Well Being

Could Your Social Media Presence Be Triggering Your Followers?

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Sometimes, social media gets too overwhelming — we've all been there. Even if they're not intending to do it, what your friends and followers post can make you feel negatively about yourself, especially if you tend to compare yourself to what their lives seem to be like. We've already talked about how social media can hurt your mental health, but what if you're the one being a negative influence on others? Could your social media presence be triggering your followers? It's definitely possible, and just in case this is happening, there are a few ways you can make sure your Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are safe spaces for the people you love.

According to several different studies, social media can definitely take a toll on your mental health, whether it makes you feel anxiety, depression, or just less happy than you were before you picked up your phone. In 2013, a study in France revealed that Facebook makes people feel less satisfaction with their lives in general, and another study done in Germany showed that you're likely to feel jealousy while you're using social media, which is probably something we can all attest to. It's totally possible that you're contributing to these feelings when it comes to the people you love, and if you want to change, there actually is something you can do.

There are a few topics that can definitely be difficult for people to see on their feeds, and you know what at least a few of those are because they've probably made you uncomfortable yourself before. Seeing people's “highlight reels” can really weigh on you, and that's important to keep in mind when you're posting. Are you trying to project the idea that your life is perfect? Take a step back, and in the caption of that beautiful photo of you and your S/O, share a bit of the reality that went into that picture, like how many takes it took to get the right one. Are you posting a photo from vacation? Talk about how you wish your BFFs were there, too. We're not asking you to post the least flattering photo on your shoot, but remember to keep it real – when you can.

Another topic that can be triggering for people: weight loss. It's impossible to know if someone who's following you is dealing with an eating disorder or body image issues, so why not make sure nothing you post could complicate their problems? If you're trying to get in shape and feel like that's something important for you to share, consider making a separate Instagram account just for your health journey, and invite your followers to add you there. That way, if someone is uncomfortable with seeing those kinds of posts, they can still follow you on your regular account and choose not to see the stuff that relates to weight loss or your body. As a rule, it's usually a good idea to avoid posting about the specific number on a scale if you don't want a few friends to hit that ‘unfollow' button.

And when all else fails? Use trigger warnings to your advantage. If you're about to talk about something you feel could be triggering to someone else — like if you share an article about suicide or talk about sexual assault that may have happened to you or someone in your life — it can't hurt to offer up a trigger warning first so that people who shouldn't or don't want to see that kind of post know to skip it. Not sure how to use trigger warnings properly? This Twitter thread is actually really helpful.

Of course, this doesn't have to mean that you need to censor yourself — in fact, being yourself on social media is likely to make other people feel like they're less alone, rather than trying to seem like you've got everything together, even when you don't. Your followers will appreciate you for being real, as long as you're also being sensitive to what other people are going through at the same time. Obviously, it's not your job to make sure everyone around you is mentally healthy; it's their job. But with a little compassion, you might just be able to make their lives a little easier.

And if you do end up triggering someone despite your best efforts and they unfollow you, try not to take it personally. It likely doesn't mean that the person doesn't like you or doesn't want to be friends with you anymore — they probably just need to do what's best for their mental health, and the best thing you can do for them is to be understanding.

In the end, making sure your social media presence isn't triggering might be beneficial to you, too. You know the saying “fake it 'til you make it?” Making sure you're creating a positive online environment might bleed over into your offline life, too, and you might end up feeling happier, even when you aren't sharing an Instagram post. Everybody wins!

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