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When Posting on Social Media Brings You Down
When Posting on Social Media Brings You Down
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When we post content on social media, we never know what we’re going to get. There’s a chance we’ll get likes, comments, shares, messages, and followers, plus a surge of positive emotions and self-esteem. There’s also a chance our post will flop, so to speak, and we’ll feel rejected or left out.
Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, it can hurt. A lot.
That’s because social media rejection and exclusion jeopardize some of our most important personal needs, like belonging, self-esteem, meaningful existence, and sense of control.
Sharing ourselves and our ideas on social media is exposing ourselves to potential social connection, or a lack thereof. It comes with great risk and vulnerability. The highs are high, and the lows are low.
In fact, social rejection aches and burns and stings just like a physical injury. Our brain gets activated in the same regions for both physical and social wounds. We also experience the discomfort not only in our bodies, but also our thoughts and emotions. We can become sad, depressed, jealous, angry, and anxious after a social rejection. Fortunately, we usually bounce back from it fairly quickly.
Here are 4 tips to help you heal.
1. Don’t dismiss your feelings.
Let yourself sit in your feelings, whatever they are. You might be more inclined to ignore or dismiss them, with some iteration of “whatever, it’s no big deal.” But resist that impulse. Any feelings you have are expected and understandable.
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When we push feelings down or away, it usually feels better in the moment, but ultimately we give the feelings more power. They tend to grow stronger and last longer. On the other hand, we can weaken feelings if we let them be. Allow yourself to feel however you feel, and if you notice yourself swatting those feelings away, bring yourself back to being curious about them and letting them be.
So, if you’re disappointed, feel your disappointment. If you’re angry, feel your anger. If you’re embarrassed, feel that too.
The pain will ease with time. It might not even take very long.
2. Ask yourself what it’s for.
Everyone has their reasons for using social media. Why we want – or need – to be on our favorite platforms. Check in with yourself about why. Ask yourself, “when I post, what’s it for?” The answer might be for the “likes,” but it’s probably something else, too.
Do you want – or need – to feel connected to people? To share important knowledge or spread a specific message? To promote or sell a product?
What lies beneath your answers to these questions are your values, such as community or social connection, knowledge or education, social justice or making change, and providing for your family. There’s nothing good or bad, or right or wrong, about your values. Just take a moment to know what they are and connect with them, so that when you’re feeling burned, you can remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing on the platform. That way, you can feel good about your post, regardless of how many responses you get.
In turn, with a stronger connection to your values, you can remind yourself to engage with social media in ways that are aligned with those values. For example, if you value social connection, you can work on regularly liking, commenting, or sharing others’ posts. If it’s spreading knowledge or awareness, you can remember that each post is a new opportunity to change a heart or mind.
3. If you want to stay on social media, get back out there when you’re ready.
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Take the time you need to regroup, and then engage with the platform again. It might be daunting to risk the hurt, but encourage yourself to face the challenge, rather than avoid it.
Before you put yourself out there again, make a plan for what you’ll do immediately after posting. Do you usually stare at the screen and refresh the page, looking for red hearts or thumbs up? If so, you’re not alone, but try something different. Put your device away, and do something distracting like watching a tv show or going outside. Remove app notifications (e.g., banners, badges), to prevent peeking.
Do whatever you need to do to give yourself some space and time before checking on your post.
4. You don’t have to keep putting yourself out there, if you don’t want to.
Like anything, social media isn’t for everyone and that’s OK. Ask yourself, “How is social media helpful for me?” “Does it add to my wellbeing?” “Do I want to be on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc.?” The answer might be a resounding “yes.” Or not.
Social media requires a certain level of prolonged engagement, and you need to honestly consider if you’re up for it. If you’re not right now – or ever – that’s totally fine.
You might decide the pain and pressure of social media – or a particular platform – outweigh the parts of it that are valuable. If that’s the case, pause your activity on those platforms for a day, week, month, year, forever – however long you want. You can also unfollow, block, or limit any accounts that don’t feel good to you. Remove apps from your phone’s home screen, turn off certain notifications, use website blockers, or get creative to find your own ways to take a break.
Whatever you decide is best for you right now, is what’s best for you right now. Follow that. You can always change your mind later.
A final thought. Social media is often random. A lot of what we take personally, actually has nothing to do with us. For example, an algorithm plus the timing of a certain post, can mean your close friend doesn’t even see it in their feed. Technology can make our relationships feel cold at times, when in real life they might not be.
Above all, please know that social media posts and “popularity” do not reflect your worth. Not now, not ever. It can be hard to believe this on an emotional level, but it’s true.
4 tips to cope with the pain of being ignored or rejected online.
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Authenticity for the Win
When we post content on social media, sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, it can hurt a lot. But we can heal. Here’s how.
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Lutz, S., & Schneider, F. M. (2021). Is receiving dislikes in social media still better than being ignored? The effects of ostracism and rejection on need threat and coping responses online. Media Psychology, 24(6), 741-765. https://doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2020.1799409
Eisenberger, N. I., Lieberman, M. D., & Williams, K. D. (2003). Does rejection hurt? An FMRI study of social exclusion. Science, 302(5643), 290-292.
DeWall, C. N., & Bushman, B. J. (2011). Social acceptance and rejection: The sweet and the bitter. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4), 256–260. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721411417545
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Posting content on social media can be painful due to social rejection and exclusion.
It can be helpful to consider in what ways social media is – and isn’t – helpful for you.
Coping strategies target emotions, values, distraction, breaks, and self-inquiry.
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