what the rest of the person’s posts are like.

My mental health is too important to clutter my social media with things that are harmful to me.

Reminder: You’re Not Alone if You Find Social Media Triggering

You definitely aren’t alone if you find yourself triggered by social media.

It’s important to recognize it and begin to figure out how to use (or not use) it in a way that is the most beneficial to you and your mental health.

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SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.